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In its narrowest sense millenarianism refers to belief in the Second Coming of Christ and the establishment of his kingdom on earth as predicted in the Book of Revelation. More generally, the term refers to any religious movement that prophesies the imminent destruction of the present order and the establishment of a new order, usually reversing the relative status of the oppressed and the oppressor.

Millenarianism in England during 1640s and 50s

In the 18th century, Independents in England (for example, Joseph Mede) and Pietists in Germany advocated millenarian views. Among contemporary Protestant groups believing in the millennium are the Seventh Day Adventists, the Christadelphians, the Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Plymouth Brethren. Most millenarians believe that the millennium will follow the Second Coming; some, however, have defined the millennium as a period of progressive improvement in the world that will culminate in the Second Coming. In England, these ideas were spread by the evangelical movement in the late 18th and early 19th century. Dozens of books promoting millenarianism were published in the first three decades of the 19th century, and millenarian societies were formed. Leading thinkers of the time were James Bicheno .

Influence of Millenarianism in England

Indeed, it was the spectacularly irrational and self-destructive behavior (from the point of view of secular, mainstream society) of people who expected Christ's imminent return in medieval Europe that has provided the most commonly used model for millenarianism. Analogous social phenomena have been discovered among peoples in nearly all ages and regions of the world and have been categorized as millenarian on the basis of their violent and counter-cultural characteristics. Many millenarian movements in England were as progressive manifestations of class struggle by the lowly against their oppressors. Popular millenarianism arose from within mainstream culture but as a fundamentalist or populist reaction against it recognizes that popular millenarianism was a counter-cultural movement that threatened the political elite. Simultaneously with the proliferation of studies of "crisis cult" millenarianism in the 1950s and 1960s, other scholars began to apply the term "millenarian" to modern European.

In England, these ideas were spread by the evangelical movement in the late 18th and early 19th century and millenarian societies were formed . The first major millenarian movement after the early Christian communities was Montanism. Montanus, its founder, sought to restore the enthusiasm of the early period of the church. Montanus's movement began about 172 C.E. He expected the Lord to return to Pepuza and Tymion, two small towns in Asia Minor. The New Jerusalem would soon descend to earth and the thousand-year reign of Christ would begin. Montanus encouraged his followers to live in strict asceticism to prepare for this Second Coming. The church turned against Montanus because millenarianism was not central in Christian doctrine and because ecstatic prophecy and private interpretation undermined church discipline. In many instances millenarian hopes and expectations became intertwined with political and social aspirations and resulted in a violent mix—especially when reform efforts, blocked by rigid church and secular authorities, became radical and extreme. Such a situation occurred, ...
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