The Church has been rolling through St. John’s Revelation (or Apocalypse) in Morning Prayer, often called “Reve-lay-shuns” parts of The South. Apocalypse simply means “revealing,” thus the equally apt name Revelation. Too often Hollywood depicts The “End” as a giant destructive sequence where everything comes to a terminus, a return to the void. But the End of John’s revelation is the fulfillment, the what the whole Cosmos will do when there is nothing new to come but everything rests in its fullness. To make this distinction in the use of end clear look here:
Terminus: The Cherokee’s arrow struck the deer and put an end to its life.
Fulfillment: The acorn’s end is to become an oak tree.
There’s always chaff in the barn that needs sweeping out after we separate the wheat from the weeds that we might find the grain, so here we go. I’ve organized bits of weed pulling by Majors or by thoughts. You can read a bit or enjoy all of it as one thread.
There have been many ridiculous theories and frankly bad readings of the text. In particular the phrase And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, from St. John’s Revelation, chapter XX. This plain reading of the text reads 1,000 as the number of years that will pass temporally where Christ is King before we all float up as bubbly spirits into heaven, Amen.
FOR THE HISTORIANS
The Early Church saw a number of figures, both Saints & heretics who purported this position. Justin Martyr (100’s: on Eucharist, Baptism) and Irenaeus (100’s: catholicity, apostolicity, orthodoxy to read Scriptures) were for Millenialism. Marcion (heresy of Pauline Canon only for Scriptures) and Origen (father of Epistle commentaries, heresy of universal salvation) were against Millenialism. So there was a mixed bag here of opinions, but the arguments are what need to be retraced.
That is — citing Church History proves nothing, putting thinkers into dialogue might. This is the difference between Tradition and History. Traditions circumscribe history but include more, they also seek Truth from historical truths.
FOR THOSE WHO PRAY
The Church rejects the position of Millenialism because of The Liturgical and Scriptural phrase world without end or unto ages of ages or forever and ever.
Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
You’ll notice if you come to The Prayers that this is the Gloria Patri or the Glory be to the Father that we use all the time, after the opening of MP & EP, after the Psalms etc.
The Invitatory and Psalter
Officiant O God, make speed to save us. People O Lord, make haste to help us.
Officiant and People
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as
it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.
FOR THE ENGLISH CRITICAL THEORISTS
In short, Millenialism suggests Christ’s kingdom is broken up into parts. They read Ephesians and Revelation so as to contradict one another. But The Church reads both so that must be a bad reading. If one wants to (a) give a Charitable read (b) give a critical read (c) not contradict the Scriptures (d) not contradict worship (e) not contradict reason — then, Millenialism of any sort: Pre-Millenialism, Post-Millenialism, Pots-n-Pans-Millenialism, &c. is out.
FOR THE “CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE” CROWD / EMPIRICISTS
Millenialism virtually died in Medievalism because we saw its err in saying world with an end, then some other stuff, then finally an end but for real this time guys. To sustain this one needs to throw out the Creeds, the Liturgy, probably not mention too many Scriptures. And to really avoid the problem, focus on experiences of new revelations, even if they contradict older ones. As if God changes. Enter the heresy of Montanism in the 200’s. Some of it was rumoured to have survived into the 5th, 6th, or 9th centuries. John Locke’s Empiricism laid the path for “experiential, individual faith” that allowed Montanism to revive in the Great Awakening in the 1740’s under the heretical Anglican cleric George Whitfield. He was forbidden to preach due to this mode of thought implicitly contradicting Christ as Saviour. Pietism was born nonetheless and grew in the U.S. Montanism reared its head again in 1906 in the Azusa Street Revival. Enter Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism.
Montanism was the heresy that supported Millenialism especially under Tertullian by saying the Holy Ghost could override the Scriptures, The Church, even past revelations like St. John’s, etc. These “New” Revelations used “new” in quite an ambiguous way, it wasn’t clear if they met “new” as in something completely different or as the same thing but refreshed. For instance:
New qua different: I heard Athens got a new apartment complex downtown.
New qua recreated: After I got a bite to eat and ten hours of sleep I felt like a new man.
In essence, Montanism, says the first. This entails God changed as if He were a creature. This is no god at all then. Due to this God who “changes” based on our individual experiences, this God becomes much like a Hydra — for every head you cut off, three more appear. Enter 40,000+ denominations. Meanwhile the other some 2 billion Christians in the world look on us in utter confusion about everything we call “Christian.”
FOR THE POLITICAL SCIENCE MAJORS
Believe it or not, these silly readings of St. John’s Revelation as Millenialism are still present in national political policies today. Millenialism is part of a broader attempt to read St. John’s Revelation plainly. So too it produces a reading of Israel not as The Church but as a literal Liberal Nation-State of Israel that is necessary for the end times to occur. This put a pro-Israeli state into the U.S. Protestant blood as a Dogmatic Orthodoxy. Though the State has no interest in theology, they acted according to an old theological disposition of there’s when they insisted upon an Israeli State in 1948 after WWII. Note also that the Liberal Nation-State is founded on the Myth found in Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, that ancient serpent and devil, another hydra-like creation…Interesting!
FOR THE PHYSICS MAJORS
What’s also interesting is that St. John’s Revelation is non-chronological. GO FIGURE. He speaks of the dragon waiting by the virgin about to give birth which references Christ’s Nativity to Mother Mary in Matthean and Lucan Gospels. He sees the Dragon thrown down which appears in The Book of Isaiah. He sees that self-same Dragon who is the Angel Lucifer take on the form of a serpent which is in Genesis.
What Millenialism in all its forms assumes is a linear sense of time. A Newtonian framework, much like the one John Calvin and others were so faithful too. If a Biblical reading contradicted Newtonianism, it was thrown out as impossible. We can’t fault them for that, it was the best they had at that point and they were trying to reason well. We see now how The Church’s Tradition develops through time as we enter a massive historical dialogue. We know since Relativity and Einstein that this scientific framework is mistaken. As Quantum and Newtonianism approach a Unified Theory it will be interested to see what Scriptural readings become possible and which impossible (i.e. Millenialism).
FOR THE ECOLOGY, BIOLOGY, ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH MAJORS
Millenialism has also historically produced groups of Christians who say, “Who cares what we do to Creation? Jesus is coming back anyways to clean up this mess…” The conservative Liberals are notorious for this both in fundamentalist and evangelical form. The political blocs known as “The Evangelical Right” or those who post 1980’s referred to the fabricated “Judeo-Christian values” were generally where this position was to be found. Thus, something like Duke University’s Environmental School generally having a distaste for Christians as one of the major groups that they have to combat. Millenialism as a futuristic event and not a fulfillment entails we don’t need to treat things well now, it means it will all magically get fixed. The true
position is that Christ’s Body is The Church, so he expects our backs and hands to pick up things that thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, ie trashing the world contradicts The Our Father, as well as Genesis calling us to dominion, not domination.
Whew. Glad that’s over.
What do we see in Revelation then as an End which teaches us how to aim today? We might go on forever on this so we’ll just list a few images. We started The Book of Revelation two weeks ago in Proper 25, it’s now Proper 27 and we’re through chapter 20, so here’s a few from the Morning Prayer readings.
Chapter II, XXI, XXII: The New Jerusalmen has The Mountain of God (Moses and Christ both ascended one…), a River of Life, and The Tree of Life. I bet they don’t cut the caps off mountains and make the land uninhabitable, throw trash into the waters, or cut down trees because we need another parking lot. Walk, recycle, limit your consumption. I bet there’s no concrete in heaven.
Chapter II, XII: Christ will rule as King with an iron rod. Work toward a Monarchy, but play the game and be in a Democratic Republic. Don’t forget where your allegiances stand.
Chapter XXI: No Temple for God is the Light of the City — get Baptized if you aren’t, join those traveling to that City. Make your body a dwelling place for The Holy Spirit in Baptism, and make it a good dwelling place by cultivating your body and your soul by prayer, good works, to become a good person day by day.
Chapter XIV, XVII, XVIII, XIX, XI: Don’t fornicate. If you have passions that’s fine, just be mature about it so be loyal, get married. We can be like the kings who fornicate with Babylon and find their love lost, or like Christ who is loyal, mature, ruling himself and others well, who weds his beloved Church.
Chapter XVIII: Live simply, you don’t need many luxuries. Luxuries are temptations into Babylon, to be satisfied by objects instead of taking some pleasure in objects but using them to be satisfied by communion with the Trinity.
Chapter II: readings from letters to churches. So we should read those now, ie Scriptures, ie go to Prayer and then read on your own.
Chapter XII: fruit given for the healing of the nations. Work for peace, not just the absence of war or mere tolerance of one another, but the peace of Christ which is Reconciliation to God the Father. This takes Wisdom, and from our Wisdom readings in Morning Prayer we heard Wisdom would not enter the impure. Hear O future politicians, if you wish to rule well, begin with yourself. Don’t let your passions rule you, let the Passion of Christ rule you, then become the hand of Christ and work to true peace.
Chapter XX: all are resurrected, then judged, and some go to a second life, some to a second death. As we pray in the Apostle’s Creed and proclaimed at our Baptisms and Confirmations, “he will judge the quick [living] and the dead.” This judgment is “according to what each had done,” ie our deeds, works, etc. So let’s compete in virtue with good deeds now. God is merciful and loving, but also just and righteous.
Chapter IV: heavenly worship, so go to The Holy Eucharist. It’s what we’ll do forever so we should probably practice now. For those of us in training for sainthood: follow what you ought to love, don’t follow what you love right now. Maybe one day we’ll love the right things, God willing.