The Medieval Context
The study of Christian millennialism (the coming ideal world) reveals that it has two major millennial visions – egalitarian and hierarchical – and two major apocalyptic (transitional) scenarios – transformative and catastrophic. The transformative apocalypse most often leads to an egalitarian millennium, as in the vision of Micah (4: 1-4)/Isaiah (2:1-3). Here the ‘end of days’ anticipates a dramatic, mass ‘turning’ to the ways of God all over the world, and culminates with the nations turning their ‘swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks’; that is, the disarmament of the aristocracy. The millennial kingdom it anticipates involves a new socio-political paradigm: one where peace, fellowship, justice and abundance reign. ‘And each shall sit under his vine or his fig tree, undisturbed’ (Micah 4:3) – the end of aristocracy, the fellowship of honest labor. This brand of millennialism tends to emphasize an activist moral eschatology – you are saved by, and the messianic age comes through, moral excellence. Modern Christian theologians have called this activist kind of expectation post-millennialism – i.e., Jesus comes after the millennium has been established by divinely inspired (moral) humans.