It is easy for us to associate apocalyptic and millennial movements with people who are undergoing social or economic stresses, or suffering hostile treatment of some kind. The idea is that apocalyptic fantasies of divine judgment to be followed by a reversal of fortunes in a millennial setting are a compensatory mechanism. But that’s not necessarily so. Not everyone who experiences the stresses of these kinds embraces an apocalyptic cult; moreover, Stephen L. Cook in his book Prophecy & Apocalypticism lists ten historical millennialist groups or persons from quite well-to-do and relatively comfortable backgrounds. The following come from pages 35 to 40.
When: From the thirteenth century onward
Who: members of privileged strata of society; less affluent members of intelligentsia; from wealthy, well-established family backgrounds; “idle women from the elite of urban society”
When: 1450’s and 1460’s
Who: Brothers Janko and Livin of Wirsberg were millennial catalyst figures even though they were rich and powerful
When: End of fifteenth century
What: The millennial instruction was taken up as the basis for the civic program of the Florentine republic
Who: Famous civic reformer Savanarola proposed a worldview addressed to political officials, the upper class, as well as the poor.
When: Twelfth century
What: Revival of Christian millennialism. Joachimism (from Joachim de Fiore)
Who: Joachim de Fiore was responsible for the revival. Franciscan Spirituals formed the centre of the movement and consisted mostly of people who had given up great wealth. These were people who left the privileged groups, the nobility and leading merchant families.
5. A group of Spanish colonizers under Franciscan friar
Where: New Spain
When: Sixteenth century
What: Another branch of Joachimite millennialism
Who: Led by Gerónimo De Mendieta, Franciscan friar, acting on behalf of Spanish monarchy; the group wielded episcopal, government and economic power.
6. The Skoptzi millennial sect
When: Eighteenth and nineteenth centuries
What: Expected an imminent judgement that would usher in the millennial kingdom. All males were castrated in preparation for the millennial reign that was prophesied to be sexless.
Who: Noblemen, state officials, the wealthy were included.
7. Jewish messianic movement led by Sabbatai Sevi
Where: Ottoman empire
When: Seventeenth century
What: Sabbatai Sevi declared himself the Messiah in May 1665
Who: Sabbatai Sevi attracted among his followers burghers, elders, wealthy merchants, rabbinic scholars. The least poor and persecuted groups were the leaders in the propagation of Sabbatian millennial beliefs.
When: Nineteenth century
What: Adventist theology
Who: Membership was generally of middle and upper classes. Some leaders belonged to the wealthiest classes. Apostle Frank Sitwell owned Barmoor Castle; founder of the group John Bate Cardale was a solicitor who owned considerable property; apostle Henry Drummond was one of the wealthiest persons in England, member of Parliament and belonged to aristocratic circles; apostle Spencer Perceval also a Parliamentarian and member of aristocracy. Another apostle, Thomas Carlyle, joined after becoming a Baron in 1824.
Where: Santa Barbara, California
When: Latter twentieth century
What: See pages 38-39 of Trompf’s Cargo Cults and Millenarian Movements
Who: Catalyst figure of the group, Norman Paulsen, had an annual salary of $150,000; The group owned a chain of supermarkets and wharehouses and a central headquarters on a 4000 acre ranch.
(Cook wrote before Bush II )
During his tenure of public office is said to have identified international events with biblical apocalyptic passages. At a formal dinner as governor of California he expounded Ezekiel to guests, telling them Gog was Russia and “it can’t be long now”. Expressed similar thoughts as President.
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