Previous articles examined the writings of early Church
leaders who indicated that Premillennialism (initially
called Chiliasm) was the original major millennial view of
the Church, and that it was the predominant view of
orthodox believers from the first to the third centuries.
This present article will begin to examine the beginning
of the rejection of Premillennialism.
The Rejection of Premillennialism in the East
Although Premillennialism was the predominant view of
orthodox believers from the first to the third centuries,
eventually it was superseded by a new millennial view—Amillennialism
(also called allegorical Millennialism by some).1
By the fifth century Amillennialism had been developed to
replace early Premillennialism.
The rejection of Premillennialism began with some leaders
of the Greek Church in the east during the second century.
As early as 170 A.D. a church group (known as the Alogi)
in Asia Minor rejected the prophetic writings from which
the premillennial view was derived. This group "denounced
the Apocalypse of John as a book of fables."2
contributed to this rejection of the premillennial view in
the east. First was the Montanistic controversy which
raged from 160 to 220 A.D.3
The Montanists were a church group which, because of
certain beliefs which it emphasized, became controversial.
Christians who did not hold to the Montanists’ views came
to regard them as extremists and even heretics. Since the
Montanists were premillennial by conviction, and because
some carried their Premillennialism to extremes not
supported by the Scriptures, some leaders of the Greek
Church became suspicious of the entire premillennial view.
They began to associate Premillennialism with extremism
and heresy because it was advocated by a group that they
considered extremist and heretical. Thus, Premillennialsim
began to be discredited through guilt by association.
Second, some Church leaders feared the Premillennial
teaching that Christ at His Second Coming would crush the
Roman power and take over the rule of the world. They were
afraid that this teaching would be "a source of political
danger," that it would prompt greater persecution of the
Church from the Roman Empire.4
They concluded that it was expedient to sacrifice the
premillennial view for the sake of avoiding more intense
Third, some churches were convinced that the premillennial
emphasis upon the glorious Kingdom reign of Christ in the
future drew attention away from the organizational
structure and programs which they had developed. This
caused them to fear that Premillennialism posed a threat
to the very existence and function of the Church in the
strong anti-Semitic spirit developed in the eastern
church. Because the majority of first century Jews had
rejected Christ, and since so many of their descendants
refused to believe in Him, Gentiles who professed to be
Christians increasingly called Jews "Christ-killers" and
developed a strong bias against anything Jewish. Because
the premillennial belief in the earthly, political Kingdom
rule of the Messiah in the future was the same hope that
had motivated the Jews for centuries, that belief was
increasingly "stigmatized as ‘Jewish’ and consequently as
‘heretical’" by eastern Gentile Christians.6
Once again Premillennialism was discredited through guilt
Fifth, a new theology, known as Alexandrian theology,
developed in the Greek Church.7
This new theology was formed by Origen (185-253 A.D.) and
other Church scholars in Alexandria, Egypt. Because of his
intellectual abilities, Origen became president of the
influential theology school of Alexandria at the young age
of eighteen years.8
Because of that position and his exceptional abilities,
Origen had extensive influence.
Origen and his associates had intense interest in pagan
Greek philosophy. They pursued it extensively. Origen
studied under "the heathen Ammonius Saccas, the celebrated
founder of Neo-Platonism."9
Through time Origen and other Alexandrian Church scholars
tried to integrate Greek philosophy with Christian
doctrine. This attempted integration played a significant
role in the development of the new Alexandrian theology.
Much of Greek philosophy advocated that anything which is
physical or material is evil by nature, and only what is
totally spiritual or nonphysical is good. Through this
influence the Alexandrian scholars developed the idea that
an earthly, political Kingdom with physical or material
blessings would be an evil thing, and that only a totally
spiritual, nonphysical Kingdom would be good. That idea
prompted the Alexandrian theology to reject the
premillennial belief in an earthly, political Kingdom of
God with physical blessings.
The next article will examine the impact of the
Alexandrian theology and Origen’s new method of
interpreting the Bible.
For a comparison of the different Millennial views obtain
the following book: Renald E. Showers, There Really Is
A Difference! (The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry.
Telephone: 800-257-7843. Mailing address: P.O. Box 908,
Bellmawr, NJ 08099).
1. Ernest R.
Sandeen, "Millennialism," The Encyclopaedia
Brittannica, Fifteenth Edition (Chicago:
Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1974), pp. 12, 201.
Harnack, "Millennium," The Encyclopaedia Britannica,
Ninth Edition (New York: Charles Schribner’s Sons,
1882), XVI, p. 316.
Schaff, History of the Church, Vol. II (Grand
Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1973), p.
Copyright 2006, Ankerberg Theological Research Institute