Jesus foretold that false prophets would corrupt his teachings and that most people would be misled. (Matt. 24:11) The apostle Peter warned Christians: “There will also be false teachers among you.” (2 Pet. 2:1)
The apostle Paul spoke of “a period of time when [people would] not put up with the healthful teaching, but, in accord with their own desires, they [would] accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled.” (2 Tim. 4:3, 4)
Satan is involved in misleading people and has used apostate Christianity to obscure the heartwarming truth about God’s purpose for man and the earth.—Read 2 Corinthians 4:3, 4.
The Scriptures explain that the Kingdom of God is a government in heaven that will crush and put an end to all man-made rulerships. (Dan. 2:44) During Christ’s rule of a thousand years, Satan will be confined to an abyss, the dead will be resurrected, and mankind will be elevated to perfection on earth. (Rev. 20:1-3, 6, 12; 21:1-4)
However, apostate religious leaders of Christendom have embraced other ideas. For example, third-century Church Father Origen of Alexandria condemned believers in the earthly blessings of the Millennium. Catholic theologian Augustine of Hippo (354-430 C.E.) “held to the conviction that there will be no millennium,” says The Catholic Encyclopedia.
Why did Origen and Augustine oppose millennialism? Origen was a pupil of Clement of Alexandria, who borrowed the idea of an immortal soul from Greek tradition. Being strongly influenced by Plato’s ideas about the soul, Origen “built into Christian doctrine the whole cosmic drama of the soul, which he took from Plato,” observes theologian Werner Jaeger. Consequently, Origen shifted the earthly blessings of the Millennium to the spiritual realm.
Before converting to “Christianity” at the age of 33, Augustine had become a Neoplatonist—an adherent of a version of Plato’s philosophy developed by Plotinus in the third century. After Augustine’s conversion, his thinking remained Neoplatonic. “His mind was the crucible in which the religion of the New Testament was most completely fused with the Platonic tradition of Greek philosophy,” states The New Encyclopædia Britannica. Augustine explained the Thousand Year Reign depicted in Revelation chapter 20 by giving “an allegorical explanation of [it],” states The Catholic Encyclopedia. It adds: “This explanation . . . was adopted by succeeding Western theologians, and millenarianism in its earlier shape no longer received support.”
Mankind’s hope of everlasting life on earth was undermined by an idea that prevailed in ancient Babylon and spread worldwide—the idea that man has an immortal soul or spirit that merely inhabits a physical body.
When Christendom adopted that idea, theologians twisted the Scriptures to make texts that describe the heavenly hope appear to teach that all good people go to heaven. According to this view, a person’s life on earth is intended to be transitory—a test to determine if he is worthy of life in heaven. Something similar happened to the early Jewish hope of everlasting life on earth.
As the Jews gradually adopted the Greek idea of inherent immortality, their original hope of life on earth faded. How different this is from the way man is presented in the Bible! Man is a physical creature, not a spirit. Jehovah said to the first man: “Dust you are.” (Gen. 3:19) The earth, not heaven, is man’s everlasting home.—Read Psalm 104:5; 115:16.