We’ve seen the basics of Joachim’s eschatology, now let’s look at what he thought about Revelation, the millennium, and how it fit into the thought current at his time. Again, we return to THE ORIGINS AND ANTECEDENTS OF JOACHIM OF FIORE:
“According to Joachim, the most pertinent passages explaining the past, present, and future are found in the mysterious last book of the Bible, the Apocalypse of John, or Revelation. All the other prophecies in the Bible are for Joachim interpreted through the lens of this apocalyptic book.
“In EXPOSITIO IN APOCALYPSIM Joachim starts by explaining that there are eight significant occurrences of the number seven in the book of Revelation: seven churches (Rev 1-3), seven seals (Rev 4-8), seven trumpets (Rev 8-11), seven heads of the dragon (Rev 12), seven heads of the sea-beast (Rev 13), seven cups of wrath (Rev 15-16), seven heads of the scarlet beast (Rev 17), and seven last beatitudes (Rev 20-22). Using the Myconian rule of recapitulation, Joachim asserted that each group of seven (except for the last one) relates to one of the seven major periods of the Church from the birth of Christ to the end of the Christian dispensation…Influenced by a sense of historical reality, Joachim breaks away from the recapitulation rule and argues that the last four chapters of Revelation (chapters 19-22) refer more appropriately to the future renovatio. Joachim also justifies this view exegetically, asserting that other passages in Revelation (such as those regarding the seventh seal, seventh trumpet and seventh vial) suggest that the final sabbatical period of restoration and perfection is yet to come.”
“Joachim’s view of the millennium naturally created ecclesiological tension with Augustinian eschatology. Augustine justified the Church’s involvement in secular affairs with the idea that Christianity has already become (or is progressively becoming) the kingdom of heaven on this earth. For Augustine, the ‘stone cut out without hands’ from Dan 2 hits the earth at the First Coming of Christ, announcing its expansion into a mountain. The Church, for Augustine, is represented by this ‘stone’ growing into the mountain or Civitas Dei (city of God) on earth. For Augustine, the millennium had already begun, and Christians should expand God’s spiritual and temporal authority over the kingdoms of the world.”
Here’s the actual quote from Daniel 2:
Thou safest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors, and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. (Daniel 2:34-35; KJV)
The stone did not hit “the earth,” but rather it hits the feet of the statue that represents the world-ruling regimes of the past. I think Augustine was wrong about what the stone represents. I think it is Christ rather than the Church, and I think it does not represent His first coming, but rather His second.
Back to the passage:
“Joachim is fundamentally opposed to such materialistic reading of Scripture, which, he argues, imitates ‘carnal’ Jewish theocracy. He considers the involvement of the Church in the affairs of the State, and vice versa, to be evidence of the Church’s spiritual exile into Babylon. Joachim points to Jesus’ statement, ‘the kingdom of God is within you’ (Luke 17:21) and argues that God’s kingdom is presently in the sphere of spiritual reality. The material reality would be realized after the Second Coming of Christ…Before the Millennial rest, Joachim asserts that Scripture predicts the appearance of Antichrist. Joachim sees the Antichrist as an internal foe, a prototype Judas, ‘the son of perdition’ (2 Thess 2:3), who betrays Christ from within the gathering of the elect. The Apostle Paul says that the Antichrist must ‘[sit] in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God’ (2 Thess 2:4). According to Joachim, Paul’s words are prophetic and therefore symbolic. The ‘temple of god’ represents the Church, not a literal Jewish temple in Jerusalem.”
This is an interesting interpretation. In John’s gospel we read of the “spirit of antichrist.” This lends itself to Joachim’s interpretation. However, in multiple places the Antichrist is spoken of as an individual: “the man of lawlessness, Who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship,” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4); “And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months.” (Revelation 13:5); “And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering.” (Daniel 9:27); “And all who dwell on earth will worship it,” (Revelation 13:8); “And at the latter end of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their limit, a king of bold face, one who understands riddles, shall arise. His power shall be great — but not by his own power; and he shall cause fearful destruction and shall succeed in what he does, and destroy mighty men and the people who are the saints.” (Daniel 8:23-24); “He shall not pay attention to any other god, for he shall magnify himself above all.” (Daniel 11:37), etc. It’s hard to reconcile some of these passages with the idea that many peoples will take on the spirit of antichrist within their “temple of god.” Certainly many people will succumb to the evil, but it really seems that one (or, as we shall see, perhaps two) will lead them.
Back to the passage:
“Joachim deviates from the medieval idea that the end-time Antichrist is Jewish, arises from the tribe of Dan, and assails the Church from the outside. In his opinion, such pseudo-biblical speculations only increase hatred towards the Jews, thus failing to foster Judaism’s acceptance of Christ. Instead of coercing the Jews into Christianity, Joachim believes in the imminent and pre-destined apocalyptical conversion, in which the Church becomes a symbol of peace, attracting the Jews to Christ through the spirit of God’s love.”
As we go through the verse by verse, these ideas will come up again. Until then, suffice it to say that I don’t think that it will be the ‘Church’ as we know it now that the Jews and other current non-believers will be attracted to….it will be Christ Himself.
A few more quotes from JOACHIM OF FIORE, APOCALYPTIC CONVERSION, AND THE ‘PERSECUTING SOCIETY’:
“Joachim did not claim Antichrist would himself be a Jew and primarily served by Jews…rather, the false Messiah would arise within the Western Church, mostly likely from among the heretics, perhaps sitting on the papal see of Rome…As part of his Trinitarian model of history, Joachim’s association of the Jews with the status of the Father, followed by the Gentiles in the status of the Son, gave both peoples a key role in the progression of history, pointing toward the status of the Holy Spirit, when both Jews and Gentiles would enter together into a new, spiritual era. Within Joachim’s eschatological scenario, those penultimate Jews, of course, would come to recognize Christ and leave behind their ‘carnal’ understanding of the Bible: neither Joachim nor his successors were open to Jews persisting as Jews with a positive role to play in God’s plan for the end of history.”
From an essay by E.R. Daniel in 1969, titled ABBOT JOACHIM OF FIORE AND THE CONVERSION OF THE JEWS, we get some details of what most of the rest of the world was thinking:
[Joachim’s view of the Jews] “stood in striking contrast to the prevailing trend in the last decades of the twelfth century. He did not focus on their role in the crucifixion, he did not demonize them and make them part of a devilish conspiracy against Christendom, he did not argue that they ought to be enserfed and treated harshly, and he certainly would have fought against massacres and forced conversions.”
Finally, Joachim was considered prophetic himself. It’s hard to tell just how successful he was at it, because in the twelfth century it was considered fine to go back and change someone’s prophetic statement to match what actually happened. Joachim based his prophecies on his concordance between the Old and New Testament. JOACHIM OF FIORE, APOCALYPTIC CONVERSION, AND THE ‘PERSECUTING SOCIETY.’ has some information on this topic:
“Joachim could be inconsistent and deliberately vague about his predictions for the imminent future (he claimed, e.g., that there were only two generations left until the end of the present age of history, but would not specify how many years each generation would last). At points, he seems to imply that the new era of the Holy Spirit would start in the year 1260 and would be brief; at others, his predictions of marvelous, future transformations seem to necessitate a much longer period of transition and spiritual fruition before the end of time.”
In wrapping this up, one might wonder why I spent so much time on Joachim of Fiore. The main reason is that he influenced the next two hundred years very much, and his influence extends even to today, though most people now have not heard of him. The preterists, who claim that most or all of Revelation has already happened, and thus the book is not that interesting today except in terms of history, try to claim that Joachim was a founder of preterism. I disagree.
“Dispensations” are mentioned a number of times in the papers about Joachim, and truly, he does appear to be a dispensationalist: he saw history broken up into “dispensations”, or “status” as he called them, that were ordained by God.
P.S. I found images of a few of Joachim’s illustrations and added them as headers to the three parts of this series, as well as at the top of this article. Enjoy!