A belief that the end of this world as we know it is at hand and that in its wake will appear a fertile, harmonious, sanctified, and just new world in which Christ will reign. At the time of the present world's demise, it is supposed that all Christians will partake in the "Rapture", or the elevation of the human body to the heavens. Millennialism as such is further divided into two belief systems, pre-millennialism and post-millennialism, each of which carry a different interpretation of what the Millennium will bring.
Although the term millennarianism derives from the Christian tradition, it can incorporate the ideas of almost any religion as well as those of secular ideology -- for which reason the term chiliasm is preferred by some. As such it can include any belief that the end of the world is at hand and that a New World will appear in its wake that will be just and harmonious.
The root of such beliefs has been traced to the times of mediaeval Europe, later resurrected after the Reformation. The English Revolution saw the the birth of several sects, including the Fifth Monarchy Men whose beliefs were based on the notion the world was near its end. Later sects established themselves in North America, as radical European theologians were forced across the Atlantic Ocean.
In its strictest sense, a millennarian is a person who lives in daily anticipation of the dawn of the Millennium as described in the biblical Book of Revelations, otherwise known as the Book of the Apocalypse. It predicts a vision of the End of Time in which the forces of Christ and Satan do battle amidst scenes of tremendous violence and cruelty. Thereafter, the battle ceases for 1,000 years, during which Satan is caged and Christ reigns on Earth. This is the Millennium.
When and how Christ's second coming will occur is a critical point in the ideology of those motivated by extremist religious beliefs about the millennium. There is no consensus within Christianity regarding the specific date that the Apocalypse will occur. However, within many right-wing religious groups there is a uniform belief that the Apocalypse is approaching. Some of these same groups also point to a variety of non-religious indicators such as gun control, the Y2K computer problem, the New World Order conspiracy theory, the banking system, and a host of other "signs" that the Apocalypse is near. Almost uniformly, the belief among right-wing religious extremists is that the federal government is an arm of Satan. Therefore, the millennium will bring about a battle between Christian martyrs and the government. At the core of this volatile mix is the belief of apocalyptic religions and cults that the battle against Satan, as prophesied in the Book of Revelation, will begin in 2000.
The Catechism suggests that millenarianism can itself be a manifestation of the Antichrist.
Christian Identity is the unifying theology for a number of diverse groups and one widely adhered to by white supremacists. It is a belief system that provides its members with a religious basis for racism and an ideology that condones violence against non-Aryans. This doctrine allows believers to fuse religion with hate, conspiracy theories, and apocalyptic fear of the future. Christian Identity-inspired millennialism has a distinctly racist tinge in the belief that Armageddon will be a race war of Aryans against Jews and non-whites. The potential difficulty society may face due to the Y2K computer glitch is considered by a number of Christian Identity adherents to be the perfect event upon which to instigate a race war.
Approximately 30 million American adults hold Millennialist tenets. Although the majority are proclaimed pre-millennialists, many waver between the pre-millennialist and post-millennialist belief systems.
Militia anxiety and paranoia specifically relating to the year 2000 are based mainly on a political ideology, as opposed to religious beliefs. Many militia members believe that the year 2000 will lead to political and personal repression enforced by the United Nations and countenanced by a compliant U.S. government. This belief is commonly known as the New World Order (NWO) conspiracy theory.
The Aum Shinriko movement's rapid evolution in Japan in the 1990s followed the same pattern as that of previous millenarian movements but with much greater rapidity. Furthermore, instead of only believing passively in the imminent end of civilization, they took active steps to bring this about with the use of weapons of mass destruction (sarin and botulism). These could have triggered the worst civil defence crisis experienced by any developed country.