Calvin Against The Chiliasts

But Satan has not only befuddled men’s senses to make them bury with the corpses the memory of resurrection; he has also attempted to corrupt this part of the doctrine with various falsifications that he might at length destroy it. I pass over the fact that in Paul’s day he began to overthrow it [1 Cor. 15:12 ff.]. But a little later there followed the chiliasts, who limited the reign of Christ to a thousand years. Now their fiction is too childish either to need or to be worth a refutation. And the Apocalypse, from which they undoubtedly drew a pretext for their error, does not support them. For the number “one thousand” [Rev. 20:4] does not apply to the eternal blessedness of the church but only to the various disturbances that awaited the church, while still toiling on earth. On the contrary, all Scripture proclaims that there will be no end to the blessedness of the elect or the punishment of the wicked [Matt. 25:41, 46].
Now all those matters which elude our gaze and far exceed the capacity of our minds must either be believed as from actual oracles of God or utterly cast away. Those who assign the children of God a thousand years in which to enjoy the inheritance of the life to come do not realize how much reproach they are casting upon Christ and his Kingdom. For if they do not put on immortality, then Christ himself, to whose glory they shall be transformed, has not been received into undying glory [1 Cor. 15:13 ff.]. If their blessedness is to have an end, then Christ’s Kingdom, on whose firmness it depends, is but temporary. In short, either such persons are utterly ignorant of everything divine or they are trying by a devious malice to bring to nought all the grace of God and power of Christ, the fulfillment of which is realized only when sin is blotted out, death swallowed up, and everlasting life fully restored!
Even a blind man can see what stupid nonsense these people talk who are afraid of attributing excessive cruelty to God if the wicked be consigned to eternal punishment! If the Lord deprives of his Kingdom those who through their ungratefulness have rendered themselves unworthy of it—that, forsooth, will be too unjust! Yet their sins, they say, are temporal.10 Granted. But God’s majesty, and also his justice, which they have violated by sinning, are eternal. Therefore it is right that the memory of their iniquity does not perish. Yet thus the punishment will exceed the measure of the transgression. This blasphemy is not to be borne, when God’s majesty is so little esteemed, when the contempt of it is valued less than the loss of one soul. But let us pass over these triflers, lest, contrary to what we have previously said, we seem to judge their ravings worth refuting.

John Calvin Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, vol. 1, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 3.25.5


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