The Millennium And The Intermediate State

C.E. Hill’s Regnum Cealorum (2nd ed.) is a historical study of millennial views of the early church, and in his first chapter on the views of Irenaeus, he brings up a connection between millennial views and views of the intermediate state which many today do not:

Irenaeus’ objective in placing this discussion as prefatory to his extended treatment of the millennium should by now be plain. On the view of the non-chiliast orthodox (similarly with that of the heretical dualists) the righteous may enter the conspectus Dei immediately after death. These people must therefore be taught that there remains, before the just can be considered worthy to enter the divine presence, first a period of waiting in infernal abodes, then the resurrection of the just and the reign of the millennium. The millennium for Irenaeus serves the necessary purpose of training and gradually accustoming the righteous to apprehend God and his glory (paulatim assuescunt capere Deum, V.32.1; cf. V.35.1-2).

Irenaeus thus exposes a logical and systematic connection between belief in a heavenly intermediate state and refusal of the notion of a future, temporary kingdom of Christ on earth. It is a logical connection because, if the souls are ushered into heaven, into the very presence of God and Christ, immediately after death and not detained in refreshing subearthly vaults, a future, earhtly kingdom would seem at best an anticlimactic appendage to salvation history, at worst a serious and unconscionable retrogression. The millennium is then entirely redundant. It is a “systematic” connection because it would appear by inference that the heavenly intermediate state, in the system of his orthodox dissenters, is the opposing counterpart of the earthly millennium in the system of Irenaeus. As introducing the redeemed into direct fellowship with their Savior and their God this heavenly postmortem existence takes the place of the millennium. [19-20]

I look forward to more of Hill’s analysis. Only twenty pages in, and I’m already learning things I’ve never heard before.