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Millennialism is the belief in the spiritual or physical "end of the world," generally brought about in such a way that certain favored people will survive into paradise and the rest of the world will perish.
The term arises out of the Zoroastrian concept that each 1000 years, the earth ends and is reborn. Millennialist movements are found in many religions, including Judaism (especially the Kabbalistic variety), Christianity, the Sioux interpretation of the American Indian Ghost Dance religion of the 1880's, and the Nation of Islam.
The best-known version of millennialism today is that in Christian theology, which is the eschatological belief that the last judgment will be preceded by a period of one thousand years during which Christ will rule the world in an age of peace and prosperity. This belief is based on the Book of Revelation verse 20:1-6, which mentions an angel chaining and imprisoning the Devil in an abyss, after which some faithful martyrs "reign with Christ for a thousand years." The rest of the dead will rise later.
Some Christians use millennialist beliefs as justification for trying to establish a theocracy in the United States. Others use millennialism as a means by which to influence United States foreign policy.
Predictions of the end times are regularly proved wrong each time the end fails to happen. Despite this, millennialist beliefs persist due to the tremendous spiritual rewards offered to followers and disastrous punishments threatened for unbelievers.
 Contemporary types of millennialism
Believers in millennialism are usually to be found on the fringes of Christianity. They differ among themselves over when exactly this period of a thousand years is going to happen, especially in relation to the Second Coming of Christ. Some believe the millennium will happen before the Second Coming, others believe it will happen after the Second Coming.
The major division is between pre-millennialists and post-millennialists. Pre-millennialists are further divided into post-tribulational pre-millennialists and pre-tribulational or dispensational pre-millennialists. Are you confused yet?
Catastrophic millennialism is another subdivision that implies the millennium will be achieved suddenly through divine intervention. This is similar to pre-millennialism, except that catastrophic millennialism is frequently pessimistic because believers expect the world to get worse until Jesus returns and sorts things out.
The majority of Christians who do not believe in millennialism, many of whom have argued emphatically against it, are known as amillennialists.
Post-millennialists believe that the Second Coming and the Last Judgement will occur after (post-) the millennium, which in this view is seen as a period of time during which the "Kingdom of God" gradually gains ground against the forces of evil. Post-millennialists differ on whether this Kingdom of God will exist merely as a general expansion of Christian belief, or as an outright Christian theocracy. The latter minority belief eventually evolved into reconstructionism.
They also differ on the exact duration of the millennium, with some post-millennialists believing in a literal millennium lasting 1000 years, while others consider it a more symbolic period of time.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, post-millennialism was seen in the churches working actively for social reform and social justice, this being thought the way to bring in the Millennium.
Post-millennialism is also often connected with dominionism, since many post-millennialists believe that they have a duty to advance the cause of Christianity in preparation for the second coming, and that legislation is one acceptable way of doing so.
 Post-tribulational (historic) pre-millennialism
As opposed to post-millennialists, pre-millennialists believe that the millennium will begin with the second coming of Christ, and that he will reign over the Earth in person during this time, until the Last Judgement at the end of the millennium. Post-tribulationalists further believe that the second coming will follow a period of persecution of Christians by the Antichrist, known as the Tribulation.
 Pre-tribulational (dispensational) pre-millennialism
Pre-tribulational (dispensational) pre-millennialism differs from the post-tribulationalist variety in the belief that the second coming of Christ will effectively occur twice: once before the time of the Tribulations and once after. The first second coming will bring about the event usually referred to as the Rapture, when a group of selected true believers are immediately taken away to Heaven. Those remaining on Earth are then subjected to the seven-year long Tribulations, after which Christ will return in the second second coming, along with those he took with him in the Rapture, to defeat the Antichrist and begin the millennium.
This view is also called dispensational pre-millennialism because it is connected with a school of theology known as dispensation theology. This doctrine believes that God administers, or dispenses, his grace to mankind according to how well they handle a set of tests or trials. The time of the Tribulations are seen as the final one of these trials, and so it is usually understood that those unfortunate enough not to be part of the first Rapture will have the opportunity to convert (and presumably suffer martyrdom) during the Tribulations.
Most mainstream Christians are amillennialists, in that while they may or may not believe in a Second Coming and Last Judgement, they deny that it will be preceded by a specific period of one thousand years or by anything similar to the Tribulations.
 Historical millennialism
Some pre-millennialists in particular have tried to show that their beliefs are supported by the writings of the early (1st to 2nd century) Church Fathers, who commonly held that the return of Christ was imminent and would herald the beginning of the 1000-year long Kingdom of God. However, this historical premillennialism developed with ever grander and more decadent imaginings of the thousand-year rule of Christ, in consequence of which millennialism fell out of favor and was designated a heresy at the First Council of Constantinople in 381.
However, this early form of millennialism is quite different from the more contemporary forms discussed above, which for the most part date back to the to the 19th century.
 United States foreign policy
Despite their mythic nature, millennialist ideas have had an influence on the shaping of U.S. foreign policy by being espoused by a number of prominent wingnuts and televangelists who have the ear of policy-makers. This is often done by trying to shoehorn the behavior of nations like the late Soviet Union, Iran, and Israel into the framework of the Book of Revelation instead of using reality-based analysis.
 So why does this matter?
As mentioned above, these beliefs are for the most part, with the exception of amillennialism, only found among evangelical and fundamentalist denominations of Christianity, and not in the more mainstream branches. As such, it may not be immediately obvious why apparently minor theological technicalities, like those that separate pre-millennialists from post-millennialists, should matter. This may especially be the case for many non-Christians who probably find even the underlying concepts of a "resurrection" and a "second coming" quite alien in the first place.
One needs to understand, however, that what may seem small like small theological differences in fact often result in world views that are significantly different from one another, and which in practice lead to different conclusions about which role religion should play in society and politics. This is also the case on the issue of pre- vs. post-millennialism.
As explained above, post-millennialists view the millennium as period during which the Kingdom of God, i.e. the reign of Christianity, as gradually expanding until it culminates in the Second coming of Christ and the Last judgement. In this view, the church takes an active role as a instrument in bringing about this expansion and, in the case of those post-millennialists who do not believe in a literal 1000-year millennium, may even be able to hasten it, and thereby also the Second coming. This often leads to the conclusion that Christians should work towards a general Christianization of society through, e.g., legislation and litigation.
By contrast, pre-millennialists believe that the Second Coming will occur either without warning or after a specified period of tribulations, without the church having any particular role to play. They also believe that it is the Second Coming itself that will herald the beginning of the millennium and that Christ himself will do what is necessary to bring it about.
This means that, speaking in broadly general terms and all else being equal, post-millennialists have taken a more active stance than pre-millennialists towards the setting of public policy, trying to influence politicians and other decision-makers and promoting initiatives and legislation aimed at bringing secular law into line with what they consider divine law (the Dominionists are well-known for this) in order to create an entire Christian society. In other words, they aim for an "evangelism from above." Pre-millennialists, on the other hand, are likely to direct their attentions towards "evangelism from below," focusing on converting individuals and preparing for the Coming. Their political efforts are thus seen as vastly secondary in importance, and also aim to ensure that their evangelism can continue apace, rather than curtail anyone else's religious freedom.
As can be seen, we have here two schools of thought where an apparently small theological difference leads to the adoption of two quite different political strategies. This in turn requires their opponents to respond to them in very different ways. So again, although these are differences that from the outside may seem insignificant and more or less equally irrational, it is nevertheless quite important to understand where these people are coming from, and which assumptions and world views form the basis of their actions, especially if one is to form a meaningful opposition against them.
 See also
- ↑ Millennialism
- ↑ Next Year in Jerusalem
- ↑ Catastrophic millennialism
- ↑ Catechism of the Catholic Church, §676
- ↑ Article XVII: "[The Lutheran churches] 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."
- ↑ Chapter XI: "We further condemn Jewish dreams that there will be a golden age on earth before the Day of Judgment, and that the pious, having subdued all their godless enemies, will possess all the kingdoms of the earth."
- ↑ Strategic Implications of American Millennialism
- ↑ http://www.nowtheendbegins.com/writers/john-mcternan/the-strategic-implications-of-american-millennialism.htm