Millennial Views-Part 5
|By: Dr. Renald Showers; ©2003|
|Dr. Showers has given us quotes from several early Church leaders about their views on the Millennial period. This time we hear from Lactantius (approx. 240-320 AD), whom Jerome called “the most learned man of his time.”|
Previous articles began to examine the writings of early Church leaders who indicated that Premillennialism (initially called Chiliasm) was the first 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 examine the writings of one more early Church leader who indicated the same.
Lactantius lived from approximately 240 to 320 A.D. He was trained in rhetoric (the effective use of language in literature and oratory). By 290 he had been appointed by Emperor Diocletian to teach rhetoric at a school in Nicomedia. He became a Christian around 300 A.D. and suffered greatly under the persecution by Emperor Galerius. After Emperor Constantine granted freedom to the Church and declared himself a Christian, he appointed Lactantius to be the personal teacher of his son. Through his writings in defense of Christianity he became known as “the Christian Cicero.” Jerome designated him the most learned man of his time. Eusebius and Augustine honored him.
- And as God labored six days in building such great works, so His religion and the truth must labor during these six thousand years, while malice prevails and dominates. And again, since He rested on the seventh day from His completed labors and blessed that day, so it is necessary that, at the end of the six thousandth year, all evil be abolished from the earth, and that justice reign for a thousand years, and that there be tranquility and rest from the labors which the world is now enduring for so long.
Lactantius understood that the end of this present age will be characterized by a time of unprecedented tribulation: “As the end of this age is drawing near, therefore, it is necessary that the state of human affairs be changed and fall to a worse one, evil growing stronger, so that these present times of ours, in which iniquity and malice have advanced to a very high peak, can be judged, however, happy and almost golden in comparison with that irremediable evil.” He followed this statement with an amazing description of the future Tribulation period.
Although he lived while Rome was the great world power, Lactantius was convinced from the prophetic Scriptures that Rome would be destroyed and that then the rule of the world would shift from the west to the east: “This will be the cause of the destruction and confusion, that the Roman name, by which the world is now ruled—the mind shudders to say it, but I will say it, because it is going to be—will be taken from the earth, and power will be returned to Asia, and again the Orient will dominate and the West will serve.”
Lactantius believed that at His Second Coming Christ will war against and judge Antichrist and his godless forces. Then “the dead will rise again,… so that they may reign with God for a thousand years after being again restored to life.”
He said of Jesus, “When He shall have destroyed injustice and made the great judgment and restored to life those who were just from the beginning, He will stay among men for a thousand years and will rule them with just dominion.”
Lactantius described conditions of the future Kingdom:
- Then, those who will be living in bodies will not die, but will generate an infinite multitude during those same thousand years,… Those who will be raised from the dead will be in charge of the living as judges.
At this time, also, the prince of demons who is the contriver of all evils will be bound in chains, and he will be in custody for the thousand years of the heavenly power whereby justice will reign on earth, lest any evil be exerted against the people of God… the holy city will be set up in the center of the earth in which the Founder Himself may abide with the just who are its rulers.
Lactantius claimed that the earth will be transformed; the sun will be more effective; fertility will be great; crops will be abundant, and animals will be tame. In light of these changes he said:
- Men will enjoy, therefore, the most tranquil and most abundant life, and they will reign together with God. Kings of the nations will come from the ends of the earth with gifts and presents to adore and honor the great King, whose name will be famous and venerable to all peoples which will be under heaven and to the kings who will rule on the earth.
Lactantius asserted that at the end of the thousand years Satan will be set loose to lead a final revolt. God will crush the revolt and judge Satan forever. The unjust will be resurrected to everlasting sufferings. Heaven and earth will change drastically.
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).
- Elgin Moyer and Earle E. Cairns, Wycliffe Biographical Dictionary of the Church, Chicago: Moody Press, 1982, p. 233.
- The Fathers Of The Church, edited by Roy Joseph Defarrari, et. al., translated by Mary FrancisMcDonald, Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University Of America Press, 1964, p. 49, xii-xiii.
- Ibid., xvi.
- Moyer and Cairns, Biographical Dictionary, p. 233.
- The Fathers Of The Church, p. 49, xvi).
- Lactantius, The Divine Institutes, Book VII, chpt. 14, in The Fathers Of The Church, edited by Roy Joseph Defarrari, et. al., translated by Mary Francis McDonald, Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University Of America Press, 1964, pp. 49, 510.
- Ibid., chpt. 15, pp. 49, 512.
- Ibid., p. 513.
- Ibid., chpt. 19, pp. 49, 521.
- Ibid., chpt. 22, pp. 49, 527.
- Ibid., chpt. 24, pp. 49, 530.
- Ibid., p. 531.
- Ibid., p. 533.
- Ibid., chpt. 26, pp. 49, 535-536.