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Constantine's Reign


306 - 312
Hailed as Augustus in the West, officially made Caesar by Galerius with Severus as Augustus, by agreement with Maximian

312 - 324
Undisputed Augustus in West

324 - 22 May 337
Emperor of the whole Empire

 

Eusebius Pamphilius: Oration in Praise of Constantine

"I am filled with wonder at the intellectual greatness of the emperor, who as if by divine inspiration thus expressed what the prophets had foretold concerning this monster"


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CONSTANTINE THE GREAT
Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus

HARBINGER OF THE MILLENNIAL REIGN OF CHRIST

"Immediately after the triumph of Constantine, Christianity having become dominant and prosperous, Christians began to lose their vivid expectation of our Lord's speedy advent, and to look upon the temporal supremacy of Christianity as a fulfillment of the promised reign of Christ on earth."

http://www.utexas.edu/courses/romanciv/end%20and%20legacy/constantine.jpg

"This doctrine was certified by the Emperor Constantine in 325 AD, who saw Christ reigning through the Roman Catholic Church and empire Rome had established.   It was given intellectual justification by the Roman lawyer Augustine of Hippo.   According to the new doctrine of final things, all biblical prophecies in Matthew 24 and 25, Mark 13, Luke 21, and the book of Revelation were totally fulfilled in the first century"

First Christian Ruler of the Roman Empire

"imitate without delay the example of (your) sovereign, and embrace the divine truth of Christianity"

Constantine I came to the throne when his father, Constantius, died in 306. After defeating his rivals, Constantine became the sole ruler of the Roman Empire in 324, and is credited with social and economic reforms that significantly influenced medieval society. In 313 his Edict of Milan legally ended pagan persecution of Christians, and in 325 he used imperial power to bring unity to the church at the Council of Nicea. He also moved the capital of his empire to Byzantium, renaming it Constantinople in 330. Constantine's embrace of Christianity eventually led him to be baptized in 337.

Constantine:  "Nor was the time of His passion unaccompanied by like wonders: when the sun was darkened, and the shades of night obscured the light of day. Then terror every where seized the hearts of men, and the thought that the end of all things was already come, and that chaos, such as had been ere the order of creation began, would once more prevail. Then, too, the cause was sought of so terrible an evil, and in what respect the trespasses of men had provoked the wrath of Heaven; until God Himself, who surveyed with dignity and calm contempt the arrogance of the ungodly, renewed the face of heaven, and adorned it with the host of stars; the gloomy sadness of nature disappeared, and her pristine beauty was again restored." (Oration to the Saints, ch. 11)

"This remarkable event (the Edict of Milan) was regarded by Christians of that time, and by Constantine himself, as the fulfillment of the very prophecy before us. (Revelation 20:2)"

CONSTANTINE SAW HIMSELF AS FULFILLMENT OF BINDING OF SATAN FOR 1,000 YEARS
CHURCH FATHER EUSEBIUS AGREED!


Of his Picture surmounted by a Cross and having beneath it a Dragon.
 

Eusebius (335)
(On Constantine's Regal Imagery)
"And besides this, he caused to be painted on a lofty tablet, and set up in the front of the portico of his palace, so as to be visible to all, a representation of the salutary sign placed above his head, and below it that hateful and savage adversary of mankind, who by means of the tyranny of the ungodly had wasted the Church of God, falling headlong, under the form of a dragon, to the abyss of destruction. For the sacred oracles in the books of God's prophets have described him as a dragon and a crooked serpent; [Especially the book of Revelation, and Isaiah] and for this reason the emperor thus publicly displayed a painted resemblance of the dragon beneath his own and his children's feet, stricken through with a dart, and cast headlong into the depths of the sea.

In this manner he intended to represent the secret adversary of the human race, and to indicate that he was consigned to the gulf of perdition by virtue of the salutary trophy placed above his head. This allegory, then, was thus conveyed by means of the colors of a picture:    and I am filled with wonder at the intellectual greatness of the emperor, who as if by divine inspiration thus expressed what the prophets had foretold concerning this monster, saying that "God would bring his great and strong and terrible sword against the dragon, the flying serpent; and would destroy the dragon that was in the sea."   [Isa. xxvii.] This it was of which the emperor gave a true and faithful representation in the picture above described." (Oration in Praise of Constantine)

(On Constantine's Fulfillment of Prophecy) 7. "And surely this must appear a wondrous fact to those who will examine the question in the love of truth, and desire not to cavil at these blessings. This is a fair appeal, applicable to his present hearers. It at least was true of Constantine’s reign, that it produced a state of relative peace and prosperity. The falsehood of demon superstition was convicted: the inveterate strife and mutual hatred of the nations was removed: at the same time One God, and the knowledge of that God, were proclaimed to all: one universal empire prevailed; and the whole human race, subdued by the controlling power of peace and concord, received one another as brethren, and responded to the feelings of their common nature. Hence, as children of one God and Father, and owning true religion as their common mother, they saluted and welcomed each other with words of peace. Thus the whole world appeared like one well-ordered and united family: each one might journey unhindered as far as and whithersoever he pleased: men might securely travel from West to East, and from East to West, as to their own native country: in short, the ancient oracles and predictions of the prophets were fulfilled, more numerous than we can at present cite, and those especially which speak as follows concerning the saving Word. “He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth.” And again, “In his days shall righteousness spring up; and abundance of peace.” “And they shall beat their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into sickles: and nation shall not take up sword against nation, neither shall they learn to war any more.”  [Psalm lxxi. 7, 8; Isaiah ii. 4. Septuagint; Psalm lxxii.]

8. These words, predicted ages before in the Hebrew tongue, have received in our own day a visible fulfillment, by which the testimonies of the ancient oracles are clearly confirmed. And now, if thou still desire more ample proof, receive it, not in words, but from the facts themselves. Open the eyes of thine understanding; expand the gates of thought; pause awhile, and consider; inquire of thyself as though thou wert another, and thus diligently examine the nature of the case. What king or prince in any age of the world, what philosopher, legislator, or prophet, in civilized or barbarous lands, has attained so great a height of excellence, I say not after death, but while living still, and full of mighty power, as to fill the ears and tongues of all mankind with the praises of his name? Surely none save our only Saviour has done this, when, after his victory over death, he spoke the word to his followers, and fulfilled it by the event, saying to them, “Go ye, and make disciples of all nations in my name.”  [Matt. xxviii. 19]."  He it was who gave the distinct assurance, that his gospel must be preached in all the world for a testimony to all nations, and immediately verified his word: for within a little time the world itself was filled with his doctrine." (Oration, Chapter XVI.)

"The sacred oracles in the books of God's prophets have described him as a dragon and a crooked serpent ; and for this reason the emperor thus publicly displayed a painted resemblance (cera igne resoluta) of the dragon beneath his own and his children's feet, stricken through with a dart and cast headlong into the depths of the sea. In this manner he intended to represent that concealed adversary of the human race, and to indicate that he was consigned to the gulf of perdition by virtue of the trophy of salvation placed above his head."'

"And gladly does he accept and welcome this sacrifice, and commend the presenter of so august and noble an offering, by protracting his reign to a lengthened period of years, giving larger proofs of his beneficence in proportion to the emperor's holy services to himself. Accordingly he permits him to celebrate each successive festival during great and general prosperity throughout the empire, advancing one of his sons, at the recurrence of each decennial period, to a share of his own imperial power.

2. The eldest, who bears his father's name, he received as his partner in the empire about the close of the first decade of his reign: the second, next in point of age, at the second; and the third in like manner at the thirddecennial period, the occasion of this our present festival. And now that the fourth period has commenced, and the time of his reign is still further prolonged, he desires to extend his imperial authority by calling still more of his kindred to partake his power; and, by the appointment of the Cæsars, fulfills the predictions of the holy prophets, according to what they uttered ages before: "And the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom." (Eusebius'Oration In Praise of Constantine, chapter 3.)

 

OTHER AUTHORS CONFIRMING INTERPRETATION OF REGAL REIGN AND IMAGERY

Numismatic Chronicle (1877)
"The type of these pieces and the inscription indicate how the "public hope" was centered in the triumph of the Christian religion over the adversary of mankind -- "the great dragon, that old serpent called the Devil and Satan" (Rev. xii. 9 ; xx. 2), and Eusebius tells us how Constantine I had a picture painted of the dragon -- the flying serpent -- beneath his own and his children's feet, pierced through the middle with a dart, and cast into the depths of the sea." (Numismatic Chronicle - Constantine PDF)

David Chidester
"One of Constantine's ardent supporters, Eusebius (ca. 260 -ca. 339), the bishop of Caesarea, celebrated the emperor as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. By establishing the foundation for a Christian empire, Constantine had fulfilled "the oracles of the holy prophets which long ago cried out, 'and the saints of the most high God shall receive the kingdom'" (Dan. 7:18). According to Eusebius, therefore, the promise of a Christian kingdom of God was realized on earth through the imperial rule of Constantine." (Christianity, p. 95)

Gibbon
"Heathenism seemed to be annihilated at one blow" (Uhlhorn). From that time this edict "was received as a general and fundamental law of the Roman world" (Decline and Fall, chap. xx).

David MacDonald
"Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops. I tell you my friends, do not fear those who kill the body and after that can do nothing more. (Lk 12:3-4) This Scripture passage was not only a command, it was a prophesy of things to come, and it did not come to pass until Constantine made Christianity "legal." It's pretty hard to proclaim the Good News from a housetop if someone comes along and arrests you and kills you when you preach! It is clear that the persecution of Christians in the Roman empire was not what Jesus wanted and that it had to change. Constantine was the fulfillment of prophecy."  (Lk. 12:3-4).

Melvin Rhodes
"Constantine had "not much knowledge of the Bible" (ibid., p. 151). However, he was inadvertently contributing to the fulfillment of biblical prophecies about the Roman Empire and the close relationship that would develop between it, its successors and the church to which it gave recognition." (Europe and the Church Part 4: Union of Church and State)

Uhlhorn
"At the entrance of the imperial palace there attracted the gaze of all who went out and in an immense picture representing Constantine himself with the labarum, the banner of the cross, in his hand, and under his feet pierced with arrows a dragon, the dragon of heathenism."

HARBINGER OF THE MILLENNIAL REIGN OF CHRIST

There are two sides to every prophecy: the natural and the spiritual.  Natural events are given as symbols pointing to greater spiritual realities.  Though natural fulfillments are bound by space and time, the spiritual realities to which they point are not. 

The thousand year reign of Jesus is one example.  Though the reign of Jesus Christ over all the earth cannot be limited to any particular time (considering that He is the creator of Earth and has always held dominion), it was revealed historically in the Byzantine Millennium, which was a thousand years of Christian rule over the known world.

The following quotes are presented in a way so as to show the various aspects of this kingdom reign as taught by historians and theologians.  First there is the expectation of His reign, then there is the theological impact of the Edict of Milan, and then there is the subsequent millennial period of rule over the nations to substantiate those claims.  Those theologians who put all three pieces together in a method of interpretation are given particular recognition. 

To my present knowledge, the writers who have taught the view that the thousand year reign of Christ on earth was fulfilled (or began) in the Byzantine Millennium are many.  The following list is under construction.

SCHOLARS VIEWING PROPHETIC CLIMAX IN ROMAN CONVERSION

Professor C A. Briggs
"The millennium begins not with any definite event or year of time, but in general with the supremacy of the Church or kingdom of Christ over the Roman empire or world power. John Fox is said to be the first who dated it from Constantine. He was followed by Lord Napier, Patrick Forbes, Hugh Broughton, and most interpreters since" (Independent, August, 1883).

David Chagall (2001)
"Beginning in the third century, a counter doctrine began to develop in Rome.  This taught that with the destruction of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, God revoked the chosenness of Israel and gave the original covenantal blessings to the Church.  Further, these usurpers claimed that at that time (AD70), Christ did return in spirit to rule and reign on planet earth from the heavenly throne room. 

This doctrine was certified by the Emperor Constantine in 325 AD, who saw Christ reigning through the Roman Catholic Church and empire Rome had established.   It was given intellectual justification by the Roman lawyer Augustine of Hippo.   According to the new doctrine of final things, all biblical prophecies in Matthew 24 and 25, Mark 13, Luke 21, and the book of Revelation were totally fulfilled in the first century with the sole exception of the new heavens and earth to descend from heaven for creation's eternal state (Rev. 21 and 22)." ("Does God Predestine People to go to Hell?")

David Hocking (2005)
 "Preterists believe that the promise of our Lord’s Second Coming began to be fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Some believe that the prophecies mentioned above were fulfilled in the Second Century AD at the time of the Second Jewish Revolt against the Roman Empire at the time of Emperor Hadrian. Some preterists hold that the prophecies were fulfilled during the first three centuries AD as God wages war on the enemies of the Church (which they argue include Israel and Rome!) resulting in the “Christianization” of the Roman Empire under Constantine." ("What is Preterism?")

Tommy Ice (1999)
"Mild preterism teaches that the Book of Revelation was fulfilled during the first three centuries as God waged war on the two early enemies of the church: Israel and Rome. The first half of Revelation teaches that Israel was defeated in A.D. 70, while the last half of Revelation is about God’s conquest of Rome in the fourth century when Constantine declared the Roman Empire Christian. Thus, this earliest form of preterism teaches that Revelation was fulfilled in the first 300 years of the church’s history."

J. Hampton Keithly
Preterist is from a Latin word meaning “past.” This school of thought sees Revelation as already fulfilled in the early history of the church by 312 A.D. with the conversion of Constantine. Note the spiritualizing nature of their interpretations: Revelation 5-11 is a record of the church’s victory over Judaism; Revelation 12-19 is record of her victory over Rome; and Revelation 20-22 is record of the glory of the church. The persecutions of Revelation, it is claimed, are those of Nero and Domitian and all was fulfilled by the time of Constantine (312 A.D.)."

Clarence Larkin (1920)
 "The “Mustard Tree” began with the 120 believers who received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and continued to enlarge until its branches spread all over the Roman world.  But the “Birds of the Air,” the Ananiases and Sapphiras, the Hymeneus and Philetus and other emissaries of Satan, began to lodge in its branches and “befoul” its purity, and when in A.D. 324 the Emperor Constantine united Church and State, thousands, and tens of thousands, crowded into the church as a matter of policy, interest and fashion, and crouched beneath its shadow, lodged in its branches, fattened on its fruit, and have continued to do so until this day." (Dispensational Truth)

McClintock and Strong
"In January, 313, he published the memorable edict of toleration in favor of the Christians, by which all the property which had been taken from the Christians during the persecutions was restored to them. They were also made eligible to public offices. This edict has been regarded as marking the triumph of the cross and the downfall of paganism" (art. "Constantine").

Schlegel
"the decisive crisis between ancient and modern times;  changed and regenerated not only government and science, but the whole system of human life" (Philosophy of History, page 276).

William Smith (1874)
 "Immediately after the triumph of Constantine, Christianity having become dominant and prosperous, Christians began to lose their vivid expectation of our Lord's speedy advent, and to look upon the temporal supremacy of Christianity as a fulfillment of the promised reign of Christ on earth." ("New Testament History," p. 273 14-20,24)

Arthur Penrhyn Stanley
"It is not necessary to do more than enumerate the acts of Constantine's ecclesiastical legislation in order to see the vastness of the revolution of which he was the leader. In the year after his conversion was issued the edict of toleration. Then followed in rapid succession, the decree for the observance of Sunday in the towns of the Empire, the use of prayers for the army, the abolition of the punishment of crucifixion, the encouragement of the emancipation of slaves, the discouragement of infanticide, the prohibition of licentious and cruel rites, the prohibition of gladiatorial games. Every one of these steps was a gain to the Roman empire and to mankind, such as not even the Antonines had ventured to attempt, and of those benefits none has been altogether lost. Undoubtedly, if Constantine is to be judged by the place which he occupies amongst the benefactors of mankind, he would rank not amongst the secondary characters of history, but amongst the very first." (Stanley's Eastern Church, p. 293)

 


Robert Arakaki
"Constantine's legacy can be seen in Christianity's transformation from a private sect into a public church that encompassed the whole of society. He put it on an institutional footing, which enabled the Church to be the leading cultural force in the ancient world. The Christianization of Roman society can be seen as a partial fulfillment of Revelation 21:24: "The nations . . . shall walk in its [New Jerusalem] light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it." The Church is the New Jerusalem—replacing the Jerusalem of the Old Testament—which brings spiritual enlightenment to the pagan nations throughout the Roman Empire." (
Constantine The Great: Roman Emperor, Christian Saint, History's Turning Point)

David Brown
"There is manifestly no difference at all between this case and that which we expect during the millennium over the whole earth. The extent is nothing. The principle is the only thinking of consequence, and who does not see that that is the same in both cases? Yet they build out of this an argument for a new dispensation! As well might one say, that the change which came over the Church when Constantine extended to it the protection of the empire, was a new dispensation. (Comapre Isa. xi. 9; ii. 3, 4; xxxii. 15﹣18.) " (Christ's Second Coming: Is It Premillennial?, ch. 6)

Jonathan Edwards
"This revolution was the greatest revolution and change in the face of things that ever came to pass in the world since the flood.  Satan, the prince of darkness, that king and god of the heathen world, was cast out.   The roaring lion was conquered by the Lamb of God in the strongest dominion that ever he had, even the Roman Empire." (Work of Redemption, Period 3, Section 2)

Philip Schaff
"This rising significance of the cross was a faithful symbol of the extraordinary change in the empire. The Graeco-Roman heathenism surrendered after a three hundred years' struggle to Christianity, and died of incurable consumption. The ruler of the civilized world laid his crown at the feet of the crucified Jesus of Nazareth. The successor of Nero, Domitian, and Diocletian, who had done their best to exterminate the pestilential sect, appeared a few years after the last and most bloody persecution, in the imperial purple at the council at Nice, as protector of this very sect, and took his golden throne at the nod of bishops, many of whom still bore the scars of persecution. The despised religion which for three centuries, like its Founder in the days of his humiliation, had not where to lay his head, was raised to sovereign authority in the state ; entered into the prerogatives of the pagan priesthood ; grew rich and powerful ; built countless churches and altars out of the stones of idol temples to the honor of Christ and his martyrs ; employed the wisdom of Greece and Rome to vindicate the foolishness of the cross ; exerted a molding influence upon civil legislation ; ruled the life of the people, and began to control the general course of civilization." (Bib. Sac. vol. XX. p. 788)

 

Samuel Davidson
"We are disposed to think that the period in question is not meant to be literally and chronologically one thousand years. The number is put indefinitely ; it points to a time when Christianity had triumphed over paganism. Heathenism had been destroyed in the Roman empire. This leads to the ancient view, viz. : that the period is past, not future. It will be observed that the Beast and the False Prophet are both destroyed. Chapter xx. Now the Beast cannot mean the papacy, as has been often assumed. It refers to the heathen power which was opposed to Christ and his religion. Hence the millennium began after the abolition of paganism in the Roman empire." (Davidson, Introd. Vol, 8, p. 630)." (The Parousia,
pp. 181-187)

William Urmy
"This era of the Church's rest from persecution was fully inaugurated at the accession of Constantine, A. D. 312, and the issuance of his edict of toleration in 313."

"Was this, I shall be asked, with contemptuous surprise, the millennium? And my answer must still be in the affirmative."

What is very remarkable in this connection is that the Christians of that time, with Constantine himself, believed that his edict and its results were the fulfillment of this very prophecy in the book of Revelation.  The well-known labarum was made, which consisted of a Roman standard with the first two letters of the name of Christ upon it, and a monument was erected representing the emperor with a cross over his head, and under his feet Satan as a serpent falling head-long into the abyss."

This era of the Church's rest from persecution was fully inaugurated at the accession of Constantine, A. D. 312, and the issuance of his edict of toleration in 313. McClintock and Strong say: "In January, 313, he published the memorable edict of toleration in favor of the Christians, by which all the property which had been taken from the Christians during the persecutions was restored to them. They were also made eligible to public offices. This edict has been regarded as marking the triumph of the cross and the downfall of paganism" (art. "Constantine"). "Heathenism seemed to be annihilated at one blow" (Uhlhorn). From that time this edict "was received as a general and fundamental law of the Roman world" (Gibbon, Decline and Fall, chap. xx).

"Being the most exalted state of future reward, it became the object of intensest desire on the part of persecuted saints. Even Paul declared that he made it the object of his most strenuous effort (Phil. iii, 10- 14): 'If by any means I might attain unto [Gr.] the resurrection which is from among the dead.' It was the same inspiring hope that actuated the Christians of the succeeding centuries and led them to seek the bloody crown of martyrdom, the pledge of the crown of victory above. So the sneering Gibbon, chap. xvi" (Parousia of Christ, pages 200, 201)." (Christ Came Again, pp. 366-370)

Israel P. Warren
"The binding of Satan, then, I cannot doubt, denotes the cessation of Pagan persecution against the church."

What is very remarkable in this connection is that the Christians of that time, with Constantine himself, believed that his edict and its results were the fulfillment of this very prophecy in the book of Revelation. The well-known labarum was made, which consisted of a Roman standard with the first two letters of the name of Christ (chi-rho) upon it, and a monument was erected representing the emperor with a cross over his head, and under his feet Satan as a serpent falling headlong into the abyss. Uhlhorn, as quoted by Warren, thus describes it: "At the entrance of the imperial palace there attracted the gaze of all who went out and in an immense picture representing Constantine himself with the labarum, the banner of the cross, in his hand, and under his feet pierced with arrows a dragon, the dragon of heathenism." And Eusebius says: "For the sacred oracles in the books of God's prophets have described him as a dragon and a crooked serpent; and for this reason the emperor thus publicly displayed a painted resemblance (cera igne resoluta) of the dragon beneath his own and his children's feet, stricken through with a dart and cast headlong into the depths of the sea. In this manner he intended to represent that concealed adversary of the human race, and to indicate that he was consigned to the gulf of perdition by virtue of the trophy of salvation placed above his head." So Schaff: "This rising significance of the cross was a faithful symbol of the extraordinary change in the empire. . . . The despised religion exerted a molding influence upon civil legislation, ruled the life of the people, and began to control the general course of civilization." Davidson says: "This leads to the ancient view, namely, that the period [of the millennium] is past, not future. It will be observed that the beast and the false prophet are both destroyed (chap. xx).

Now, the beast cannot mean the papacy, as has been often assumed. It refers to the heathen power which was opposed to Christ and his religion. Hence the millennium began after the abolition of paganism in the Roman empire" (Interior, vol. iii, page 630). Professor C A. Briggs: "The millennium begins not with any definite event or year of time, but in general with the supremacy of the Church or kingdom of Christ over the Roman empire or world power. . . . John Fox is said to be the first who dated it from Constantine. He was followed by Lord Napier, Patrick Forbes, Hugh Broughton, and most interpreters since" (Independent, August, 1883).


I. EXPECTATION OF A ROMAN RULE OF CHRIST ON EARTH

II. SIGNIFICANCE OF THE EDICT OF MILAN

III. THOUSAND YEARS FULFILLED IN BYZANTINE RULE

IV. FOLLOWING TERMINATION OF THOUSAND YEARS

Stefan Zweig (1927)
"One day after the Ottoman Sultan entered the Cathedral of Hagia Sophia for the first time, "the workmen were commissioned to remove all the signs of the earlier faith; ... the highlighted cross of Hagia Sophia, which spreads his arms for a thousand years ..., collapses with muffled thud to the ground. ... The whole of the West is shaken by this overthrow. Europe is shudderingly now understands that thanks to its dull indifference ... a fatal destroying force has broken in, which will bind and paralyze Europe's forces for centuries. But in history as in human life, regret does not bring back a lost moment, and a thousand years do not buy back, which is lost in one hour." (Decisive Moments in Humanity, p. 59)

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