Millenarianism (also millenarism) is the belief by a religious, social, or political group or movement in a coming major transformation of society, after which all things will be changed, based on a one-thousand-year cycle. The term is more generically used to refer to any belief centered around 1000 year intervals. Millenarianism is a concept/theme that exists in many cultures and religions. Millennialism is a specific type of Millenarianism as it applies to Christianity.



One well-known form of millenarianism is the Christian concept of Millennialism. A core doctrine in Christian eschatology is the expectation of the Second Coming and the establishment of a Kingdom of God on Earth. According to prophecies in the Revelation of John, this kingdom of God on Earth will last a thousand years or more (a millennium).[1]

Although Christian Millennialism is the most well-known example of a millenarian belief system, the application of 1000-year cycles to the establishment or changing of the world has happened in many cultures and religions, and continues to this day, and is not relegated to the sects of only major world religions.


Millenarian groups claim that the current society and its rulers are corrupt, unjust, or otherwise wrong. They therefore believe they will be destroyed soon by a powerful force. The harmful nature of the status quo is always considered intractable without the anticipated dramatic change.

However, others who held millenarian views such as those held by the earliest Christians were condemned in 1530 by the Lutherans.[2]

In the modern world economic rules or vast conspiracies are seen as generating oppression. Only dramatic change will change the world and change will be brought about, or survived, by a group of the devout and dedicated. In most millenarian scenarios, the disaster or battle to come will be followed by a new, purified world in which the true believers will be rewarded.

While many millennial groups are pacifist, millenarian beliefs have been claimed as causes for people to ignore conventional rules of behavior, which can result in violence directed inwards (such as the Jonestown mass suicides) and/or outwards (such as the Aum Shinrikyo terrorist acts). It sometimes includes a belief in supernatural powers or predetermined victory. In some cases, millenarians withdraw from society to await the intervention of God[citation needed].

Millenarian ideologies or religious sects sometimes appear in oppressed peoples, with prominent examples the 19th century Ghost Dance movement, and the 19th and 20th century Cargo Cults.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 676, follows a discussion of the church's ultimate trial. "The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgement. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism [underline added], especially the 'intrinsically perverse' political form of a secular messianism."


There have been many examples of millenarian groups, movements and writings over the years. While each is different, and not all of these adhere to a millennial pattern, they do ascribe to patterns of wide-scale change as described above:[clarification needed]

Transhumanism and singularitarianism may be considered millenarian movements in a looser sense, because they anticipate changes in the established biological and therefore social orders, although neither group considers these changes to be thoroughly inevitable, merely likely. Furthermore, neither group maintains a belief in the evilness or wrongness of the current order, only in the notion that we should desire to change the order for humanistic and humanitarian reasons, and as such, both groups are thoroughly dedicated to ensuring that the changes involved are decidedly non-violent, entirely optional, and beneficial to as many people as possible.

In politics, millenarianism is often, but by no means always, linked to radical ideologies that share a similar belief in a transformation of society. These can be based in secular or religious ideas. In this way millenarianism is closely linked to Apocalypticism.

See also


  1. ^ Kark, Ruth "Millenarism and agricultural settlement in the Holy Land in the nineteenth century," in Journal of Historical Geography, 9, 1 (1983), pp. 47-62
  2. ^ "The Confession of Faith: Which Was Submitted to His Imperial Majesty Charles V. At the Diet of Augsburg in the Year 1530. by Philip Melanchthon, 1497-1560." Translated by F. Bente and W. H. T. Dau. Published in: Triglot Concordia: The Symbolical Books of the Ev. Lutheran Church. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 95.

Further reading

  • Burridge, Kenelm. "New Heaven, New Earth: A Study of Millenarian Activities" (Basil Blackwell. Original printing 1969, three reprints 1972, 1980, 1986) ISBN 0-631-11950-7 pb. ISBN 0-8052-3175-7 hb.
  • Cohn, Norman. The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages, revised and expanded (New York: Oxford University Press, [1957] 1970). (revised and expanded 1990) ISBN 0-19-500456-6
  • Gray, John. Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia (London: Penguin Books, [2007] 2008) ISBN 978-0-14102-598-8
  • Kaplan, Jeffrey. Radical Religion in America: Millenarian Movements from the Far Right to the Children of Noah (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1997). ISBN 0-8156-2687-8 ISBN 0-8156-0396-7
  • Katz, David S. and Richard H. Popkin. Messianic Revolution: Radical Religious Politics to the End of the Second Millennium. (New York: Hill and Wang, 1999) ISBN 0-8090-6885-0.Review on H-Net
  • Mühling, Markus. "Grundwissen Eschatologie. Systematische Theologie aus der Perspektive der Hoffnung" (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 2007), 198–220

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Millenarianism — Mil le*na ri*an*ism, Millenarism Mil le*na*rism, n. The doctrine of Millenarians. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • millenarianism — A term used to refer to a religious movement which prophesies the coming of the millennium and a cataclysmic end of the world as we know it; or, more formally, which anticipates imminent, total, ultimate, this worldly, collective salvation.… …   Dictionary of sociology

  • millenarianism — noun Date: 1829 1. belief in the millennium of Christian prophecy 2. belief in a coming ideal society and especially one created by revolutionary action …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • millenarianism — See millenarian. * * * …   Universalium

  • millenarianism — noun A belief that a major change is about to happen …   Wiktionary

  • millenarianism — Any religious movement that predicts the collapse of the world order as we know it, with its replacement by the millennium, or period of justice, equality, salvation, etc. Millenarian movements are thought to be an extreme example of the use of… …   Philosophy dictionary

  • millenarianism — belief that an ideal society will be produced in the near future Philosophical Isms …   Phrontistery dictionary

  • millenarianism — mil·le·nar·i·an·ism || ‚mɪlɪ nerɪənɪzm / neÉ™r n. belief in the Christian millennium (in which Jesus will reign on Earth); belief that an ideal world will be achieved in the near future …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Millenarianism —    The expectation of the thousand year period of blessedness as promised in the Book of Revelation …   Who’s Who in Christianity

  • millenarianism — noun belief in a future thousand year age of blessedness, beginning with or culminating in the Second Coming of Christ (central to the teaching of the Adventists, Mormons, and Jehovah s Witnesses). ↘belief in a future utopian period. Derivatives… …   English new terms dictionary

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