Towards Understanding Revelation


Welcome! Last time we looked at Joachim himself, and some general thoughts on his work. Today we will move on to Zivadinovic’s THE ORIGINS AND ANTECEDENTS OF JOACHIM OF FIORE, for some detail into Joachim’s ideas:

“Three central issues are involved when studying the eschatology of Joachim of Fiore: the typological interpretation of Scripture, the mystery of the Trinity, and the meaning of history.

“Joachim’s approach to typology revolved around his view of the concords  of Scripture, paralleling the major persecutions and events of ancient Israel with the history of the Christian Church. Joachim believes that the visions in the book of Revelation represent the inner wheel that corresponds to the outer wheel described in Ezekiel’s vision (Ezek. 1:4-21).  The outer wheel is the history of the Hebrew people, from Abraham to the return from Babylon, recorded in the Scriptures from Genesis through the book of Esther. The Apocalypse, or inner wheel, contains the main periods and events of the Christian Church. In Joachim’s system, the major periods of the Christian Church faithfully parallel the key stages in the history of Israel…Joachim develops this theology of history based on the idea of a gradual self-revelation of the triune Godhead. The revelation of the Father brings about the patriarchal order of Israel, as described in the OT. The revelation of the Son leads to the creation of the clerical church. Finally, the imminent third dispensation of the Holy Spirit brings about the final ecclesia spiritualis or spiritual church.”

Without going into too much detail, here are some examples of how Joachim saw the concords of Scripture, still in THE ORIGINS AND ANTECEDENTS OF JOACHIM OF FIORE:

“According to Joachim, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — the patriarchs of the Hebrew people — serve as prophetic prototypes for Zacharias, John the Baptist, and Jesus Christ, founders of the Christian Church. Furthermore, the twelve tribes of Israel are prototypes of the twelve apostles, while the violent conquest of Canaan by Joshua has a parallel in the bloody persecution of Christians in the early Church. The secession of the ten tribes of northern Israel from Judah, recorded in Kings and Chronicles, prefigures the schism in the Christian Church between the Latin and Greek Churches. The destruction of the ten northern tribes by the Assyrians typifies the Muslim conquest of Byzantium, while the destruction of Judah by Babylon foreshadows the captivity of the Latin Church to worldly corruption…Joachim believed that the Old Testament Scripture contains multiple prophetic types which must find their antitypical fulfillment in the Christian Church history.”

You get the idea. The Old Testament is a repository of prophetic types that find their fulfillment in Christian Church history. I agree with this idea, and find it valuable, but only to a point. I think Joachim goes overboard with it. And while, looking back, we can see God’s hand in many things in the Old Testament, we have to also allow that the Old Testament is a history of God’s people, the Jews, and as such we have to be careful not to look at it as just a place to find prophecy.


“The most fundamental element of Joachim’s eschatology is the theory of the three stages (status) of sacred history that the world must endure. Each member of the Trinity takes precedence during one age: (1) Status Patri — the Age of the Father, (2) Status Filii — the Age of the Son, and (3) Status Spiritum — the Age of the Spirit.”

The following is a quote from Joachim:

“In this way, three conditions of the world (tres mundi status) bear witness …the first, when we were under the law (sub lege); the second, when we were in grace (sub ampliora gratia)…So the first condition belongs to the Father, the creator of all things, whose time begins with the beginning of history…and reaches out to the apostles…The second condition must belong to the Son, who deigned to dress the clay we are made of, to fast and suffer in it to reform the condition of the first men, who killed to eat. Third condition belongs to the Holy Spirit, of whom the apostle says ‘where there is the Spirit of the Lord there is freedom’ (2 Cor. 3:17).”

Just a note here…the statement “The second condition must belong to the Son, who deigned to dress the clay we are made of, to fast and suffer in it to reform the condition of the first men, who killed to eat” has an odd bit in it. “Who killed to eat” sounds like something a vegetarian would say. Yet, I know of no vegetarians in the 13th century. Also, people of that time, and even today, still kill to eat. And lastly, I can’t recall Jesus trying to stop people from “killing to eat.” It’s a confusing statement.


“According to Joachim, the first of the three stages of history, the status Patri, or the Age of the Father, begins the moment God chooses Abraham as the father of faith. The first stage is the forty-two generations from Abraham to Christ, which are enumerated in the first chapter of Matthew. This stage is also called the Age of Law.

“The second stage, the status Fillii, or Age of the Son, is depicted by forty-two prophetic months from Christ to the arrival of the Antichrist. These forty-two months are taken from Rev 11:2 and 13:4, and represent the tribulation of the Church for 1260 years after Christ’s ascension.”

It’s too bad for Joachim that the Antichrist didn’t come in 1260. It would have worked out so perfectly. But alas, he didn’t come, nor did the millennium start then. The 42 months from Revelation appear to be 1260 days, not years: we’ll see more about that in the verse by verse. Despite things not working out, the point about the Age of the Son is still well taken. There was a Holy Spirit movement in the 19th century, and since then the Holy Spirit has been commanding more attention. It could very well be that we are moving into that stage, ahead of the tribulation and millennium.

“The final stage of history is the status Spiritum, or the Age of the Spirit, which commences at the end of the 1260 years and after the fall of the Antichrist. This stage ushers a spiritual renewal into the Christian Church and a period of apocalyptic conversion of the Jews and gentiles to Christianity. Joachim also calls this period the millennium.

“Although superficially simple, these stages of history become increasingly complex as, according to Joachim, each status has a starting point and a flourishing point. For example, the Age of the Father already has a starting point with Adam, but it really flourishes starting with Abraham. The Age of the Son has its roots in the reforms of the prophet Elisha (whom Joachim sees as a prototype of Jesus). However, it does not flourish until the appearance of John the Baptist, the precursor of Jesus. The Age of the Spirit has its starting point in the monastic reforms of Benedict but, as Joachim predicts, it does not truly flourish until the arrival of the millennium.”

From Joachim:

“The First Age of the world began with Adam, flowered from Abraham, and was consummated in Christ. The Second began with Uzziah, flowered from Zachary, the father of John the Baptist, and will receive its consummation in these times. The Third Age, taking its beginning from St. Benedict, began to bring forth fruit in the twenty-second generation, and is itself to be consummated in the consummation of the world. The First Age, in which the married state was illustrious, is ascribed to the Father in the personal aspect of the [Trinitarian] mystery. The Second, in which the clerical state in the tribe of Juda [sic}] was illustrious, is ascribed to the Son; the Third, in which the monastic state is illustrious, is ascribed to the Holy Spirit.”

Another quick note: I find this last interpretation of Joachim’s to be rather disingenuous. To say that the three states are illustrated by marriage, clergy, and monks, respectively, is obviously from a monk’s point of view.  The implication appears to be that the fullest experience of each status would be found in the respective three illustrations. The first illustration would include much of mankind during the Old Testament era, so a case could be made for that being a decent illustration. The other two, however, would only include a very limited number of (exclusively male, during Joachim’s time) members, leading to the implication is that Christ is best experienced as a member of the clergy, and that the Holy Spirit is best experienced as a member of a monastery. I take exception to that argument.


“…In Joachim’s thought, the apostles Peter, Paul, and John also represent the three stages of history. Peter is identified with the Age of the Father and the dispensation of the Jews. Paul represents the dispensation of gentile Christians — the Church. Apostle John outlived the two older Apostles, and saw visions of the new world on the isle of Patmos. He foreshadows the future Age of Spirit…He saw [the gospel of John] as a blueprint for the new spiritual life, which must emerge in the Church, reforming it from the inside out.”

So we can see that Joachim preferred to understand things by analogy; he understood by saying to himself: the Age of the Spirit is like John because his gospel explains so much about the Holy Spirit, he was the last apostle, etc. I appreciate some of that to aid in understanding, but Joachim took it to the extreme, which can lead to confusion.

Let’s look at another paper, this one written by Brett Whalen of University of North Carolina, entitled JOACHIM OF FIORE, APOCALYPTIC CONVERSION, AND THE ‘PERSECUTING SOCIETY.’ To me, what Mr. Whalen has to say about Joachim’s time ties it in fairly well with our current times:

“Through his inspired – one might say revolutionary – interpretation of the Bible, Joachim believed that he had discovered a template for understanding the totality of God’s plan for history…The fame of the Calabrian abbot…already emerging in his own lifetime, posthumously grew to extraordinary proportions due to the radical tendencies of his less restrained devotees, so-called Joachites, who argued that the era of the Holy Spirit would mean an effective end to the institutional Roman Church…As argued by R. I. Moore in his 1987 work THE FORMATION OF A PERSECUTING SOCIETY, it was during the eleventh and twelfth centuries that ‘deliberately and socially sanctioned violence began to be directed, through established governmental, judicial and social institutions, against groups of people defined by general characteristics, such as race, religion, or way of life; and that membership of such groups in itself came to be regarded as justifying these attacks. Persecution, in Moore’s words, became ‘habitual’ and closely tied to the emergence of Christian Europe’s new ruling elite, both ecclesiastical and secular…

“Joachim’s vision of the future emphasized the harmonious conversion, rather than grudging assimilation or destruction of the Jews, leading a number of scholars to posit that his writings provide evidence of a countervailing sentiment that ran contrary to the persecuting mentality of the High Middle Ages….The topic of apocalyptic conversion in the abbot’s schemes, moreover, has not been limited exclusively to the Jews, since Joachim also raised the possibility that Muslims and other non-Christians would convert before the end of time…

“Taking the Bible as his starting point, the abbot interpreted God’s plan for history through the successive relationship of the Old and New Testaments, building upon the idea that the ‘letter’ of the Old Testament revealed hidden ‘spiritual’ meanings about the New Testament of Christ. In principle, of course, such Christian exegesis of the bible was nothing new. In a highly innovative move, however, Joachim argued that the historical events recorded in the ‘time of the Old Testament’ provided a detailed set of coordinates for the course of events in the ‘time of the New Testament’.”

This last paper was written in 2010 when things were pretty quiet and settled still. Reading the line about ‘deliberately and socially sanctioned violence’ gave me chills. The Mid and High Middle Ages included some of the most dangerous times in Western culture. Think of Robin Hood. In England, at least, people could not travel outside their village alone without being attacked, and having others with you didn’t ensure you wouldn’t be attacked and robbed, or worse. Next, think of the Inquisition, which pursued Jews and Muslims, and anyone else who disagreed with the Church on doctrine. Mr. Whalen (and probably Mr. Moore too) thought he was writing this from a higher place than the Middle Ages. We are rapidly losing that vantage point as ‘socially sanctioned violence’ increases.

We’ll end here for today. Next time we will look at Joachim’s specific thoughts on Revelation. Until then, I’ll be praying for your safety in these troubled times.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: