Religious Beliefs

How does Christian tradition interpret history? What is millennialism?

Christian tradition, like the Jewish and Islamic traditions, views history generally as a linear process with a beginning, middle, and end. Christian and Islamic views are different from the Jewish in that both later traditions regard the ages of their central figures, Jesus and Muhammad, as the high points of history. Christians believe Jesus the Christ entered the world at the “fullness of time,” establishing a new dispensation and initiating a sense of expectation of the eventual end of time. All that went before Jesus pointed to him and all that will happen since his life on Earth moves inexorably toward a final resolution over which Jesus Christ will preside. Christian expectation of the “end times” is an ancient theme with roots in Jewish tradition and in the New Testament. Just as the identification of Jesus as the Christ fulfilled the hopes of some Jews for a Messiah, Jesus’ own preaching seems to have fueled further anticipation of history’s grand finale. Many early Christians apparently thought the end was imminent, for we find important writers backtracking and suggesting that no one can know when the “Day of the Lord” will come (e.g. I Thessalonians 5:1-11). Eventually the idea emerged that Jesus would come again after a millennium, a thousand years, and rule for another thousand before bringing time to an end.


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