The days will come in which vines shall grow," imagined Papias of Hierapolis, "each having ten thousand branches, and in each branch ten thousand twigs, and in each true twig ten thousand shoots, and in each one of the shoots ten thousand clusters, and on every one of the clusters ten thousand grapes, and every grape when pressed will give two hundred gallons of wine. And when any of the saints shall lay hold of a cluster, another shall cry out, 'I am a better cluster, take me; bless the Lord through me.'" Papias (c.60-120) was perhaps the first post-biblical author to describe the thousand-year visible Kingdom of Christ—the Millennium.

The early Gnostic heretic Cerinthus (c.100) elaborated on the physical pleasures of the Millennium—including "nuptial" pleasures—to a degree that scandalized the orthodox.

Some early orthodox and heretical Christians found the tangible, sensual expectations of the Millennium irresistible. But as Christians gained more experience with these expectations, they found sufficient reason to be wary.

The first premillennialist

As years turned into decades, and decades into centuries, it became clear that, in spite of the hopes of some, the Millennium hadn't started with Jesus' resurrection. Although some modern scholars speculate this might have caused dismay, there is no evidence—either in internal exhortations or in answers to external critics—that it bothered anyone.

Christians routinely prayed that the end of the world be postponed. It appears that the delay was simply not an issue. Those who expected the Millennium were confident that it would come. The question was simply when.

As the years wore on, those who thought about the Millennium began to rethink the event that would initiate it. If the ...

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