Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church (The Complete Eight Volumes in One). Amazon Kindle Edition, 2014.
Volume 2, Ante-Nicene Christianity A.D. 100-325, “Chapter 12. The Development of Catholic Theology in Conflict with Heresy” Sections 137-158, Loc. 18758-20235.
§ 158. Chiliasm.
Schaff notes that the controversy of millennialism has been brought up in English language polemical writings a great deal (Schaff 2014, Loc. 20159). However, Schaff does not find a scholarly and in-depth analysis of the issue. Though the early church did not make a formal creedal statement, chiliastic views were fairly common. “The most striking point in the eschatology of the ante-Nicene age is the prominent chiliasm, or millennarianism, that is the belief of a visible reign of Christ in glory on earth with the risen saints for a thousand years, before the general resurrection and judgment (Schaff 2014, Loc. 20166).
Chiliasm existed “shortly before and after Christ” (Schaff 2014, Loc. 20174) in Jewish apocalyptic literature. It was also adopted by some heretics, including Ebionites and Gnostics. The Christian forms focused on the second coming of Christ, rather than his first coming. Normally it finds a resurrection both before and after the millennium, as well as a brief reign of Satan prior to an eternal reign of Christ. The models are regularly built on Revelation rather than other parts of the canonical Scripture (Schaff 2014, Loc. 20181). Justin Martyr seems to Schaff the pivotal character in the move from Jewish to Christian chiliasm. Schaff describes Justin’s teaching in some detail (Schaff 2014, Loc. 20189), He also details Irenaeus and Tertullian. Tertullian actually incorporated some ideas from Montanism into his eschatology (Schaff 2014, Loc. 20204).
Schaff finds that the opposition to chiliasm dates to the very early times of Christianity. Caius of Rome associated chiliasm with the gnostic Cerinthus (Schaff 2014, Loc. 20212). Origen rejected it out of hand as well as rejecting apostolicity for Revelation. The growth and acceptance of Christianity throughout the empire suggested a different view, articulated by Augustine. “The apocalyptic millennium he understood to be the present reign of Christ in the Catholic church, and the first resurrection, the translation of the martyrs and saints to heaven, where they participate in Christ’s reign (Schaff 2014, Loc. 20219). For this reason, Schaff says it was common as the first millennium closed to expect Christ to come.
In general, Schaff says, chiliasm has been considered a heresy or at least as a point to be rejected. However, it periodically arises again (Schaff 2014, Loc. 20226). There must always be a living hope in the return of Christ, but the models of a literal thousand year period do not seem to work well.