The Continuing Error Of Cerinthus

It is written:

“The angel grabbed the dragon, that old snake, also known as the devil or Satan. The angel tied the dragon with the chain for 1000 years.” (Revelation 20:2)

The Apostle John wrote the Book of Revelation In highly symbolic language (Revelation 1:1). Sadly, people throughout history have failed to take this symbolism into account and therefore have often misunderstood the significance of the Book of Revelation. One such example is seen in the modern day teaching of premillennialism which teaches from Revelation 20 that Christ will reign on Earth for a thousand literal years at the time of His Second Coming. There was, indeed, an ancient heretic from the church named Cerinthus who taught this (along with many other strange doctrines). Notice some of what the early church “fathers” wrote of him:

“Cerinthus, too, through written revelations by a great apostle (as he would have us to believe!) brings before us fantastic things. And he pretends these things were shown him by angels. He alleges that after the resurrection, the kingdom of Christ is to be on earth and that the flesh dwelling in Jerusalem is again to be subject to desire and pleasures. And being an enemy to the Scriptures of God and wishing to deceive men, he says that there is to be a space of a thousand years for marriage festivals. (Eusebius, quoting Caius (c. 215, W), 5.601.)


“The doctrine taught by Cerinthus is this: that there will be an earthly reign of Christ. Since Cerinthus was himself a man devoted to the pleasures of the body, and completely carnal in his dispositions, he imagined that the kingdom would consist in those kinds of gratifications on which his own heart was set. (Dionysius of Alexandria (c. 262, E), 6.82.)


“They are not to be heard who assure themselves that there is to be an earthly reign of a thousand years. They think like the heretic Cerinthus. For the kingdom of Christ is already eternal in the saints—even though the glory of the saints shall be manifested after the resurrection.( Victorinus (c. 280, W), 7.360; see also 5.147.)

Many of the early Christians understood the “millennium” of Revelation to be descriptive of the church age (the time from Christ’s First Coming to the time of His Second Coming). This is evident for several reasons.

First, the structure of Revelation consists of seven visions John has. Each vision begins with the triumph of Christ at His First Coming, progresses through the church age, and ends with the Second Coming. Revelation 20 is the beginning of the last of these seven visions. Thus, Revelation 20:1-6 (the Millennium) describes the First Coming; Revelation 20:7-10 describes the Christian Age, and Revelation 20:11-22:21 describes the Second Coming and eternity. The millennium is the First Coming and the church age.

Second, the symbolic language of Revelation makes it crystal clear that the Millennium is not to be understood literally. It is symbolic of the Gospel Age (a future article will go into more detail as to why this is the case).

Third, the writings of the church fathers show that while some in the early church were premillennialists, this was not the only (nor the majority) view. Christ reigns in His kingdom (the church-Matthew 16:18-19) even today.

Why not become a member of Christ’s kingdom (Acts 2:37-47)?

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