Messianic Period an Interregnum.

The reign of peace, lasting one thousand years, which will precede the Last Judgment and the future life. The concept has assumed especial importance in the Christian Church, where it is termed also "chiliasm," designating the dominion of Jesus with the glorified and risen saints over the world for a thousand years. Chiliasm or the idea of the millennium is, nevertheless, older than the Christian Church; for the belief in a period of one thousand years at the end of time as a preliminary to the resurrection of the dead was held in Parseeism. This concept is expressed in Jewish literature in Enoch, xiii., xci. 12-17; in the apocalypse of the ten weeks, in Apoc. Baruch, xl. 3 ("And his dominion shall last forever, until the world doomed to destruction shall perish"); and in II Esdras vii. 28-29. Neither here nor in later Jewish literature is the duration of this Messianic reign fixed. It is clear, however, that the rule of the Messiah was considered as an interregnum, from the fact that in many passages, such as Pes. 68a, Ber. 34b, Sanh. 91b and 99a, Shab. 63a, 113b, and 141b, a distinction is made between and , although it must be noted that some regarded the Messianic rule as the period of the fulfilment of the prophecies, while others saw in it the time of the subjugation of the nations.

There are various views regarding the duration of this kingdom, and there is considerable confusion in traditional literature on this point, one and the same opinion being often quoted as held by different authorities. According to the two baraitot in Sanh. 99a, the Messianic kingdom is to last for 40, or 70, or 365, or 400, or even for 7,000 years. In the opinion of others its period is to equal the time from the creation of the world, or else from Noah, to the "present" day. Similar statements, often merely ascribed to other authors, are found in Yalḳ. 806. Sanh. 97a quotes Abaye and an old baraita, which is found also in 'Ab. Zarah 9a, to the effect that the Messianic period comprises two of the six millenniums of the world, while R. Ḳeṭina and a baraita make the interesting statement that the 6,000 years of the world will be concluded by the seventh thousand of the Messianic kingdom. In the passage in Yalḳuṭ. already quoted, this same view is ascribed to two tannaim of the second century. Both of these chronologies are based on the calculation found in Ps. xc. 4 ("For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday"), a comparison of which with the account of Creation formed the basis for the 6,000 years of the duration of the world, while the Sabbath corresponded to the seventh thousand, that of the Messiah.

Found in Revelation.

The calculation of 6,000 or 7,000 years is found, according to Lagarde ("Mittheilungen," iv. 315), as early as the Greek translators of the Pentateuch, whom he places about 280 B.C., and is given also in Enoch, xxxiii. The idea of the Messianic interregnum was later incorporated in this form in Revelation (ch. xx.). When Jesus has conquered the serpent, representing the hostile anti-Christian world, the martyrs of the faith will be raised from the dead and will rule with him for 1,000 years as a band of kingly priests. This period is to be followed by the Last Judgment and the creation of a new heaven and a new earth. The concept of the Messianic kingdom, which is here described merely as a reign of peace, is elaborated more fully in the eschatological descriptions of apocalyptic literature (as in Papias), in the Epistle of Barnabas, and in the writings of Justin. Barnabas follows the Jewish theory that the world is to exist unchanged for 6,000 years, and that at the beginning of the Sabbatical or seventh millennium the son of God will appear, although, unlike Papias, he regards this event as purely spiritual. The view of Justin ("Dial. cum Tryph." cxiii.) concerning the Messianic kingdom is nationalistic in coloring, being influenced, according to Hamburger, by the insurrection of Bar Kokba. After the middle of the second century of the common era these ideas fell into abeyance, until the Montanists arose in Asia Minor (c. 160-220) and revived the ancient hopes, declaring, however, that their city of Pepuza was to be the site of the future Jerusalem and the center of the millennial kingdom. In the Greek Church chiliasm was displaced entirely by Origen's Neoplatonic mysticism, and was kept alive only in the Oriental branches of that communion.

  • Corrodi, Kritische Gesch. des Chiliasmus;
  • A. Harnack, Millennium, in Encyc. Brit.;
  • Semisch, Chiliasmus, in Herzog-Plitt, Real-Encyc.;
  • Hamburger, R. B. T. s.v. Chiliasmus;
  • Schürer, Gesch. 2d ed., ii. 457 et seq.;
  • F. Weber, Jüdische Theologie, 2d ed., pp. 371-373.
J. A. B.
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