Millenarianism (Chiliasm) vs the Era of Peace
A Catholic view of the "1000 year reign" after the Tribulation

We think it is important that all Christians understand that there will be an Era of Peace after the Tribulation. The Book of Revelation says there will be many Christian martyrs but also there will be many remnant survivours (1 Thes 4:16-17, 1 Cor 15:51-52). Holocaust concentration camp survivor, Victor Frankl, observed that those who survived that incredible tribulation were those who had meaning or hope for the future.

No official Catholic position on the Era of Peace after the Tribulation

Cardinal Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI was asked "is a new er a of Christian life imminent?" Ratzinger replied:

The question is still open to free discussion, as the Holy See has not made any definitive pronouncement in this regard. 

—Il Segno del Soprannauturale, Udine, Italia, n. 30, p. 10, Ott. 1990; from the Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith,

It seems significant that there has been no pronouncement in 2000 years. Perhaps the Holy Spirit has been waiting for such a time as this (discussed below). Catholic theologians and laity are free to discuss and hold a variety of opinions about the end times, with a few guideposts, which can be found in the Catechism 674 - 682.

Show the relevant points in the Catechism 

  • There will be a great apostacy of Christians who leave the faith for the deception of the antichrist (Cat. 675)
  • There will be a time of Great Tribulation where the antichrist will reign (Cat. 675)
  • God will preserve a remnant faithful who "endure until the end"
  • Jesus' coming is suspended until He is recognized as the Messiah by "all Israel" (Catechism 674)
  • Jesus will return victoriously at the end of time to judge the living and the dead and to rapture his Church.

In the Evangelical world there are debates about when the Rapture will happen. In the Catholic world, there are debates about whether there will be an "Era of Peace".

Amillennialism became the dominant Christian view from the 4th century until recently

The Early Church Fathers were near unanimous that there would be a millennial Reign after the Tribulation. They called this the Day of the Lord. However, unlike modern Evangelical Millannarianism, almost none of these early Christians said Jesus will come back in human form during that time.

Augustine, Jerome and Origen argued for a symbolic interpretation of Revelation 20, that the millennium began at the Ressurrection (amillennialism) during the Age of the Church which includes the saving action of Baptism (Mk 16:16, Jn. 3:5)

Amillennialism was dominant from the 4th century, and is still dominant among mainstream Protestant denominations and Orthodox Churches. It is also part of Catholic Sacred Tradition and is one valid interpretation of Rev 20.

However, we can no longer limit our interpretation to amillenialism. 

Revelation 20 is like Genesis 6 (the Flood): there are several, true, meanings of the passage. There are the symbolic teachings (i.e., the Flood as an allegory for Baptism), and there are the clear interpretations (yes, the Flood REALLY DID happen). Similarly, Revelation 20's "thousand years" can be taken, symbolically as referring to the age of the Church, but they also, in their clear sense, refer to the Era of Peace.

The Era of Peace is (re)emerging as the dominant view

Catholic dogmas and doctrine sometimes takes hundreds of years to mature and to be declared definitively.

During the last 100 years, there have been official statements from popes, magisterial documents, apparitions, private revelations and prophesies indicating a new understanding of the time after the Tribulation.

The "Servant of God", Luisa Piccarreta (1865-1947), who's cause for canonization has been opened, claimed to have heard from the Lord Jesus about this. Her prophesies are very compelling. She asserts that the Church on earth will realize the prophetic Lord's prayer "Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven". Many Church Fathers called this "the Day of the Lord".

This Era of Peace, has some things in common with an Evangelical Millennarian position, in that the devil will be bound up and there will be peace on earth.

Evangelical Apocalypse Timeline

Evangelical Apocalypse Timeline

Catholic Apocalypse Timeline

Catholic Apocalypse Timeline

Why will the 1000 year reign include the Church and not only modern Israel?

Many Evangelicals have been told that God will remove faithful Christians from the world before the Tribulation (Pre-Trib Rapture) and then deal with Israel separately, like a parent that takes the good kid out of the room and punishes the bad kid, until the bad kid repents.

This view was part of Dispensationalism formed in the 1830's. The book written by Evangelical Daniel G Hummel called "The Rise and Fall of Dispensationalism" describes how classic Dispensationalism has fallen out of favour and is not taught in many Evangelical Bible schools anymore. Particularly, the concept that Israel does not include Christian Jews and Christian Gentiles has been abandoned.

Dispensational View:

  • The Church is not Israel.
  • Old Testament prophesies are for Israel alone, not for the Church which didn't exist when the prophesy was given.
  • Some prophesies were not fulfilled in Bible times.
  • Therefore, they apply to the modern nation state of Israel because God is faithful to his promises.

Catholic View:

  • The Church was born at the Pentecost to Jews (Acts 2:1-4).
  • Israel includes both unconverted Jews (older brother) and the Church (younger brother). The Bible gives younger brothers preference (Abel, Jacob, Joseph, David, etc).
  • This is not Replacement Theology because Israel includes all Jews and Christians.
  • Paul says "A person is a Jew who is one inwardly... by the Spirit" (Rm 2:28-29)
  • The State of Israel (1948), is a fulfillment of part of the prophesies, which speak of the land of Israel and the national identity of the Jewish people but modern Israel has only 2 tribes out of 12, Judah and Benjamin. The 10 lost tribes are assimilated into the gentiles, lost forever as an identifiable people. (2 Kgs 17:22-23, Hos 1:6-7) Therefore, this part of prophesy can only be fulfilled via the Church, where the lost tribes have been grafted back into Israel to "share in the nourishing sap from the olive root" (Rm 11:17-24), which is the heritage and promises of the Jews. Also (Eph 2:11-2 , 1 Pt 2:9-10).
    Israel Christian relationship
Show other dispensational views with Catholic Responses
  • Dispensational View:
    Old Testament prophesies are for Israel alone, not for the Church which didn't exist when the prophesy was given.

    Response:
    The state of Israel (1948), is a fulfillment of part of the prophesies, which speak of the land of Israel and the national identity of the Jewish people but modern Israel has only 2 tribes out of 12, Judah and Benjamin. The 10 lost tribes are assimilated into the gentiles, lost forever as an identifiable people. (2 Kgs 17:22-23, Hos 1:6-7) Therefore, this part of prophesy can only be fulfilled via the Church, which contains all 12 tribes.

  • Dispensational View:
    Some Old Testament prophesies were not fulfilled and therefore apply to the modern state of Israel because God is faithful to his promises.

    Response:
    We agree God will fulfill his promises to Israel, those who are descended from the Jews who were at the birth of the Church at the Pentecost, and those who have been grafted into Israel through the blood of the Lamb and modern day Israeli Jews who will convert before Jesus comes back.

Israel includes the Church

  • The kingdom of heaven was inaugurated on earth by Christ, and given to the Church. "This kingdom shone out before men in the word, in the works and in the presence of Christ" (LG 5). The Church is the seed and beginning of this Kingdom. Its keys are entrusted to Peter. (Catechism 567)
  • Baptism incorporates us into the Church. From the baptismal fonts is born the one People of God of the New Covenant, which transcends all the natural or human limits of nations, cultures, races, and sexes: "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body." (Catechism 1267)
  • The Old Covenant is fulfilled in the New.
  • Christ will not reign in visible human form during that time but he will be very present in the Eucharist, the Holy Spirit will be active, Jesus will reign in the hearts of the faithful.
  • The 1000 years may be literal or may be just a long time. It would make sense if it was about 1000 years because that would represent the 7th day of creation where "1000 years is like a day" (2 Pt 3:8), as per diagram above.

Similarities between Dispensationalism and Catholicism

  • There will be a great apostacy of Christians
  • There will be a time of trial
  • The Antichrist will dominate the earth
  • There will be a long period of peace and harmony after the Tribulation
  • Jesus is coming back in a Second Coming

Differences between Dispensationalism and Catholicism

  • Catholics don't think Jesus will reign on earth visibly. After the Tribulation, we think Chrisitans will be united under the universal Church the Jesus founded with the apostles.
  • The kingdom of heaven was inaugurated on earth by Christ. "This kingdom shone out before men in the word, in the works and in the presence of Christ" (LG 5). The Church is the seed and beginning of this Kingdom. Its keys are entrusted to Peter. (Catechism 567)
  • The Old Covenant is fulfilled in the New.

Why does the Catholic Church say Millenarianism cannot be taught safely?

The Catholic Church warns against the belief that Jesus will rule visibly in human form during the millennium.

Adolf Hitler announced his plans to have major parts of Berlin torn down and rebuilt in a speech on Nov 27, 1937

[...] to build a millennial city adequate [in splendour] to a thousand-year-old people with a thousand-year-old historical and cultural past, for its never-ending [glorious] future [...]

See German text  

[...] einem tausendjährigen Volk mit tausendjähriger geschichtlicher und kultureller Vergangenheit für die vor ihm liegende unabsehbare Zukunft eine ebenbürtige tausendjährige Stadt zu bauen [...].

After Hitler's unsuccessful attempt to implement a thousand-year-reign, the Vatican issued an official statement:

Millenarianism (Chiliasm) 1 [Decree of the Holy Office, July 21, 1944]

In recent times on several occasions this Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office has been asked what must be thought of the system of mitigated Millenarianism, which teaches, for example, that Christ the Lord before the final judgment, whether or not preceded by the resur­ rection of the many just, will come visibly to rule over this world. The answer is: The system of mitigated Millenarianism cannot be taught safely.

  • The antichrist will rule the earth, and will deceive many Christians. Millenarianism leaves the door open to misrecognizing the saviour, who could be the antichrist posing as the Messiah.
  • There is a variation of millenarianism which is espoused by communism, that humanity is evolving toward greater consciousness naturally without God. This always leads to totalitarianism. Secular messianists hold to a Utopian political kingdom.

    The Communism of today, more emphatically than similar movements in the past, conceals in itself a false messianic idea. —POPE PIUS XI, Divini Redemptoris, n. 8, www.vatican.va

  • Millenarianism is fundamentally about taking that which is UNIQUE to Heaven (the Beatific Vision, which is the result of Christ's visible glorious presence, and applying it to earth. 
  • Millenarianism reduces eternal aspirations to temporal ones.

There are many Church fathers who say that when the antichrist comes he will decieve the Jewish people into thinking he is the messiah.

I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. (Jn 5:43-44)

The Era of Peace as described by Luisa Piccarreta

The Era of Peace, as opposed to Millenarianism, is all about anticipating (and preparing for) Heaven. We will long for Heaven  even more ardently during the Era of Peace than we tend to currently. For although during the Era, earth will much more resemble Heaven than it does now, it is also true that this will only cause us to even more wholeheartedly desire our  eternal destiny (and not only terrestrial paradise). 

Luisa Piccarreta says that during the Era, those on earth will, as it were "see" those in Heaven, and both will sing one song together in praise of God. This great union of the faithful on earth with the elect in Heaven will cause those of us on earth to earnestly and excitedly await our reunion with them in Heaven.

Show the Catechism quote rejecting millenarianism

675 Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth  will unveil the "mystery of iniquity" in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.

676 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 judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the "intrinsically perverse" political form of a secular messianism.

See also

  1. Bible prophesies on the Era of Peace after the Tribulation
  2. Popes statements on Era of Peace after the Tribulation
  3. Early Church Fathers prophesies on Era of Peace after the Tribulation