In approaching the subject of our Lord's Second Advent, we are about to enter one of the most delicate and controversial fields of theology. The differences of opinion which have occasioned these controversies, are not merely speculative. They touch the deeper springs of the heart, and are vitally related to the experiences of men. It is a theme, also, which has periodically agitated the Church, always coming to the front when man feels most his need of divine help. In times of disaster, war, pestilence or persecution, the hope of His coming has always occupied the thoughts of men. Furthermore, this doctrine cannot be considered as merely one among many; it is rather a viewpoint - a determining principle by which men shape all their beliefs in logical order. Whether one believes in a "personal return of Christ," or merely in an increasing spiritual effusion," is not a matter of indifference. These positions reach back into the whole history of redemption, and affect some of the most commanding points in Christian theology. What he believes is the culminating point of his entire scheme of faith. It determines the whole character of his theology. The importance of the subject therefore demands the most careful and conscientious consideration.
The glory of Christianity, as over against the ethnic religions, is nowhere more manifest than in its eschatology. In our discussion of the Nature and Existence of God, we endeavored to show that the idea of God is a fundamental concept in religion, and therefore a determinative factor in theological thought. But the religious knowledge of God cannot rest in abstract thought. It must take shape in a comprehensive view of the world, of nature, of human history, of heaven and of hell. The history of religion reveals the fact that no religion has ever come into prominence without developing some form of a world order. The imagination blends the primitive religious concepts into mythology - hence we have the Greek religion of beauty, and the stronger Germanic conceptions embodied in the myths of the North. Bishop Martensen maintains that mythology is the attempt of the cosmical spirit or principle to embody itself in human history, and hence the ethnic religions must be regarded as the embodiment of the relative rather than the real - the spirit of the world manifested in heathendom which honors not God. He says, "As the created universe has, in a relative sense, life in itself - including as it does, a system of powers, ideas and aims, which possess a relative value - this relative independence, which ought to be subservient to the aims of the kingdom of God, has become a false 'world autonomy.' Hence arises the scriptural expression 'this world,' o kosmos outos, whereby the Bible conveys the idea that it regards the world not only ontologically, but in its definite and actual state, the state in which it has been since the fall. 'This world' means the world content with itself, in its own independence, in its own glory; the world which disowns its dependence on God as its Creator. 'This world' regards itself not as the ktisis, but only as the kosmos as a system of glory and beauty which has life in itself and can give life. The historical embodiment of 'this world' is heathendom, which honoreth not God as God. In the consciousness of heathendom the visible and invisible kosmos is taken to be the highest reality; and the development of this consciousness displayed in heathen mythology, is a reflection of the universe, not of God, an image of the world, not the manifestation of the true image of the Lord. The darkness of heathen consciousness does not consist in the total absence of any enlightening idea of what is really true and universally excellent, but in the fact that it does not see that idea reflected in God. It is not the contrast between the idea and the want of it - between the spirit and the spiritless - which must guide us in judging of heathenism; it is rather the contrast between idea and idea, between spirit and spirit, between the holy aim and the world's aim, between the Holy Spirit and the spirit of the world (Martensen, Christian Dogmatics, pp. 183, 184). Over against this purely relative expression, it is the glory of Christianity that it presents a revelation of reality. It finds its highest expression in the return and reign of the God-man, who as the Christ or Anointed One, Creator and Redeemer, will establish Himself in a perfect world order - the kingdom of God in a new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
We shall consider this subject under two general heads - the Personal Return of Our Lord; and The Order of Events Connected with His Return. The first is of course, the more important. The personal return of Christ has been frequently denied by a rationalistic philosophy and a faithless church, and must be defended by an appeal to the Scriptures as our sole authority. The second is concerned largely with the development of the various millennial theories in the history of the Church. These have always had a peculiar fascination for the curious minded, but are not vital to Christian experience in the same sense as is a belief in the personal return of Christ. The more specific divisions of this chapter will be as follows: (1) The Personal Return of Our Lord; (2) The Development of the Doctrine in the Church, including a review of the various millennial theories; (3) Modern Types of Millennial Theory; and (4) The Parenthetic View of the Millennium.
[Bishop Martensen points out that the oj kovsmo" ouJ'to" or "this world" as used in the Scriptures, is "not confined exclusively to the old heathenism; it is wherever that kingdom does not exercise its guiding influence. This world is ever striving after an earthly state which does not make itself subordinate to God's rule; it develops a wisdom which does not retain the living God in its knowledge; it forms for itself an excellency which is not the reflection of His glory. And this glittering pantheistic world-reality is not a mere imaginary thing, for the powers of the universe are really divine powers. The elements, the materials with which this world builds its kingdom, are of the noblest kind, their want of genuineness lies in the ethical form given to them; or in the false relation between the glory of this world and the will of man." - Martensen, Christian Dogmatics, p. 184.]
The Scriptures clearly teach that as Christ once came into the world to effect man's redemption, so also, He will come again to receive His redeemed Church to Himself. This is expressly stated in the words, Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shalt he appear the second time without sin unto salvation (Heb. 9:28). This Second Coming will be personal, visible and glorious. Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him; and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen (Rev. 1:7). It is evident from this that the appearance of Jesus will not be merely to the eye of faith, but in the sight of heaven and earth - the terror of His foes, and the consolation of His people. This is confirmed by the incident on the Mount of Ascension. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven (Acts 1:9-11). According to Dr. Whedon, "This passage is an immovable proof text of the actual, personal, Second Advent of Jesus. It is the same personal, visible Jesus which ascended that shall come. The coming shall be in like manner with the going. A figurative or spiritual coming would clearly not be a coming of the same Jesus, and still more clearly not a coming in like manner." Dr. Hackett in his comment on this verse says that the words oJvn provpon mean in this place, visible and in the air; and that the expression is never employed to affirm merely the certainty of one event as compared with another. By the analogy of the first coming of Christ as literal and visible, so also we must expect the Second Coming to be likewise literal and visible.
[ The Christian belief in the coming again of Christ is the expression of the well-grounded expectation, that He will ever increasingly make manifest before every eye the splendor of His dominion, and one day visibly appear as King of the Church, and Judge of the world, forever to end the present dispensation, and to complete, in a manner worthy of Himself, the kingdom of God founded by Him. . . . That the New Testament really teaches such a visible final coming again cannot be seriously denied. The Lord repeatedly says that He shall appear in splendor, and visible to the eyes of all - in a glorified body, therefore upon the clouds of heaven, in the full radiance of His kingly majesty (Luke 17:24; Matt. 24:30; 25:31). He compares Himself to a noble-man who goes away in order to receive a kingdom, and then again to return (Luke 19:12). In other parables, also, He gives us to understand the same thing (Matt. 13:40, 41, 49; Luke 18:8); and His last prolonged discourse (Matt. 24, 25) is devoted to the unveiling of the mysteries of the future, - Van Oosterzee, Christian Dogmatics, II, pp. 577, 579.
The Second Coming of our Lord is the one all-commanding event of prophecy and the future: itself supreme, it is always associated with the universal resurrection, the judgment of mankind, and the consummation of all things. Though these epochs and crises are in the style of prophecy presented together in foreshortened perspective, they are widely distinct. But while treating them as distinct, we must be careful to remember their common relation to the Day of the Lord; which is a fixed and determinate period, foreshadowed in many lesser periods to which the same term is applied, but the issue and consummation of them all. - Pope, Compend. Chr. Th., III, p. 387.]
[Christ always spoke of His coming as that of the Son of man. By this He himself taught the same truth with which afterward the angel at the ascension reassured the disciples who stood "gazing up into heaven," namely, that He that shall come then shall he the "same Jesus" which was taken up. It will then be in human form that He will appear, and with the same sympathizing human as well as divine love toward His own which He so wonderfully displayed while on earth. But the Apostle Peter, at Pentecost, said, "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). Hence the apostles, almost exclusively, speak of Christ as Lord in connection with His Second Coming. This was their common name for Christ, and they recognized the glorious reward bestowed upon Him for the salvation wrought for them, and the "all power" given unto Him in heaven and earth. - Boyce, Abstract of Systematic Theology, p. 453.
The Creedal statements concerning the Second Advent are as follows: "He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty: from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead." - the Apostles' Creed. "And he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end." - The Nicene Creed, "Christ did truly rise again from death and took again His body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of man's nature; wherewith He ascended into heaven, and there sitteth, until He return to judge all men at the last day." - Art. IV of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Anglican Church. "Christ did truly rise again from the dead, and took again His body. with all things appertaining to the perfection of man 5 nature, wherewith He ascended into heaven, and there sitteth until He return to judge all men at the last day." - Art. Ill of the Twenty-Five Articles of Methodism. "We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ will come again; that we who are alive at His coming shall not precede them that are asleep in Christ Jesus; but that, if we are abiding in Him, we shall be caught up with the risen saints to meet the Lord in the air, so that we shall ever be with the Lord." - Art. XI of the Articles of Faith of the Church of the Nazarene,]
Modern theology has frequently been too much inclined to deny the personal, visible return of our Lord, and to substitute instead, a belief in His spiritual presence only. William Newton Clarke may be regarded as a representative of this modern viewpoint. In a summary of his teaching on the Second Coming of Christ he says, "No visible return of Christ to the earth is to be expected, but rather the long and steady advance of His spiritual kingdom. The expectation of a single dramatic advent corresponds to the Jewish doctrine of the nature of the kingdom, but not to the Christian. Jews, supposing the kingdom of the Messiah to be an earthly reign, would naturally look for the bodily presence of the king: but Christians who know the spiritual nature of His reign may well be satisfied with a spiritual presence, mightier than if it were seen. If our Lord will but complete the spiritual coming that He has begun, there will be no need of visible advent to make perfect His glory on the earth" (William Newton Clarke, An Outline of Christian Theology, p. 444). But the terms paraclete and parousia must not be confused. The former, or paracletos (paraklhto"), means an advocate or an intercessor, and is the term applied by Christ to the Holy Spirit - the Paraclete or Comforter. It therefore represents Christ as spiritually and invisibly present in the Holy Spirit, while parousia (parousia or presence), signifies His personal, visible presence. It is sometimes argued that parousia simply means presence with, and therefore does not denote an act of coming. This position cannot be substantiated as the following passages of Scripture will show (1 Cor. 16:17; 2 Cor. 7:6, 7; and 2 Peter 3:12). Since these passages cannot be rendered other than as a coming or arrival, so also we may believe that there must be a coming of Christ in order to His presence with us. The full meaning of the word parousia is generally understood to be such a coming that His presence shall be abidingly with His people, and His absence shall have passed away forever. There are two other terms used in connection with the Second Advent. The first is apocalypsis (apokaluyis), from which our word apocalypse is derived, and in its simplest form means an unveiling. As used in connection with the Second Advent, it means a disclosure or manifestation of Himself from the heaven which had received Him. The second word is epiphaneia (epifaveia) from epiphaino (epifainw) a verb signifying to give light to (Luke 1:79), or in the passive, to become visible, or to appear (Acts 27:20). In its simplest sense, therefore, the word means an appearance or a manifestation. St. Paul uses it in reference to the First Advent in these words, But is now made manifest by the appearing [epifaneias] of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Tim. 1:10). He uses it in connection with the Second Advent when he enjoins Timothy to keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing [epifaneia"] of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 6:14). It is hardly probable that the apostle would use the word to express a personal coming of Christ in the first instance, and not use it in the same sense concerning the Second Coming. St. Paul uses all three words in his Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, to set forth or describe the influence of the coming of Christ upon the Wicked or Lawless One. He says, When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed [apokaluyei] from heaven (2 Thess. 1:7) then shall that Wicked be revealed [apokalufaneia], whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness [epifaneia, by the appearing] of his coming [ths parousias autou, of the presence of himself] (2 Thess. 2:8). To the unbiased student of the Holy Scriptures, there can be but one conclusion concerning the Second Advent, that is - a personal, visible, glorious return of our Lord to this earth, However, it may be well to note at this time, that while these words clearly indicate a personal return of our Lord as over against the theory of a purely spiritual effusion, the fact that they are often used interchangeably, would seem to render futile any attempt to build a theory of the Second Advent on a distinction of terms - the parousia as referring to one phase of His appearing, and the apokaluyis to another.
[There are some signs of a present tendency of thought away from the traditional doctrine of a personal, visible advent, in favor of a merely spiritual or providential manifestation. The prevalence of the new view would carry with it a recasting of the traditional doctrines of the general resurrection and the final judgment. or, rather, the elimination of these doctrines. We see no sufficient reason for the acceptance of this view, and therefore adhere to the manner of the advent s long held in the faith of the Church. That the Scriptures set forth the coming of Christ as in a personal, visible manner can hardly be questioned. Indeed, such expression of it seems so definite and clear as to leave no place for the opposing view. - Miley, Systematic Theology, II, p. 440.]
[ The word epifaneia occurs in the New Testament six times, namely, in the following passages: I Tim. 6:1 4 "the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ." 2 Tim. 1:10, "the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ 2 Tim. 4:1, "at his appearing." Verse 8, "love his appearing." Titus 2:13, "glorious appearing of the great God," and 2 Thess. 2:8, "destroy with the brightness [that Is, the appearing] of his coming." H. Bonar in his comments on the last verse says, "the word epifaneia which the apostle uses here occurs just six times in the New Testament. In one of these it refers to the First Advent, which we know was literal and personal. In four it is admitted to refer to the literal and personal Second Coming: the fifth is the one under discussion, and it is the strongest and most unambiguous of all the six. Not one of these others is so explicit, yet no one thinks of explaining them away. Why then fasten upon the strongest, and insist on spiritualizing it? If the strongest can be explained away so as not to prove the Advent at all. If the anti millennarian be at liberty to spiritualize the most distinct, why may not the Straussian be allowed to rationalize or mythologize the less distinct. - Bonar, Coming and Kingdom, p. 343.]
With this general survey of the subject we must now turn our attention to the more important details of the doctrine, as follows: (1) The Scriptural Basis of the Doctrine; (2) The Sign of His Coming; (3) The Manner of His Coming; and (4) The Purpose of His Coming. Scriptural Basis of the Doctrine. The most direct, and what in this sense may be regarded as the primary revelation, is to be found in the words which fell from the lips of our Lord himself. Following a solemn warming to the Jews, He declared, Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord (Matt. 23:38, 39). Immediately following this, His disciples called His attention to the buildings of the temple which had been erected with consummate architectural skill, but He only replied, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down (Matt. 24:2). Seated upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? (Matt. 24:3). These questions were the occasion of the remarkable eschatological discourses found in the Gospel of Matthew (chapters 24 and 25); and in a more condensed form in the Gospels of Mark and Luke. The climactic utterance, however, is that before the judgment seat of the high priest, and is expressed in these words, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven (Matt. 26:64).
[The word parousia is used in the New Testament twenty-four times. the following being all of the passages in which it is found: Matt. 24:3, sign of thy coming"; v. 27, "the coming of"; v. 39. "the coming of the Son of man"; I Cor. 15:23, "Christ's at his coming"; 16:17, "coming of Stephanus, and Fortunatus, and Achaicus"; 2 Cor. 7:6, "coming of Titus"; v. 7. "by his coming"; 10:1 0. "his bodily presence"; Phil. 1:26, "by my coming"; 2:12, "my presence only"; 1 Thess. 2:19, "at his coming"; 3:13, "at the coming"; 4:15, "coming of the Lord"; 5:23, "coming of our Lord"; 2 Thess. 2:1, "coming of our Lord"; v. 8. "brightness of his coming"; v. 9, "him. whose coming"; James 5:7, coming of the Lord"; v, 8, "coming of the Lord"; 2 Peter 1:16, "coming of our Lord"; 3:4, "promise of his coming"; v. 12, "the coming of." and I John 2:28, "at his coming." - Taylor, The Reign of Christ on Earth, p. 389.]
[ Inasmuch as this subject involves, almost exclusively, the use of prophecy, it may be well to note in brief some, of the principles which apply to this department of biblical study. The first prophecy, or what is commonly known as the Protevangelium (Gen. 3 14.19), is not only the foundation of all prophecy, but includes within itself, all the prophecies touching the conflict between the serpent and the seed of the woman. It suggests also, both the nature of the conflict and the final outcome. In the words to the serpent are contained the spiritual issues. in those to the woman, the social order, and in those to Adam, the physical consequences. There is nothing in time or eternity - spiritual, social or physical - that is outside the scope of this foundational and all inclusive prophecy. With this as a basis, all prophetic utterance and all historic development may rightfully be viewed as a detailed explanation of what is here contained in germ form. The promises to Abraham, the words of the dying Joseph, the elaborate system of religion set up under Moses, and all the period of the Old Testament, must all be regarded as the unfolding of this primitive prophecy. The Old Testament prophecies may be analyzed as follows: (1) those that were fulfilled before the incarnation; (2) those that were fulfilled by the incarnation; and (3) those that extended into the New Testament and church periods. In the New Testament, prophecy would again be regarded as threefold: (1) an explanation of those prophecies already fulfilled in and by the incarnation; (2) an explanation of those prophecies projected from the Old Testament into the time period succeeding the incarnation; and (3) a new set of prophecies beginning with the New Testament period and looking forward to the time of the end. This latter would include the foundational statements of Christ, such as the Sermon on the Mount, and those specific counsels which guided the Church in its development, as over against the background of the Gentile and pagan world. - Rev. Paul S. Hill.]
It is not surprising, therefore, that these predictions fixed the truth of the Second Coming firmly in the mind of the Church; and that the apostles should constantly present it as an incentive to holy living. With this insight into prophetical truth also, the apostles were enabled to lift out of the Old Testament certain mysterious passages and interpret them in the light of the new dispensation. Thus St. Peter in his sermon at Pentecost, quotes the prophecy of Joel, assigning that portion referring to the promise of the Holy Spirit to the opening of the dispensation, and that concerning the great and terrible day of the Lord to its close, or the time of the Second Advent (Cf. Joel 2:28-31; Acts 2:16-21). St. Jude, likewise, quotes a prophecy of Enoch, the seventh from Adam, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds (Jude 14, 15). Whatever doubts may be had in regard to the passages in the Old Testament which are sometimes presented as proofs of this doctrine, the New Testament cannot be called in question. To the early Christians it was the blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13). St. Paul further states that our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body (Phil. 3:20, 21). St. Peter gives us this exhortation, Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13); while St. James gives a like exhortation, Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord, establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draw eth nigh (James 5:7, 8). Perhaps the most loved text is that of St. John, Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also (John 14:1-3). Two generations after His ascension, our Lord appeared to His disciple in Patmos, and closed the revelation of Himself with the words, Surely I come quickly (Rev. 22:20), the very last words which men were to hear from Him who spake not only on earth but also from heaven.
[ We can touch only on the ground forms and main lines - not on the complete filling up - of the Christian eschatological doctrinal structure. The foundation for this structure can be no other than that which a true God has revealed in His infallible Word concerning the things of the future. While the philosophy of religion in general may apply itself to the examination as to what human reason by its own light proclaims concerning immortality and external life, Christian Dogmatics avails itself of another torch in this mysterious obscurity. Here it emphatically presupposes the truth of that which has already been earlier treated of. such as the supranaturalistic Theistic conception of God; the existence of a particular revelation of salvation; the trustworthiness of the words of the Lord and of His first witness concerning things unseen and eternal. It consequently has not to return to the question as to the continued existence of the spirit. which was already treated of in connection with Anthropology; and just as little to that as to the nature of death, which was already entered into in connection with Hamartiology. - Van Oosterzee, Christian Dogmatics, II. p. 776.]
The Sign of His Coming. In His reply to the question of the disciples, What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? (tou aiwnos, or the age), our Lord did not hesitate to describe the vicissitudes of the Church in the present age. In his reply, there is a prediction of three classes of events, which we understand from the remainder of His discourse, are not to be regarded as distinct epochs set off from each other, but as being in a large measure coincident in time, (1) There will be an age of tribulation, in which there will be disturbances in the physical world, great political upheavals and social disintegration, For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places (Matt. 24:7). These our Lord declares are the beginning of sorrows (Matt. 24:8). From the words, but the end is not yet (Matt. 24:6), we may infer that this beginning of sorrows will precede the Second Advent by a considerable space of time. But our Lord predicts the deepening shadows of a greater tribulation as the end of the age approaches, This he introduces with warnings and exhortations of great moment (Matt. 24:15-20) and concludes by saying, For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened (Matt. 24:21, 22). (2) The Preparation of the Church and the Evangelization of the World, mark the second prediction of our Lord. The circumstances of the world will serve to discipline the Church, and only those that endure to the end shall be saved. At our Lord's coming He will exact an account of all His stewards. Those who are found faithful will be rewarded, and those who have been untrue to their trust will be punished for their negligence or infidelity. This stewardship is immediately related to the dissemination of the gospel, as given to the disciples in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19, 20). To preach the gospel and to bear witness of Christ is the supreme duty of the Church in this age, over against which idle and curious questions concerning the future were regarded by you? Lord as of little importance (Acts 1:7, 8). Hence we are told that this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come (Matt. 24:14). (3) The third prediction is that of an apostasy or falling away due to the deceptiveness of sin. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold (Matt. 24:10-12). Our Lord seems to indicate also, that as the tribulation deepens toward the end of the age, so also the deceptiveness of sin increases. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before (Matt. 24:23-25). The progressive unfolding of divine truth concerning the Antichrist is very marked in the Scriptures. Here our Lord speaks of false Christs and false prophets, as indicating all those who are in opposition to Christ and the truth. These, of course, could find no place in history until after the appearance of the true Christ. St. John likewise speaks of a plurality of antichrists. Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists: whereby we know that it is the last time (1 John 2:18). But St, John goes farther than this. He says, Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come: and even now already is it in the world (1 John 4:3). St. Paul also reveals the fact, that while there will be a great falling away in the last time, there will be also the revelation of a "man of sin" who with wicked presumption, will assume the place of God and lay claim to the honor of divine worship. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God (2 Thess. 2:3, 4). Here, then, in the eschatological discourses of our Lord do we find a delineation of the events which shall characterize the present age, and therefore serve as a sign of His coming. It is sometimes said that this emphasis upon the increase of wickedness tends to inculcate a belief in the gradual and necessary decline of Christ's kingdom; and consequently begets a passive and hopeless attitude toward sin. To this we reply, that Christ does not teach, nor does the Church believe that His kingdom shall decline. Our Lord teaches that the same harvest season which ripens the wheat, ripens the tares also; that there is, therefore, a progress in wickedness as well as in righteousness; and that both the wheat and the tares are to grow together - not one grow and the other decline. But the true motive for evangelism as found in the Church, is not in the glory of outward success, but in a deep sense of obedience to a trust, and a fervent love for her Lord. As the end of the age approaches, we may expect an increase in righteousness and in wickedness, and the Church must gird herself for an aggressive and constant warfare against sin until Jesus comes.
[ Dr. Blunt gives this interesting note in connection with his article on the Second Advent. He says, "In association with the sign of the Son of man and the coming as lightning. it is observable that lightning has frequently been known to leave the mark of the cross upon the persons and garments of those whom it has struck. Bishop Warbuton gives some indubitable instances of this." He therefore regards "the sign of His coming" as a celestial Labarum which will herald the immediate approach of Christ. He says. "All will then see Christ's cross stretched forth in the midst of the darkness as the bright standard of the King of kings, and will at once know that it is set up as the token of His coming to reign in judgment." - Blunt, Dictionary, Art. Second Advent.]
[ Dr. Blunt points out that "the great object of Antichrist will be to set himself up as the object of men's worship instead of Christ; the great means by which the seduction of his worshipers is accomplished will be the supernatural power which he will be able to oppose to the supernatural power of Christ. "His coming will therefore be preceded by a manifestation of the power of Satan communicated to the Antichrist. It is recorded that Satan said to our Lord in the second temptation, "All this power will I give thee. and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me. all shall be thine" (Luke 4:6, 7). It is to this evidently that St. Paul refers when in speaking of the Antichrist. he says, "His coming [parousias] is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs. and lying wonders" (2 Thess. 2:9). "It thus seems." Dr. Blunt continues, "that the supernatural power of working miracles will be accompanied by a universal authority or kingdom. won, perhaps. by means of them. Thus the opposition of Antichrist to Christ will consist in setting up a person instead of Him as the object of worship. in working miracles such as characterized Christ's First Advent. and in establishing a universal empire in the place of the church. The elements of seduction contained in such a power are sufficiently evident. and perhaps they will possess all the greater strength in proportion to the high developments of a civilization uninfluenced by love of Cod. Men will be attracted to become followers of Antichrist first by his accumulation of universal empire, reverencing in its extreme development (Rev. 13 4ff) that success which is said to be the most successful of all things. They will be attracted also by his supernatural power. the visible exercise of which subdues at once. . . . After the chains of such seductions have bound the minds and affections of mankind, they will be easily prevailed upon to take the last step in apostasy. 'Fall down and worship me.' Such. it seems. will be the course of the great apostasy. the last stage in the preparation for Christ's Second Advent" (Cf. Blunt, Dict. of Doct. and Hist. Theology. Art. Second Advent).]
[The many false Christs or even the spirit of the Antichrist as specifically opposed to the true Christ. could find no place of importance in history until after the real Christ had made His first appearance. The story of the rise of many who claimed to be the Christ is well known. They were numerous in the days of the early church. as our Lord had predicted. They were in the deserts and in the secret places. The spirit of these pretenders was of course opposed to the real Christ, and thus they became the forerunners of the whole antichristian program of the New Testament period. Doubtless there will be an increasing intensity of this spirit, which shall reach its culmination and final defeat in the last great conflict. - Rev. Paul Hill.
The climax of the misery of the last days is attained in the appearing of the Antichrist. whom the prophetic word leads us to expect. The reference to the rise and development of this expectation must be left by Christian Dogmatics to the Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments. Here it can only be said, that for him who interprets the Scriptures without preconceived views, and allows his thoughts to be brought into captivity to the obedience of the Word, there can be no doubt that a personal Antichrist will yet arise before the close of the world's history. . . . If we see already in the history of the world colossal figures arise in the service of the powers of darkness; and if already in connection with many a name there was heard from sundry lips the question whether this was the Antichrist; nothing prevents our seeing in their appearance the preparation for a future central personality, in whom the spirit of evil will as it were embody itself, and display its full power. - Van Oosterzee, Christian Dogmatics, II, p. 796.]
The Manner of His Coming. Here again our Lord's discourses must be the source of our authority concerning this great eschatological event. Having warned against the deceptiveness of false Christs and false prophets, He instructs the disciples concerning the manner of His coming, in these words, Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be (Matt. 24:26, 27). He indicates also, that there shall be disturbances of a cataclysmic nature in the physical universe, preceding the Second Advent. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other (Matt. 24:29-31).
[ As to the Antichrist, whose coming was expected to precede the final consummation, it was a common opinion that he should be a being of supernatural origin. . . . Another opinion was, that he already had appeared in the person of Mahomet, that the apocalyptic "Number of the Beast," 666, denoted the duration of his power, and that his downfall might be looked for toward the end of the thirteenth century. This expectation seems to have assisted in producing the enthusiasm of the Crusades, which declined as the expected time passed by, and the Mahometan power continued to flourish. Others, again, discerned Antichrist in the various sects, which in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, refused submission to the pope; while these in turn, applied to him the same title. This was done as early as 1204, by Amalric of Bema; and Louis of Bavaria, Emperor of Germany, about 1327, 50 designated Pope John XXII. Wycliffe (1384) and the Lollards also denounced the pope as Antichrist. - Crippen, History of Christian Doctrine, pp. 233, 234.]
Our Lord teaches also, that a certain unexpectedness will attend His coming. The time of the Second Advent is veiled in mystery. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels in heaven, but my Father only (Matt. 24:36). He instructs His disciples, therefore, to give the utmost attention to watchfulness and faithfulness in the things of the kingdom. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come (Matt. 24:42); and again, Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh (Matt. 24:44). He further declares that at the time of His Second Coming the world will be pursuing its ordinary course, unmindful of the great event which will take place suddenly and without special warning. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be (Matt. 24:37-39). This does not apply solely to the wicked, for then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left (Matt. 24:40, 41). We may confidently believe then, that the Second advent will be a sudden and glorious appearance of our Lord, bursting in upon the ordinary course of the world as an unexpected cataclysmic event. To the righteous, who have through faith in His Word prepared themselves and are watching for His return, this appearance will be hailed with supreme joy; to the wicked who have rejected His words, saying Where is the promise of his coming? It will be a time of consternation and condemnation.
[It is obvious that the Supreme Prophet of His own dispensation has made it a law of His kingdom that its final consummation shall forever be uncertain as to its date. Hence in His eschatological discourses He answered the disciples' double question, "Tell us. when shall these things be?" in such a manner as to prevent their attempting to define either the date of the nearer end of the world. the destruction of Judaism, or that of the more distant end of all things. - Pope. Compend. Chr. Th., III, p. 391.
Under both dispensations. patient waiting for Christ was intended to discipline the faith, and to enlarge the conception, of God's true servants, The fact that every age since Christ ascended has had its Chiliasts and Second Adventists should turn our thoughts away from curious and fruitless prying into the time of Christ's coming. and set us at immediate and constant endeavor to be ready. at whatsoever hour He may appear. - Strong. Systematic Theology, III. p. 1007.]
The Purpose of His Coming. Our Lord sets forth the purpose of His coming in the latter part of this eschatological discourse, by means of two familiar parables - that of the Ten Virgins, and that of the Talents. In the former He emphasizes more especially the lack of a proper preparation for His coming, while in the latter He condemns the violation of a trust. Both emphasize the sins of omission rather than those uf commission. The outstanding truth, however, which is set forth in these parables is the same - that of a coming judgment in which the righteous shall be rewarded and the wicked punished. Hence it is, that following the second parable, our Lord clearly states the purpose of His Second Coming as that of judgment. His words are unmistakable. When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world (Matt. 25:31-34). Following this He depicts in vivid colors the scene of judgment, in which He pronounces sentence upon those on his left hand, saying, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41); and concludes the discourse with the solemn words, And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal (Matt. 25:46). From these words of our Lord concerning the Second Coming as directly related to judgment, there can be no appeal.
There are two of our Lord's earlier parables which express this idea of judgment also, that of the Sower, and that of the Drag Net. In His interpretation of the former, Jesus states that the field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; the enemy that sowed them '.5 the devil; the harvest is the end of the world [aijw'no" or age]; and the reapers are the angels (Matt. 13:38, 39). In the application of the parable, we are told that The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father (Matt. 13:41-43). While judgment is expressed, it is evident that the dominant thought of the parable is the purification of the kingdom from those things which hinder its progress and which veil the true character of its subjects. In the second parable - that of the Drag Net and the separation of the good and bad fishes, the application is the same with the emphasis more especially upon the judgment. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 13:49, 50).
Turning from the Gospels to the Epistles, we find the Second Advent presented in the light of its concomitants - the resurrection, the judgment, and the consummation of all things. These subjects must receive consideration later. It is sufficient here, to mention only a few of the scriptures in which the Second Advent is given prominence. St. Paul places it in close time relation to the resurrection, making the resurrection of the righteous dead to precede immediately the translation of the living saints. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord (1 Thess. 4:14-17). Here it is evident that the coming of Jesus with His saints (the dead in Christ whose souls have already gone to be with him), and the coming of Jesus for His saints (those that are alive and remain) must be associated n9t only with the same event, but must be regarded also, as indicating the order of the happenings in that event. "That the return of the Lord will not be simply a momentarily becoming visible from heaven, but a return to earth, is according to the Scriptures beyond doubt. Those dwellers on the earth, who, according to 1 Thess. 4:17, are caught up to meet Him in the air, must certainly be conceived of as then returning with the heavenly host again to the earth. They form an escort to the King, who personally comes to this part of His royal domain. Simultaneously with the coming of Christ takes place the first resurrection. The believers, who live to witness this appearing of Christ upon earth, are without dying, by an instantaneous change, made meet for the new condition; and the departed who are ripe for the life of resurrection, live and reign with Christ on earth" (Van Oosterzee, Christian Dogmatics, II, pp.798, 799). St. Peter places the Second Advent in a time relation to the consumatio seculi or final consummation of the present order. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness (2 Peter 3:10, 11). Here the Second Advent is connected with the day of the Lord, which introduces another phase of the subject.
We may conclude, then, that as an event the Second Coming of Christ will be associated in time with the resurrection, the judgment and the final consummation. As directly related to the work of Jesus Christ, it may be summed up in a threefold purpose. (1) It is a part of His total mission of redemption. As the incarnate Son in heaven, He is still subordinate to the Father, and consequently is sent of the Father on this final mission. And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of the restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began (Acts 3:20, 21). (3) It marks the day of the Lord. "Thus it is the coming, in one sense, in another, it is the Second Coming, or the coming again of the Lord. Hence also, the scripture rises above both these phrases, and speaks of that future event as his day, or that day, or the day of Jesus Christ (Cf. Luke 17:24; 2 Tim. 1:18; Phil. 1:6), which is in the new economy all that the day of Jehovah was in the old. The day of the Lord is the horizon of the entire New Testament: the period of His most decisive manifestation in a glorious revelation of Himself which could not be, and is never, predicated of any but a divine Person" (POPE, Compend. Chr. Th., III, p. 388).
Our study of the scriptural basis of the Second Advent has made it clear that this doctrine had an apostolic emphasis. Three things characterized their teaching:
(1) the prominence which they gave to eschatological subjects; (2) their association of the hope of eternal life with the Person of the risen Christ and His promised return; and (3) that this hope of eternal life reached out beyond this period of earthly development to a new heaven and a new earth. Furthermore, the New Testament seems to indicate that the apostles themselves expected a speedy return of their Lord, and the Church evidently shared with them in this hope. It is for this reason that Dr. Dorner calls the Second Coming the oldest Christian dogma. Consequently, the Church during its persecutions and martyrdoms, opposed to heathenism a complete renunciation of the world and a firm confidence of final triumph when Christ should come again. It is not surprising, therefore, that we find this same note in the writing 0£ the earlier Fathers. Clement of Rome (c. 95) in his First Epistle says, "Of a truth, soon and suddenly shall His will be accomplished, as the Scriptures also bear witness, saying 'Speedily will He come, and will not tarry:' and 'The Lord shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Holy One, for whom ye look.' " Ignatius of Antioch (d.c. 107) in a letter to the church says, "The last times are upon us. Let us therefore be of a reverent spirit, and fear the long-suffering of God, that it tend not to our condemnation." We may say, then, that the attitude of the earlier Fathers was one of expectancy, one of watching and praying for the soon coming of Christ, their Lord.
[In one of the anonymous writings of this period, generally attributed to Barnabas and sometimes dated as early as A.D. 79, we find the following: "Therefore, my children, in six days, that is, in six thousand years, all things will be finished. 'And he rested on the seventh day.' This meaneth: when His Son, coming again, shall destroy the time of the wicked man, and judge the ungodly, and change the sun, and the moon, and the stars, then shall He truly rest on the seventh day."
From one of the visions in the Shepherd of Hermas, we have the following: "You have escaped from great tribulation on account of your faith, and because you did not doubt in the presence of such a beast. Go, therefore, and tell the elect of the Lord His mighty deeds, and say to them that this beast is a type of the great tribulation that is coming. If then ye prepare yourselves, and repent with all your heart, and turn to the Lord, it will be possible for you to escape it, if your heart he pure and spotless, and ye spend the rest of the days of your life in serving the Lord blamelessly."
Ignatius writes to Polycarp saying, Weigh carefully the times. Look for Him who is above all time, eternal and invisible, yet who became visible for our sakes."]
The personal return of Christ was very early associated with the idea of a millennium (from the Latin mille, a thousand), or a reign of Christ on earth for the period of a thousand years. Those who embraced this doctrine were known as Chiliasts (from the Greek cilia", a thousand). The development of the doctrine of the Second Advent must, therefore, in a large measure include a treatment of the various theories of the millennium which have developed in the history of the Church. The history of millennialism falls into three main periods: (1) The Earlier Period, from the Apostolic Age to the Reformation; (2) The Reformation Period, to the middle of the eighteenth century; and (3) The Modern Period, from the middle of the eighteenth century to the present.
The Earlier Period. It is commonly agreed by historians that, from the death of the apostles to the time of Origen, Chiliasm, or what is now known as premillennialism, was the dominant, if not the generally accepted faith of the Church. Two fundamental affirmations characterized this doctrine - that the Scriptures teach us to look for a millennium, or universal reign of righteousness on the earth; and that this millennial age will be introduced by the personal, visible return of the Lord Jesus. It is very frequently asserted that this theory was brought over from Judaism, and to a certain extent, doubtless, this is true; for it appears far more prominently among the Jewish Christians than in the Gentile churches. But Christian Chiliasm must be distinguished, both from Judaism on the one hand, and a pseudo-chiliasm on the other. Over against Judaism it maintained: (1) that the inheritance of the kingdom is conditioned solely by regeneration, and not by race or ritual observances; (2) that the nature of the kingdom is not carnal or materialistic, but suited to a sanctified spirit, and to a body at once spiritual and incorruptible; and (3) that the millennium is only a transitional stage and not the final state of the world. For this reason, Dr. Dorner maintains that so far from being derivable from it, it may in part be more justly regarded as a polemic against Judaism (Cf. Dorner, Doctrine of the Person of Christ, I, p~ 408). Over against the false and fanatical theories, the Church maintained that the millennium is to be introduced by the return of Christ, and condemned all attempts of the pseudochiliasts to institute this reign of righteousness by material force. Nitzsche points out also, that the doctrine was already received by the Gentile Christians before the close of the first century, and was expressly rejected during the first half of the second century by the Gnostics only. Millennialism received a fresh impulse, doubtless, from the persecutions which came upon the Church, during which the saints took comfort in looking forward to a speedy deliverance by the return of Christ. The doctrine is first mentioned in the Epistle of Barnabas (c. 120). Hermas (c. 140), Papias (c. 163), Justin (c. 165) and Irenaeus (c. 202) all interpreted the twentieth chapter of Revelation in a literal manner, and therefore held that between the two resurrections Christ should reign over Jerusalem, either literally or spiritually, for a thousand years. Justin says, "I and others, who are right-minded Christians on all points, are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then be built, adorned and enlarged.... There was a certain man with us whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ, who prophesied, by a revelation made to him, that those who believed in our Christ would dwell a thousand years in Jerusalem; and that thereafter, the general, and in short the eternal resurrection and judgment of all men would likewise take place." (Trypho LXXX and LXXXI) Papias wrote extravagantly of the millennial fertility and fruitage of the earth, and these were reproduced in some measure by Irenaeus. The latter places the coming of Antichrist just before the inauguration of the millennial reign. He teaches that the just will be resurrected by the descended Savior, and dwell in Jerusalem with the remnant of believers in the world, being there disciplined for the state of incorruption which they are to enjoy in the New Jerusalem which is from above, and of which the earthly Jerusalem is an image. Tertullian (d. 240) says, "Of the heavenly kingdom, this is the process. After its thousand years are over, within which period are completed the resurrection of the saints, who rise sooner or later, according to their deserts, there will ensue the destruction of the world and the conflagration of all things at the judgment." No trace of millennialism is found in the writings of Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Tatian, Athenagoras or Theophilus. Hippolytus (c. 239) wrote an elaborate treatise on the rise and overthrow of Antichrist, whose manifestation was generally regarded as preceding the Second Advent. Cyprian (c. 258) does not express any well-defined views on the subject.
[Dr. Blunt gives this description of Chiliasm. "The Millennarians, or Chiliasts, accepting this prophecy literally (Rev. 20:1.7), hold. that after the destruction of the powers symbolized by the beast and the false prophet, Satan will be 'bound,' that is, his power will be suspended for the period of a thousand years, or for the period represented by a thousand years; that there will be a first resurrection of martyrs, and of those worthy to share in the martyr's crown; that for the thousand years these will live and reign with Christ on earth, in free communion with the heavenly powers; that after this will be the general resurrection. There are on both sides many shades and varieties of teaching, but the crucial point is that of the first and second resurrection."]
[ Semisch holds that the ultimate root of millenarianism is the popular notion of the Messiah current among the Jews. The prophecies of the Messiah had affirmed that a period of peace and triumph of Israel would follow the establishment of His kingdom. The fancy of the Jewish people, misinterpreting these prophecies, reveled in dreams of an external kingdom, in which the Messiah should reign from Jerusalem, and inaugurate an era of inexpressible happiness. Some of these thoughts passed over to the Christians, who, however, made this period of the visible reign of the Messiah on earth only the prelude of a second and final stage of heavenly glory.
Professor Moses Stuart calls attention to the fact, "That the great mass of Jewish Rabbins have believed and taught the doctrine of the resurrection of the just in the days of the Messiah's development, there can be no doubt on the part of him who has made any considerable investigation of this matter. The specific limitation of this to the commencement of the millennium, seems to be peculiar to John" (Commentary on the Apocalypse, I, p. 177).
Joseph Made says, "Though the ancient Jews had no distinct knowledge of such an order in the resurrection as first and second, but only of the resurrection in gross and general . . . yet they looked for such a resurrection, wherein those that rose again should reign some time upon the earth. . . . In fine, the second and universal resurrection, with the state of the saints after it, now so clearly revealed in Christianity, seems to have been less known to the ancient church of the Jews than the first, and the state to accompany it (Cf. Mede, Works, II, p. 943).]
The third century was the flowering period of chiliasm, but the doctrine was carried to extreme length by the Ebionites, a Jewish sect of Christians, and later by the Montanists. It is easy to understand how this doctrine would be open to perversion and misunderstanding. The new heavens and the new earth would naturally be described in the language of temporal felicity, such as is found in the Old Testament, and this could easily be perverted to mean a carnal kingdom. Thus Dr. Blunt says that "there can be no doubt that some, perhaps many, held the doctrine in a carnal sense, but it is a misrepresentation to attribute that sense to such writers as, for example, Irenaeus." Cerinthus, a Gnostic with Judaistic tendencies, and the opponent of St. John, is said to have perverted this doctrine by promising a millennium of sensual luxury. Mosheim, however, endeavors to show that this originated with Caius and Dionysius, who, to suppress the doctrine, made it appear that Cerinthus was the author of it. The Montanists began as a reform movement in Phrygia, during the latter part of the second century under the leadership of Montanus, who seems to have regarded it as a special mission to complete in himself and by his system, the perfection of the Church. He was regarded by his followers as one to whom the Holy Spirit had made special revelations. Rebelling against the secularism of the Church, Montanism presented a model of church discipline such as they conceived the nearness of Christ's coming demanded. Long and stringent fasts were established, celibacy enjoined and a rigid penitential system set up.
[Origen (185-254) was the chief opponent of the earlier chiliasm, and Augustine (353-430) its later opponent. Origen in his "Dc Principus" says that those "who receive the representations of Scripture according to the understanding of the apostles, entertain the hope that the saints will eat indeed, hut that it will be the bread of life. . . . By this food of wisdom the understanding is restored to the image and likeness of God, so that . . . the man will he capable of ?eceiving instruction in that Jerusalem, the city of the saints.
Augustine was at one time a chiliast, but abandoned the doctrine, it is said, because of the influence and misrepresentations of his enemies, particularly, Eusebius. He then developed what is now known as the Augustinian view of the Millennium, which afterward became prevalent.]
Montanism was the occasion of the opposition to the millennial theory which arose in the earlier part of the third century. Caius of Rome (c. 210) is said to have been the first to write against it, and greatly embarrassed the situation by referring to those who held this doctrine as heretics. The chief opposition, however, came from the Alexandrian School. Origen, who regarded matter as the seat of evil, referred to the view of an earthly kingdom of Christ, full of physical delights, as "an empty figment," and "a Judaizing fable." Nepos, a bishop in Egypt revived the doctrine, holding that the promises in the Bible should be interpreted as the Jews understood them. He supposed that there would be a certain millennium of material luxury on this earth. His work entitled, "A Refutation of the Allegorists," was answered by Dionysius in another entitled On the Promises. Methodius, bishop of Tyre (d. 311) defended the millennial doctrines against Origen, but the decline had set in, and the last apology for it, was a pamphlet by Apollinarius of Laodicea against the positions of Dionysius. In the West, the doctrine was maintained for a longer period, its chief exponents being Lactantius (c. 320) and Victorinus, bishop of Petau, who flourished c. 290 A.D. Even Jerome did not dare to condemn the position on chiliasm. The fate of the doctrine, however, for this period, was settled by Augustine (De Civitate Dei xx, 7-9), who declared that the Church was the kingdom of God on earth. Eschatological questions sank into insignificance, once the Church had won the protection of the state. As to the thousand years mentioned in the Apocalypse, Augustine suggests that they denote either the last thousand years of the world's history, or the whole duration of the world - the number one thousand being a reference not so much to a definite period as to the totality of time. By the reign of the saints during the millennial period, he means nothing more than the dominion which pertains to the Church. "The Church even now is the kingdom of Christ, and the kingdom of heaven. Accordingly, even now His saints reign with Him, though otherwise than as they shall reign hereafter" (De Civitata Dei, XX, 7-9). The first resurrection according to Augustine was the spiritual resurrection of the soul from sin. For the remainder of this period, millennialism was practically an obsolete doctrine. The clergy possessed the kingdom for a thousand years in the Church as triumphant over kings and princes. Semisch says that "the circles which were prophetic of the reformation period looked for the regeneration of the Church, not from the visible coming of Christ, but in a return to apostolic poverty and piety, or the enthronement of a righteous pope. Peter de Olivia explained the Second Coming by the operation of the Holy Ghost in the heart."
[ Lactantius gives a rather detailed account of his doctrine of the Second Advent in the Epitome (LXXII). He says, "Then the heaven shall be opened in a tempest, and Christ shall descend with great power, and there shall go before Him a fiery brightness and a countless host of angels, and all the multitude of the wicked shall be destroyed, and torrents of blood shall flow, and the leader himself shall escape, and having often renewed his army, shall for the fourth time engage in battle, in which, being taken, with all the other tyrants, he shall be delivered up to be burnt. But the prince also of the demons himself, the author and contriver of evils, being bound with fiery chains, shall be imprisoned, that the world may receive peace, and the earth, harassed through so many years, may rest. Therefore, peace being made, and every evil suppressed, that the righteous king and conqueror will institute a great judgment on earth respecting the living and the dead, and will deliver all the nations into subjection to the righteous who are alive, and will raise the righteous dead to eternal life, and will Himself reign with them on earth, and will build the holy city, and this kingdom of the righteous shall be for a thousand years. Throughout that time the stars shall be more brilliant, and the brightness of the sun shall be increased, and the moon shall not be subject to decrease. Then the rain of blessing shall descend from God at morning and evening, and the earth shall bring forth all her fruit without the labor of men. Honey shall drop from rock, fountains of milk and wine shall abound. The beasts shall lay aside their ferocity and become mild, the wolf shall roam among the flocks without doing harm, the calf shall feed with the lion, the dove shall be united with the hawk, the serpent shall have no poison; no animal shall live by bloodshed, for God shall supply to all abundant and harmless food. But when the thousand years shall be fulfilled, and the prince of demons loosed, the nations will rebel against the righteous, and an innumerable multitude will come to storm the city of the saints. Then the last judgment of God will come to pass against the nations, for He will shake the earth from its foundations, and the cities shall be overthrown, and He shall rain upon the wicked fire with brimstone, and hail, and they shall be on fire, and slay each other. But the righteous shall for a little space be concealed under the earth, until the destruction of the nations is accomplished, and after the third day they shall come forth, and see the plains covered with carcasses. Then there shall be an earthquake, and the mountains shall be rent, and valleys shall sink down to a profound depth, and into this the bodies of the dead shall be heaped together, and its name shall be called Polyandrion (a name sometimes given to cemeteries because many men are borne thither). After these things, God will renew the world, and transform the righteous into forms of angels, that, they may serve God forever and ever; and this will be the kingdom of God, which shall have no end. Then also the wicked shall rise again, but not to life, but to punishment, for God shall raise these also, when the second resurrection takes place, that, being condemned to eternal torments and delivered to eternal fires, they may suffer the punishments which they deserve for their crimes."]
From the time of Augustine to the Reformation, the doctrines of chiliasm were given but little prominence. The Apostles' Creed - an early document, but dating in its unchanged form from c. 390; the Nicene Creed as revised at Constantinople (381); and the Athanasian Creed (c. 449) to which an anathema is attached, were the accepted standards of the Church. However, these were interpreted in opposition to the millennial theory, for Rome was anti-chiliastic. But Dr. Blunt cites the Formula Doctrinae by Gelassius Cyzicenus of the Council of Nicea, to show that the Scriptures were understood by that body, to teach that the saints receive their reward under the reign of Christ on earth; and that the Nicene statement, "He shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead: whose kingdom shall have no end," is to be interpreted in the light of a millennial reign. In spite of the opposition, Harnack points out that the doctrine "still lived on in the lower strata of society." It was preserved in the teachings of the Waldenses, the Paulicians, the Albigenses, the Cathari, and many of the Mystics, although in those dark ages, connected with much that was erratic and unorthodox.
[The reference to the Formula Doctrine of the Council of Nicea is as follows: "We look for new heavens and a new earth, when there shall have shown the appearing and kingdom of the great God, and our Savior Jesus Christ: and then, as Daniel saith, the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom. And the earth shall he pure, holy, the earth of the living, and not of the dead (which David foreseeing with the eye of faith, exclaims, I believe verily to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living), the earth of the gentle and lowly. For, blessed, saith the Lord, are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth: and the prophet saith, the feet of the poor and needy shall tread it" (Cf. Art. Millennium in Blunt's Dictionary).
Some of the sects catalogued as heretical, are such only on certain doctrines. Many of them, such as are mentioned above were in reality prophets of the Reformation, and were classified as heretics solely because of their opposition to what they regarded as the secularization of the Church. Thus Mr. Wesley speaks of Montanus as "not only a good man, but one of the best men then upon earth" (Works, Xl. p. 485). Doubtless this was true as to purpose and intent, but the historical records of the excesses of the Montanists cannot be denied, although many of these were excrescences and not typical of the movement as a whole. Hurst, Milner and other church historians take practically the same position in regard to the Waldenses, the Cathari and similar sects, seeing in them the precursors of the Reformation.
From the tenth to the fourteenth century the notion prevailed that the end of the world was at hand. The state establishment of Christianity by Constantine was thought to be intended by the figure of the first resurrection; the thousand year's reign was conceived of as actually passing. and drawing to a close; Antichrist would then appear. and the end of all things would promptly ensue. These expectations find their expression in the devotional literature of the period. - Crippen, Hist. Chr. Doct., p. 233.]
The Reformation Period. The beginning of the Reformation is generally dated from the time when Luther began his public labors, or about A.D. 1517. During this period the doctrine of the millennium which had fallen into disrepute was again revived. Several things were conducive to this renewed emphasis. First, there was a growing decline of the papacy, which was regarded as one of the sure signs of the soon coming of Christ. The Reformers generally held that the pope was the Antichrist. Second, there were many strange natural occurrences during this period, such as comets and earthquakes. Then, too, there were many national changes - all of which produced an unrest and a nervous tension which resulted in many and various forms of mass hysteria. The Anabaptists determined to prepare the way by violence and consequently established a new Zion at Muenster in 1534, organized along communistic lines. All these things seemed to be indicative of the approaching end of the world. The Reformers shared in this expectation of the soon coming of Christ, but kept themselves free from fanatical teachings. Also, they appeared to studiously avoid all millennial doctrines. The Heretic and Augsburg Confessions condemn the excesses of the Anabaptists, as does also the English Confession of Edward VI, from which the Thirty-nine Articles were condensed. It is commonly stated that these creeds condemn premillennialism as merely a Jewish opinion, brought over without due warrant, into the Christian Church. A careful consideration of the articles in question, does not seem to sustain this position. Article XVII of the Augsburg Confession as translated by Philip Schaff, is as follows: "They condemn others, also, who now scatter abroad Jewish opinions, that, before the resurrection of the dead, the godly shall occupy the kingdom of the world, the wicked being everywhere suppressed. (Schaff, Creeds of Christendom). Melanchthon, who wrote the Confession, explains Article XVII as follows: "The Church in this life is never to attain to a position of universal triumph and prosperity, but is to remain depressed, and subject to afflictions and adversities, 'until the time of the resurrection of the dead (Corpus Reformatorum XXVI, p. 361) . From this it is evident that the Article does not condemn premillennialism unless a prior or first resurrection be denied; otherwise it condemns in strong words, the theory of postmillennialism which looks for an era of spiritual triumph previous to the Second Advent of Christ.
[As we have shown, there was very little taught concerning a future millennium during the period from Augustine to the Reformation. Chiliasm was almost annihilated. From the time when the Council of Rome under Pope Damascus formally denounced it in A.D. 373, its condemnation was so effective. Baronius, a Roman Catholic historian of the sixteenth century, writing concerning the millennialist views of the fifth century says, "Moreover the figments of the Millennaries being now rejected everywhere, and derided by the learned with hisses and laughter, and being also put under the ban, were entirely extirpated!" This was the general attitude of the Church at the beginning of the Reformation.
Elliott in his Horae Apocalypticae, a learned and exhaustive treatise in four volumes, sums up the millennial view at the beginning of the Reformation as follows: "That the Millennium of Satan's binding, and the saints' reigning, dated from Christ's ministry, when He beheld Satan fall like lightning from heaven; it being meant to signify the triumph over Satan in the hearts of true believers; and that the subsequent figuration of Gog and Magog indicated the coming of Antichrist at the end of the world - the one thousand years being a figurative numeral, expressive of the whole period intervening. It supposed the resurrection taught, to be that of dead souls from the death of sin to the life of righteousness; the beast conquered by the saints, meant the wicked world; its image, a hypocritical profession; the resurrection being continuous, till the end of time, when the universal resurrection and the final judgment would take place." Dr. Elliott points out that this view prevailed from Augustine's time among certain writers to the Reformation; and also that it was held, although in a more ecclesiastical sense and with certain modifications, after the Reformation, by Luther, Bullinger, Bale, Pareus and others (Cf. Taylor, The Reign of Christian Earth, pp. 114-116).]
[Sheldon sums up the attitude toward chiliasm during the Reformation period as follows: "By all the larger communions chiliasm or millenarianism was decidedly repudiated. It had, however, considerable currency among the Anahaptists. Some of the mystical writers taught kindred views. The English Mede and the French Calvinist, Jurieu, held the early patristic theory. In the days of the Rebellion and the Commonwealth, quite a number of the sectaries were millenarians. Such was the party designated as Fifth Monarchy Men. John Milton believed in a future visible appearing and reign with Christ upon earth - a reign of a thousand years. Near the close of the period, William Peterson attracted attention as an enthusiastic advocate of the same doctrine. At the same time, a departure from the interpretation of Augustine began to be made by some who. like him, did not believe in the visible reign of Christ on earth. Instead of placing the beginning of the millennium in the past, they located it in the future. Whitby and Vitringa were prominent representatives of this view" (Sheldon, Hist. Chr. Doct., II, p. 213).]
Beginning with the seventeenth century, millennialism again came into prominence, due perhaps to the religious wars in Germany, the persecution of the Huguenots in France, and the Revolution in England. The immediate occasion of the interest in millennial studies, was the publication of the Clavis Apocalypticae by Joseph Mede (1586-1638), commonly known as "the illustrious Mede." Dr. Elliott states that "his works have generally been thought to constitute an era in the solution of Apocalyptic mysteries, for which he was looked upon and written of, as a man almost inspired." In Germany, Jacob Spener was regarded as holding millennial views. Jacob Boehme, the mystic (1624) warmly advocated millennialism, as did the Lutheran Bishop Peterson at a later date (1705). Among the outstanding premillennialists associated more or less closely with Mede, may be mentioned Dr. William Twisse (1575-1646), a pupil of Mede, and the first moderator of the Westminster Assembly of Divines; Nathaniel Homes, whose Revelation Revealed was published in 1653; Thomas Burnet (1635-1715), known for his Sacred Theory of the Earth, published in Latin (1681) with an English translation (1684-1689); Thomas Goodwin (1600-1679) an independent minister of the rigid Calvinistic type (Works in five volumes, 1681-1704) and Joseph Perry, whose work entitled The Glory of Christ's Visible Kingdom, was published in 1721.
[There were many in this period who held to a firm belief in the Second Advent, and who were known to have held millennial views, but have written to no great extent on the subject. Some like Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661); Jeremy Taylor (1613-1677); Richard Baxter (1615.1691) and Joseph Alleine (1623-1668) were devotional writers, and their views of the Second Advent are largely expressed in their heart-longings for the return of their Lord. John Bunyan (1628-1688) "the Prince of Dreamers"; John Milton (1608-1674) "the Christian Homer"; Matthew Henry (1663-1714), the celebrated commentator; John Cocceius (d. 1669), professor of theology at Bremen; Isaac Newton (1642-1727) and a host of others. The following list of names may be helpful - Joseph Farmer, Peter Sterry, John Durant, Simon Menno (founder of the Mennonites), John Alstead, and Robert Maton.
Interpretations of the Book of Revelation are divided into three classes: (1) the Praeterist (held by Grotius, Moses Stuart and Warren), which regards the prophecy as mainly fulfilled in the age immediately succeeding the time of the apostles (666 - Neron Kaisar); (2) the Continuous (held by Isaac Newton, Vitringa, Bengel, Elliott, Kelly, and Cumming), which regards the whole as a continuous prophetical history, extending from the first age until the end of things (666 - Lateinos); Hengstenberg and Alford hold substantially this view, though they regard the seven seals, trumpets, and vials as synchronological. each succeeding set going over the same ground and exhibiting it in some special aspect; (3) the Futurist (held by Maitland and Todd), which considers the book as describing events yet to occur, during the times immediately preceding and following the coming of the Lord. - Strong, Systematic Theology, III, p. 1000.]
The dominant type of premillennialism, held by the writers of this period [17th and 18th centuries and earlier - GL] may be summed up in the following general statements: (1) They identified in point of time, the rapture, the revelation, the first resurrection, the conflagration, and the creation of the new heavens and the new earth, and taught that all these events occurred before the millennium. (2) They taught that the church was complete before the millennium - the wicked having been destroyed by the brightness of His coming; and (3) they identified the millennium and the period of the investigative judgment. On the second and third points, there were more or less differences in opinion. Mede held that a distinction must be made between the state of the New Jerusalem, and the state of the nations which walk in the light of it. The New Jerusalem is not the whole Church but the metropolis of it. He says "I make this state of the Church to belong to the Second Advent of Christ, or the day of the judgment, when Christ shall appear in the clouds of heaven to destroy all the professed enemies of His Church and kingdom, and deliver the creature from that bondage of corruption brought upon it for the sin of man." Mede also taught that this state is neither before nor after, but is itself the day of judgment; and that the Jews never understood the expression to mean otherwise than a period of many years' continuance. Homes differed from Mede in holding that only the open and obstinate of the ungodly would be destroyed by the conflagration, the rest being reserved out of the fire as "an appendix of the new creation." Burnet taught that all the wicked would perish in the conflagration; while Perry went still farther and denied the existence of either saints or sinners in the flesh during the millennium. Since these writers all maintained that the Church was complete at the time of the Second Advent, their problem was to explain the appearance of the wicked at the close of the millennium. Homes held, that those who escaped the conflagration would be restored in body and soul to the natural perfection which Adam had in the state of innocency, but being mutable, would likewise fall when assaulted by Satan. Burnet was forced to adopt the position of a double race, which he regarded as being very different from each other - the one sons of God by resurrection, the other, sons of the earth generated from the slime of the ground and the heat of the sun. Since Perry maintained that the earth during the millennium would be in the exclusive possession of men in the resurrected state, he resorts to an explanation "which he knows is out of the common road of almost all expositors," that is, that the Gog and Magog who will rise at the end of the thousand years, "will consist of the number of all the wicked when raised out of their graves." These are but a few of the difficulties which arose in connection with this subject, and which formed the basis of further discussion in the next period.
[Mede comments on I Thess. 4:14-18 as follows "After this, our gathering together unto Christ at His coming, we shall henceforth never lose His presence, hut always enjoy it. . . . The saints being translated into the air, is to do honor to their Lord and King at His return . . . .and they may be preserved during the conflagration of the earth, and the works thereof: that as Noah and his family were preserved from the deluge by being lifted up above the waters in the ark, so should the saints at the conflagration be lifted up in the clouds, unto their ark, Christ, to be preserved there from the deluge of fire, wherein the wicked shall be consumed." On 2 Peter 3:8 he says, "But whereas, I mentioned the day of judgment, lest ye might mistake it for a short day, or a day of few hours, I would not, beloved, have you ignorant that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day . . . these words are commonly taken as an argument why God should not be thought slack in His promise, but the first Fathers took it otherwise, and besides it proves it not. For the question is not whether the time be long or short in respect of God, but whether it be long or short in respect of us, otherwise not only a thousand years, hut an hundred thousand years, are in the eyes of God no more than one day is to us, and so it would not seem long to God if the day of judgment should be deferred till then (Cf. Joseph Mede, Works, III, p. 611; IV, p.776).]
[Nathaniel Homes was a Puritan writer of great ability, and a contemporary of Joseph Mede. In his Revelation Revealed he says, "In that new creation Christ restores all things to their perfection, and every believer to his; to the end that all believers may jointly and coordinately rule over the whole world, and all things therein, next under Christ their Head. I say all, and not a part, as some unwarily publish. And I say jointly, and not one part of the saints to usurp authority over all the rest, as many dream. And co-ordinarily, all upon equal terms, not some saints to rule by deputies made of the rest of the saints, as men seem to interpret." Concerning those who are "reserved out of the fire to be an appendix of the new creation, as Lactantius, Sixtus, Senensis, and Dr. Twisse understand," he says that these "by virtue of the Adamic covenant, shall be restored in soul and body to the natural perfection which Adam had in the state of innocency; but being mutable, they shall fall, when in like manner they are assaulted by Satan. Out of these shall spring the brood of Cog and Magog. . . . The Church, being now as heaven on earth, the false-hearted spawn of the future Cog and Magog, shall be remote on earth near their future hell. But if these hypocrites were nearer the Church, might they perhaps be converted? We answer, No; for it is (if we may use the word) the fate of the millenary period, I mean, God's righteous peremptory sentence, that as all that time there shall be no degenerating of believers, so no more regenerating of any believers." - Homes, Revelation Revealed, pp. 279, 282.
Thomas Burnet agreed with both Mede and Homes as to the time of the conflagration and the new heavens and the new earth, and also with the completion of the Church which should reign in a resurrection state on the new earth. "Neither is there any distinction made," he says, "that I find by St. John, of two sorts of saints in the millennium, the one in heaven (in resurrection bodies), the other upon earth (in a mortal state). This is such an idea of the millennium as to my eye hath neither beauty nor foundation in Scripture." He admits the difficulty of accounting for the wicked, who at the close of the millennium, will compass the camp of the saints and the beloved city (Rev. 20:7-9). His own solution is as follows: "It seems probable that there will be a double race of mankind in the future earth, very different from one another, . . . The one born from heaven, sons of Cod and of the resurrection, who are the true saints and heirs of the millennium: the others horn of the earth, sons of the earth, generated from the slime of the ground and heat of the sun, as brute creatures were at the first. This second progeny, or generation of men, in the future earth, I understand to be signified by the prophet under these borrowed or feigned names of Cog and Magog," - Burnet, Theory of the Earth, IV, p. 7.]
[ On the subject of the completion of the Church, Perry states that "It is Certain that when Christ personally comes from heaven will be the time of the open solemnization of the marriage glory between Him and His Spouse; and, if so, then the Bride must be ready against that time, as it is expressed in this text, "And his wife hath made herself ready'; which cannot be if they were not all converted before Christ comes. For this I think is undeniable that by the 'wife,' 'bride' or 'spouse' of Christ, the whole elect must be understood. . . . How can it be thought that Christ when He comes from heaven to celebrate the marriage feast between Himself and His people, that He should have lame and imperfect bride, as she must be, if some should be with Christ, in a perfect and glorified state, and some of His mystical body at the same time in an imperfect and unglorified condition. " - Joseph Perry, The Glory of Christ's Visible Kingdom, pp. 225, 226. Perry also states that "The last restitution, or the restitution of all things, will not be, as I conceive, until Christ's personal coming. As the heaven received Him, so it will retain Him until this time, in which all things shall be restored. . . . When though this restitution of all things takes in the restitution of the creation unto its paradisiacal state; yet it is certain that the bringing in of the elect by regenerating grace, and completing the whole mystical body of Christ, is the principal part of that restitution, they being principally concerned in it, and for whose sake all other creatures are to be restored; all which shows that there will be no conversion when Christ is come" (Ibid, p. 224).
The Modern Period. Beginning with the middle of the eighteenth century, a new period in the history of millennialism was ushered in by the publication of Bengel's Commentary on Revelation (1740), and his Sermons for the People (1748) Attention was soon turned to the question of prophecy, and the study of Revelation became popular in pious churchly circles. The French Revolution at the end of the eighteenth century, gave a fresh impetus to prophetical studies, and premillennialism was adopted by many of great scholastic ability and high standing in the Church. Bengel (1687-1751) it will be recalled, was the originator of the modern Biblical Movement and the author of the Apparatus Criticus (Cf. I, p.90). Dr. Adam Clarke says that "In him were united two rare qualifications - the deepest piety and the most extensive learning"; and Mr. Wesley is thought to have followed him in his interpretation of the Apocalypse. Bengel held a peculiar position concerning the millennium, arguing from Revelation 20: that there is a double millennium, namely, a thousand years' reign on earth, followed by a thousand years' reign in heaven; the first the seventh, and the second the eighth thousand years from creation. He believed that the millennium on earth would be a time of rulers, marriage, agriculture and all the course of life as it is now known. His belief concerning the completeness of the Church, led at length to the adoption of the Bridehood theories, as limitations of this completeness. A distinction is made, therefore, between the "Church as the Bride," and the whole number of the "saved" regarded as outside the bridehood the "Church of the Afterborn" as contrasted with the "Church of the Firstborn." Thus Dr. Bickersteth says that the "Church which is to appear as a complete and corporate body with Christ at His coming, is not all the saved, but only a peculiar portion of them called the "Bride," the Assembly of the Firstborn, the kings and priests unto God, the Holy City; whose blessedness is distinct and peculiar, not holiness and blessedness merely, but these in a peculiar form." This led immediately to the question, Who then constitutes the Bride? Dr. Bickersteth thinks that the Bride consists of all the saints who have believed up to the commencement of the millennium; the Duke of Manchester limits the Bride still further, by excluding from this company all those who lived prior to the ascension; while Mr. Bonar holds that the saints of the millennial age will be the same as all others, except that they will not have shared in the trials of the preceding saints, and therefore will not attain the dignity of the Bridehood, which is reserved exclusively for the tried saints. Here, again, we may say that speculative theories seem eventually to fall of their own weight. These theories, however, led to another type of premillennialism, which holds that the Church is incomplete at the time of the Second Advent, and consequently is followed by the millennium as a further period of salvation.
[ Bengel wrote, "Apart from all the details of chronological computation, we can but think ourselves approaching very near to the termination of a great period; neither can we get rid of the idea, that troublesome times will soon supersede the repose we have so long enjoyed. At the approaching termination of any great and remarkable period, many striking events have been found to take place simultaneously, and many others in quick succession; and this after a course of intermediate ages in which nothing unusual has occurred. - Bengel, Memoirs and Writings, p. 311.
Dr. John Gill (1697-1771) was an English contemporary of Bengel. Concerning the Millennium or Personal Reign of Christ, he says, "I observe that Christ will have a special, peculiar, glorious, and visible kingdom, in which He will reign personally on earth. (I) I call it a special, peculiar kingdom, different from the kingdom of nature, and from His spiritual kingdom. (2) It will be very glorious and visible; hence His appearing and kingdom are put together (2 Tim. 4:1). (3) This kingdom will be, after all the enemies of Christ and His people are removed out of the way. (4) Antichrist will be destroyed; an angel, who is no other than Christ, will then personally descend to bind Satan and all his angels. (5) This kingdom of Christ will be bounded by two resurrections; by the first resurrection, or the resurrection of the just, at which it will begin; and by the second resurrection, or the resurrection of the wicked, at which it will end, or nearly. (6) This kingdom will be before the general judgment, especially of the wicked. John, after he had given an account of the former (Rev. 20), relates a vision of the latter. (7) This glorious, visible kingdom of Christ will be on earth, and not in heaven; and so is distinct from the kingdom of heaven, or ultimate glory."]
[ Dr. Bickersteth says. "The Bride consists of all who have believed Up to the commencement of the millennium. These alone are the mystical body of Christ. . . . But after they are completed, at the Second Advent, the earth will be peopled by nations of the saved, in flesh and blood, friends, companions, servants of the Bridegroom - a totally different party from the glorified Bride." - Bickersteth, The Divine Warning.
According to the Duke of Manchester, "The gifts necessary for the forming of Christ's mystical body were not conferred Until after the ascension of Jesus. . . . We could not, therefore, say with propriety that the Church under the former dispensation was 'Christ. The Bride is the New Jerusalem. . . . Now the great glory of the New Jerusalem is, that it is the abode of Deity. But for the believer to be a habitation of God, is the peculiar glory of the dispensation, founded by the apostles, according to the promise, 'he dwelleth with you and shall be in you.' " - Duke of Manchester, The Finished Mystery, pp. 284-288.
Mr. Bonar differs from both the preceding positions. "All the saints redeemed amid toil and temptation, sorrow and warfare, shall form the Bride at the Lord's coming; and this Bride shall reign with Him a thousand years. Then as the saints who shall people the earth during these thousand years, they are as really saints and as simply dependent on their Head as any one of those already in glory. - A. A. Bonar, Redemption Drawing Nigh, pp. I 24ff.]
In addition to the premillennial development, there arose during this period an opposition movement known as postmillennialism. Daniel Whitby (1638-1726) reverted to the Augustinian view, that the millennium referred to the beginning and progress of the Church between the two Advents. This spiritual progress of the Church he viewed as ending in a final triumph over the world, or a millennial reign of righteousness preceding the Second Coming of Christ to judgment. Whitby is generally regarded, therefore, as the author of the postmillennial theory in modern times - a theory which he himself explained as "A New Hypothesis." He was followed by Vitringa, Faber and David Brown, the latter being especially able in his presentation and defense of the doctrine. These later developments must now be reviewed more fully as Modern Types of Millennial Theory.
We have attempted to trace in a brief way, the history of millennial theory from the patristic age to modern times, and shall conclude this historical survey with a review of some of its more prominent types. These fall into two main groups which may be classified as (1) Literalistic Theories; and (2) Spiritualistic Theories. These can be given only brief mention.
The Literalistic Theories. These include in general, the premillennial theories of every type. As our historical statement has shown, the early church held universally to a belief in the personal return of Christ. This return soon took the form of a personal reign of Christ on earth for a thousand years, or during the millennium, which most writers regard as practically universal to the time of Augustine, when the spiritualistic theories came to the front and chiliasm sank into decline. With the Reformation, the premillennial theories again came to the front, especially during the seventeenth and earlier part of the eighteenth centuries. These theories as we have indicated regarded the Church as complete at the time of the Second Advent, and only later, was the millennium viewed as an extension of the Church age. Many and varied as these theories were, they have in modern times developed into two general types of premillennialism. (1) Those which regarded the Church as complete, and therefore identified in point of time, the Second Advent with its rapture and revelation, the first resurrection, and the conflagration, placing all these events before the millennium, developed into what is known at present as the Adventist Theory. (2) Those which regarded the Church as incomplete at the time of the Second Advent, have separated between the rapture and the revelation on the one hand, and the conflagration on the other, making the millennium to lie between these two terminal points. This we think may properly be termed the Keswick theory, at least, it will be granted that the Keswick people have been enthusiastic in their support of this position. We give now simply a general statement of these positions.]
[ Dr. Daniel Steele in his book entitled, "Antinomianism Revived," deals with what he terms "The Plymouth Eschatology." His discussion is concerned with the eschatology of the Plymouth Brethren, but the theory discussed is the same as that which we have called "The Keswick Theory." That the modern Keswick movement is largely an outgrowth of the earlier Plymouth movement will not be questioned. While Dr. Steele discusses this premillennial position solely from the standpoint of a postmillennialist, his references to the underlying antinomianism are well taken. The repression theory of the millennium is but an extension of the repression theory of sin in the individual heart, a position decidedly in opposition to Wesleyanism. The emphasis upon election at times, as Dr. Steele points out, needs only the doctrine of a limited atonement to make the scheme of Calvinistic antinomianism complete,
1. The Adventist Theory. The theory held by the Adventist people is generally characterized by the following positions. (1) The rapture, the revelation, and the conflagration are all identified in point of time. (2) The wicked are all destroyed at the coming of the Lord (1 Thess. 1:7, 8). (3) The righteous are taken to heaven (John 14:2, 3; 1 Thess. 4:17). (4) The earth is rendered void, an abyss or bottomless pit (Cf. Gen. 1:1 with 2 Peter 3:10). (5) Satan is bound through lack of opportunity to exercise his powers (Rev. 20:1-3). (6) The millennium is in heaven and not on earth. The saints are engaged in the investigative judgment (Rev. 7:9-15; 21:2). (7) The descent of the Holy City to judgment, and the resurrection of the wicked (Rev. 21:2). (8) The apostate nations are the wicked dead resurrected, whom Satan rallies to attack the Holy City. Satan loosed because of opportunity to again deceive the wicked. (9) Satan's host defeated through fire from heaven which sweeps them away to the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 21:11-13). (10) The punishment of the wicked by fire from heaven which destroys sin and annihilates the wicked in the lake of fire, which is the second death (Rev. 20:14, 15). (11) The earth purified and made new through the fire which destroyed it at the Second Coming of Christ (2 Peter 3:12, 13). The righteous saved by being lifted above it. (Cf. Noah and the Ark (1 Peter 3:20, 21). (12) The Eternal State. The new heavens and the new earth become the abode of the saints. These are understood to be the present heavens and earth purified by fire. Here it will be seen that the earlier theories as to the completion of the Church and the identification of the millennium with the day of judgment are continued; but the creation of the new heavens and the new earth are regarded as following, rather than preceding the millennium. It is to be regretted that the Adventist people have attached to this doctrine formerly regarded as orthodox, the untenable and unscriptural doctrine of the annihilation of the wicked.
[ W. W. Spicer in his work entitled, "Our Day in the Light of Prophecy." gives us the following summary of the Adventist position. (I) The Millennium is the closing period of God's great week of time, a great Sabbath of rest to the earth and to the people of God. (2) It follows the close of the Gospel Age, and precedes the setting up of the everlasting kingdom of God on earth. (3) It completes what in the Scriptures is frequently spoken of as the "Day of the Lord." (4) It is bounded at each end by a resurrection. (5) Its beginning is marked by the pouring out of the seven last plagues, the Second Coming of Christ, the resurrection of the righteous dead, the translation of the saints to heaven; and its close by the descent of the New Jerusalem with Christ and the saints from heaven, the resurrection of the wicked dead, the loosing of Satan, and the final destruction of the wicked. (6) During the thousand years the earth lies desolate, Satan and his angels are confined here; and the saints with Christ sit in judgment on the wicked, preparatory to final punishment (Cf. Jer. 4:23-26; Earth desolate). (7) The wicked dead are then raised, Satan is loosed for a little season, and he and the host of the wicked encompass the camp of the saints and the Holy City, when fire comes down out of heaven and devours them. (8) The earth is cleansed by the same fire that destroys the wicked and the earth renewed becomes the eternal abode of the saints. (9) The millennium is one of the ages to come." Its close will mark the beginning of the New Earth State.]
The Keswick Theory. As the Adventist theory is built upon the supposition that the Church is complete at the time of the Second Advent, so the Keswick theory has as its presupposition, the idea of its incompleteness. The former links the millennial reign more closely to the eternal state; the latter regards it as an extension of the Church age. Here again, the variations in matters of detail are exceedingly numerous, but perhaps the best representative of this type of premillenialism is that of Dr. Joseph A. Seiss. This theory which was published in his work entitled The Last Times, and more fully discussed in his later works, is as follows: (1) Christ Jesus, our adorable Redeemer, is to return to this world in great power and glory, as really and as literally as He ascended from it. (2) This Advent of the Messiah will occur before the general conversion of the world, while the man of sin continues his abominations, while the earth is yet full of tyranny, war, infidelity and blasphemy, and consequently before what is called the millennium. (3) This coming of the Lord will not be to depopulate and annihilate the earth, but to judge, subdue, renew, and bless it. (4) In the period of His coming He will raise the holy from among the dead, transform the living that are waiting for Him, judge them according to their works, receive them up to Himself in the clouds, and establish them in a glorious heavenly kingdom. (5) Christ will then also break down and destroy all present systems of government in church and state, burn up the great centers and powers of wickedness and usurpation, shake the whole earth with terrific visitations for its sins, and subdue it to His own personal and eternal rule. (6) During these great and destructive commotions the Jewish race shall be marvelously restored to the land of their fathers, brought to embrace Jesus as their Messiah and King, delivered from their enemies, placed at the head of the nations, and made the agents of unspeakable blessings to the world. (7) Christ will then re-establish the throne of His father David, exalt it with the heavenly glory, make Mount Zion the seat of His divine empire, and with the glorified saints associated with Him in His dominion reign over the house of Jacob and over the world in a visible, sublime, and heavenly Christocracy for the period of a "thousand years." (8) During the millennial reign in which mankind is brought under a new dispensation, Satan is to be bound and the world enjoy its long expected Sabbatic rest. (9) At the end of this millennial Sabbath the last rebellion shall be quashed, the wicked dead, who shall continue in Hades until that time, shall be raised and judged, and Satan, Death, Hades, and all antagonism to good, delivered over to eternal destruction. (10) Under these wonderful administrations, the earth is to be entirely recovered from the effects of the fall, the excellence of God's righteous providence vindicated, the whole curse repealed, death swallowed up, and all the inhabitants of the world thenceforward forever restored to more than full happiness, purity and glory which Adam forfeited in Eden.
The objection urged against this type of premillennialism, centers largely in its emphasis upon a continuance of the work of salvation during the millennium. The ground of this objection is found in those scriptures which seem to indicate that when Christ comes the Intercession will cease and the Judgment begin. It is in this work of the Intercession that the merit of Christ's death and the might of His Spirit find their logical connection, and by means of which the one passes into the other. The continuous Intercession makes possible the acknowledgment of Christ's right to receive and dispense the Spirit, without which salvation is admittedly impossible. This is the whole tenor of the New Testament, the deep undertone of the work of redemption. The force of this argument will be clearly seen by those who care to consider those Scriptures which bear upon the relation of the Spirit to Christ, such as, I will pray the Father, and he shalt give you another Comforter (John 14:16); when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father (John 15:26); Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he has shed forth this, which ye now see and hear (Acts 2:33); he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour (Titus 3:5, 6), and many others. But the scriptures which bear more directly and specifically upon the intercessory work of Christ are found in Hebrews 7:25 and 9:12, 24-28. In the latter text three things are mentioned, each of which is termed an appearance, and to which the word "once" is attached either directly or indirectly. These are the incarnation, or the First Advent; the intercession, and the Second Advent. Once in the end of the world hath he appeared [pefanerwtai] to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. By his own blood he entered in once into the holy place . . . not into the holy places made with hands but into heaven itself, now to appear [emfanisqhntai] in the presence of God for us: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear [ofqhsetai] the second time without sin unto salvation. This last statement according to Dr. Pope means that He shall appear "without any redeeming relation to the sin which He will still find, and for the complete and bodily salvation of those whom He has already saved in spirit (POPE, Compend. Chr. Th., III, p. 389). So also, Dr. David Brown in commenting on this text says, "When the Advent arrives, the intercession is done; and when the intercession is done, salvation is done. When Christ appears the second time to us, He will cease to appear in the presence of God for us (Brown, Christ's Second Coming, p. 112). The argument against the continuance of salvation after the Second Coming of Christ, is not only urged against this type of premillennialism by the postmillennialists, but also by the premillennialists of the earlier type.
[ The Keswick theory holds that the work of salvation will continue throughout the millennium. Dr. Seiss further says, "I therefore hold it to be a necessary and integral part of the scriptural doctrine of salvation, that our race, as a self-multiplying order of beings, will never cease either to exist or to possess the earth." And again, "The earth, and generations and nations of earth, notwithstanding the momentous changes that are to happen, will extend through and beyond the thousand years, if not in some sort forever" (Seiss, Millennialism and the Second Advent). He holds, further, that these nations will exist in their present state as far as their mortality and inward depravity are concerned, hut that there shall be established a new form of administration in which outward obedience shall be made compulsory. He says, "the so-called Millennium brings with it an altogether different dispensation from that under which we live. . . . The great work and office of the Church now is to preach the gospel to every creature, and to witness for Christ to an adverse and gainsaying world: but there is not one word said about any such office in mortal hands during all that long period. In its stead, however, there is to be a shepherdizing of the nations with a rod of iron, an authoritative and invincible administration of right and justice on the part of immortal king-priests, and a potent disciplining of men and nations far beyond anything which the mere preaching of the gospel has ever wrought or was ever intended to do for earthly society..... Now we can only beseech men in Christ's stead to be reconciled to God; then they will be compelled to take the instructions given them, to serve with fear and rejoice with trembling. to kiss, give the required adoration to the Son or perish from the way (Psalm 2:10-12). Now it is left to men's option to serve God or not, with nothing to interfere with their choice but the judgment to come; then they will be obliged to accept and obey His laws, or be smitten and blasted on the spot (Cf. Seiss, Lectures on the Apocalypse. III, pp. 346, 347). The discerning reader will hardly fail to see here the Keswick teaching of the repression of inbred sin in the individual heart, extended to the millennial reign in its external aspects. Those who hold that sin in the heart is not merely to be repressed but purged out, find it difficult to accept this external and repressive type of a millennial reign. If the carnal mind is not subject to the law of God now, how can it be during the millennium. This is one of the perplexing problems which attach to this form of millennialism.]
[ It is common for the advocates of this type of millennialism, to ground their objections to postmillennialism on the basis of the parable of the Tares and the Wheat. We may cite the following paragraph from Rev. A. Sims as an illustration. He says, "The current theory (referring to postmillennialism) is opposed to the spirit and teaching of the parable of the Wheat and the Tares. These are not to be separated, but are to grow together till the harvest, or the end of the age, when Christ shall come in judgment. But how can the growth of evil alongside the growth of good continue till the close of the dispensation if all are to be saved and a thousand years of righteousness are to take place before the Second Coming of Christ? The prevailing view of the millennium thus teaches that the wheat and the tares shall not grow together till the harvest, but that the tares shall all be converted into wheat, and It also puts off the Second Coming of Christ for a thousand years" (Sims, Deepening Shadows and Coming Glories, p. 19 I). Here the writer objects to postmillennialism on the ground that it teaches a reign of absolute righteousness previous to the coming of Christ a reign in which all the tares shall be converted into wheat. If postmillennialists believed this, it would be a strong argument against them; that they do not, is evident from a careful perusal of their writings. But the argument is reactionary. The plain inference is, that the millennium which follows the coming of Christ will not be a mixed reign in which sinners and the righteous shall dwell together; but the tares having been destroyed, the people shall be all righteous. If this be not the inference, then there is no point to the argument against the postmillennialists. But does this type of millennialism thus teach? It most certainly does not. It holds that the work of salvation during the millennium will continue as before, and that there shall still exist an admixture of the wicked and the righteous, the tares and the wheat.]
[ Dr. Pope in commenting on Hebrews 9:12, 24-28 says, "This is a cardinal text, and the variation in the phraseology, chosen with great precision, must be observed. In this verse the word is ofqhsetai (Heb. 9:28, appear the second time), while in another which 8ays that 'He appeared to put away sin' it was pefanerwtai, his manifestation between these two, 'now to appear in the presence of God for us,' is emfanisqhntai. The first is the most visible exhibition of Himself as King, in the judicial form of His kingly office. He vindicates His atonement as against all who have despised it. Sin will be finally punished as the rejection of Himself and His redemption. "The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ': upon all hearers of that gospel who shall then be found without evangelical knowledge of God. - Pope, Compend. Chr. Th., III. p.390.
Mr. Barker in his comment on Hebrews 7:25 says, "It is absolutely necessary to remember that the word 'ever' signifies continuity, not eternity of action; for the office of Christ as our Intercessor will have its close when He has brought all His people with Him." - Barker, Hope of the Apostolic Church, p. 184.
The Duke of Manchester, an ardent premillennialist, takes the same position. He says, "When Messiah shall leave the 'Holy of Holies' where He has now entered, to 'appear in the presence of God for us' - intercession, which is peculiar to his being in the Holy of Holies, shall have ceased. . . . Coincident with this, upon resigning the kingdom (that in which He now reigns, hut which He will resign at the millennium), to the Father, He will leave 'the throne of grace,' on which He shall reign until the effectual application, by the Holy Ghost, of all His work toward 'the restitution of all things.' " - Duke of Manchester Horae Hebraicae, p. 90.]
[Joseph Perry, a strong advocate of the earlier type of premillennialism, rejects the idea of a continuance of salvation after the Second Advent, believing the Church to be complete previous to that time. He says, "There are some things that these last do hold, that I cannot by any means assent to; and that is, when Christ shall be established upon the throne of His glory, in His kingdom, and all the saints with Him, in a perfect, incorruptible state of immortality, that then there shall be the preaching of the gospel, and conversion work go forward among the multitude of the nations that shall be found living when Christ cometh, according to the opinion of some good men. I say this is that which I cannot fall in with, but must profess my dislike against, because I cannot believe that the Lord Jesus Christ will come down from heaven, and leave that great work of intercession now at God's right hand, until the whole number of God's elect among the Jews and Gentiles are converted, and the mystical body of Christ completed. And if so, where is there any room for conversion work to go on after this?" - Perry, Glory of Christ's Visible Kingdom.
Thomas Burnet declared that we can 'as well open a lock without a key as interpret the Apocalypse without the Millennium." He identified the millennium with the period of the new heavens and the new earth, and therefore a period of unmixed righteousness. This he said, was the doctrine of all the ancient millennaries, and we ought to be careful and locate it thus." He contends that the New Jerusalem state is the same as the millennial state, and is ushered in by the seventh trumpet and the judgment; and that during the millennium there will be a lustral appearance of Christ and the Shekinah. He affirms that placing the millennium in this earth before the renovation, was what brought the doctrine anciently into discredit and decay (Cf. Taylor, The Reign of Christ on Earth, p. 214).
The following analysis of Augustine's position is arranged from Elliott's abstract of the "City of God," and is quoted in Silver's work entitled, "The Lord's Return." (a) The first resurrection is the rising of dead souls into spiritual life, beginning with the ministry of Christ, from which the millennium dates. (b) The devil, the strong man armed, is bound and expelled from the hearts of the disciples of Christ. (c) The reign of saints is their personal victory over sin and the devil. Satan no longer deceives. (d) The 'beast' is the wicked world; his 'image' is hypocrisy. (e) The millennium will end in 650 A.D., terminating the six thousandth year period and introducing the rise of the Antichrist.]
The Spiritualistic Theories. These theories are more abstract in nature, and while they date back to an earlier period, came into special prominence at the time of Augustine. Reacting from his earlier chiliastic views, Augustine taught that the reign of Christ referred to the Church age, and embraced the whole period of time between the First Advent and the Second. He also taught that the millennium was the sixth period of one thousand years in the world's history. However, the Church rejected this theory, and held that the millennium was to be identified with the whole gospel dispensation. The number they held to be purely symbolical, and as signifying a totality, rather than a definite period of time. From this impetus given to the spiritualistic phase of the millennium, two types of theory have developed - the Roman Catholic, and the modern Postmillennial Theory.
1. The Roman Catholic Theory. The theory held by the Church is essentially that of Augustine, with this exception, they reject his position of the thousand years, and hold rather to his primary statement, that the millennium is identical with the reign of the Church on earth, and is to be followed by the judgment. Dr. Wilmers, S.J., in his Handbook of the Christian Religion states that "Christ shall come again to judge the living and the dead; and this general judgment will close the present order of things. No one can with certainty foretell the day of judgment. But we know that it will not come until certain signs and prophecies have been fulfilled. The gospel shall be preached over the whole world (Matt. 24:14); there will be a great apostasy in the Church (2 Thess. 2:3); a great decadence in Christian life, great corruption of morals, manifesting itself in luxury and sensuality (Luke 17:26-30); finally, Antichrist shall appear (2 Thess. 2:3, 4). The last day shall be preceded by war, pestilence, and famine (Matt. 24. 4, 5); and by diverse signs and catastrophes (Matt. 24:20; Luke 21:25, 26). The day of judgment will close the present order of things. The time of probation will have passed, and there will remain only two classes - the blessed in heaven, and the reprobate in hell. . . . At the last judgment the whole visible world shall be changed (2 Peter 2:11-14). That is to say, after the complete victory over sin, the earth, which till then shall be under the curse of sin, and the visible universe, shall be made to harmonize with the glorious existence of the risen man. Even now, according to the apostle, nature sighs for the day of deliverance (Rom. 8:19)."
The Post-millennial Theory. This theory is so-called because it regards the Second Advent as following, rather than preceding the millennium. As to the personal, visible return of our Lord, postmillennialists hold this belief as firmly, and cherish it as highly as do the premillennialists. The difference in the theories concerns only the order of events which attach to the Second Advent. Modern postmillennialism is generally attributed to Daniel Whitby (1638-1726), and as revived by him, is essentially a return to the Augustinian position. However, instead of adopting the modified Augustinianism which regards the millennium as being in the past; or identifying it with the entire Church age, as does Roman Catholicism, he regarded the millennium as a reign of righteousness in the future. His doctrine appears to be only a restatement of what Dr. Charles Hodge calls, "the common doctrine of the Church" as expressed in the Reformed Confessions, with particular emphasis upon the final triumph. Dr. Elliott sums up the position of Daniel Whitby as follows: (1) The first resurrection is a revival of the cause, principles, doctrines, character and spirit of the early martyrs and saints. It is ecclesiastical, spiritual, national. (2) It lies in the future. The millennium will be preceded by triumph over the Antichrist. (3) Satan no longer deceives; the doctrines of the martyrs and their spirit is revived like that of Elias in John the Baptist. (4) The Church will flourish and holiness will triumph for a thousand years. The world will enjoy paradisiacal blessedness while martyrs and saints in heaven will sympathize with its joy. The triumph on earth will be universal.
[Dr. Charles Hodge presents this doctrine as follows: "The Common church doctrine is, first, that there is to be a second, personal, visible and glorious Advent of the Son of God. Secondly, the events which are to precede that Advent are: (I) The universal diffusion of the gospel; or, as our Lord expresses it, the ingathering of the elect; this is the vocation of the Christian Church. (2) The conversion of the Jews, which is to be national. As their casting away was national, although a remnant was saved; so their conversion may be national, although some may remain obdurate. (3) The coming of Antichrist. Thirdly, that the events which are to attend the Second Advent are: (I) The resurrection of the deed, of the just and the unjust. (2) The general judgment. (3) The end of the world. And (4) The consummation of Christ's kingdom." - Hodge, Systematic Theology, III, p. 792.
The Arminian theologians have almost without exception, been the exponents of the postmillennial theory. Here may be mentioned Richard Watson as the earliest Methodist theologian, Pope. Raymond, Wakefield, Miley, Summers, and Field. Among the Calvinistic or Reformed theologians, we may mention in addition to Charles Hodge, A. A. Hodge, Strong, Shedd and Boyce. Some of these. however give little attention to the subject in their theological treatises.
Dr. Pope says, "No church having incorporated the doctrine (premillennialism) into its profession of faith, it has been in modern times confined to schools of thought within the several communions. influenced, for the most part, and led by individual students of prophecy. . . . This belief has, during the present century, been incorporated into many systems, being almost the leading characteristic of some. Still it is generally speaking held only by individuals and private schools of interpretation: inconsistently by divines of the Lutheran, Anglican, Westminster, and some other Confessions; consistently by those alone who in other respects deny the analogy of the faith as expressed in the ancient creeds and the formularies of the Reformation and the general consent of the Catholic Church, being limited by no Confession. - Pope, Compend. Chr. Th., III, pp. 397, 398.
Dr. I. A. Dorner and Bishop Martensen emphasize the importance of the Second Advent, and in some sense may be regarded as premillennialists, although their teachings more nearly approach in many instances, the postmillennial theory - or to them, the common teachings of the Confessions.]
[ Dr. Van Oosterzee among the Dutch theologians holds to the premillennial theory. He says, "The term millennial kingdom has in many an ear so unpleasant a sound that, even from the believing standpoint. some courage is required to range oneself among the defenders of Chiliasm. If we do so, nevertheless, in obedience to faith in the Word, without which we know nothing of the future, we must begin with repudiating the Jewish form, in which this prospect is represented by some, in a manner which furnished a ready occasion to the Reformers to speak of 'Judaica somnia.' For us also is the hope here treated of 'a real pearl of Christian truth and knowledge'; but it is so only after we have separated the pearl from the variegated shell, in which it is so often profered us. - Van Oosterzee, Christian Dogmatics, 11, p. 799.
The postmillennial position is ably stated by Dr. Beckwith in his article on the Millennium in the new Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge.
1. Through Christian agencies the gospel gradually permeates the entire world and becomes immeasurably more effective than at present.
2. This condition thus reached will continue for a thousand years.
3. The Jews will be converted, either at the beginning or some time during this period.
4. Following this will be a brief apostasy and terrible conflict of Christian and evil forces.
5. Finally and simultaneously there will occur the Advent of Christ, general resurrection, judgment, the old world destroyed by fire, the new heavens and the new earth will be revealed.
It is well known that John Wesley followed Bengel in his interpretation of the Apocalypse. Dr. Owen also holds this view. They assert that there are two distinct periods of a thousand years spoken of in Rev. 20:1-7, and Dr. Steele remarks that the Greek article sustains this view. The first period is that during which Satan is bound for a thousand years, which as Bengel states, indicates the great period of prosperity in the Church. The second is that of the martyrs who lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. Concerning this last, Bengel says, Whilst Satan is loosed from his imprisonment of a thousand years, the martyrs live and reign, not on the earth, but with Christ: then the coming of Christ in glory at length takes place at the last day; then, next, there is the new heaven, the new earth, and the new Jerusalem." He further states that "the confounding of the two millennial periods has long ago produced many errors, and has made the name of Chiliasm hateful and suspected." Dr. Daniel Steele in commenting on the above positions says, "Thus Bengel and Wesley, instead of being premillenarians, were, in fact, what most modern Methodists are, post. millenarians." - Steele, Antinomianism Revived, p. 241.]
"The term millennium," says Dr. Raymond, "long since came to be used in a generic sense, to signify the time when the kingdom of Christ on earth should be in the ascendant, should be in its highest power, exaltation and glory. All Christians now speak of a millennium in which they believe; all look forward to a time when the kingdom of Christ shall be perfected, shall be in completeness, when the highest earthly purposes contemplated in the gospel dispensation shall be accomplished. All believe in a millennium, though there is now, as there always has been, great diversity of opinion as to what will be the precise state of things when the millennium shall have fully come" (RAYMOND, Systematic Theology, II, p.472). As to the nature of the millennium as held by postmillennialists, we may likewise look to Dr. Raymond for a typical example of this teaching. "To our thought," he says, "the idea of a millennium is the idea of a complete success, as to the Church as now constituted, and as to the enterprises of the Church now in operation, when that time has fully come, there will be but one religion, and that the Christian religion, upon the whole surface of the globe; all will have adequate educational and religious privileges; the mass of mankind will have attained a commendable moral character; the pious will be more eminently pious than were their ancestors; universal peace and general prosperity will prevail over all the earth; but some will refuse to obey, will persist in rebellion, and men who are the enemies of God and holiness will be found on earth when the Lord comes to raise the dead and judge the world" (RAYMOND, Systematic Theology, II, pp. 493, 494).
[ Dr. Raymond also says, "Will all the inhabitants of the earth be true Christians in the time of the millennium? We think not; for to suppose they will be is to suppose that probation has ceased, and that men on earth have attained to the condition of their heavenly state. To affirm the certain salvation of a class requires the assumption of an agency which will secure results; such an assumption is the contrary of contingency. If the salvation of all living at any given time be certainly secured, their salvation is not a contingency; they are not probationers. The true millennium is gospel success; the gospel is preached unto moral agents, capable of accepting or rejecting. . . . By what means are we to expect that the millennium will be ushered in? We have assumed that the present is the last time; the last dispensation of grace and probation provided for men; that Christ's coming is at the end of the world; that the resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust, will be at the coming of Christ, the resurrection of the unjust in immediate succession after that of the just. This assumption is equivalent to an affirmation that the means of gospel success are the same as those now in operation, and that have been in operation from the beginning. changed only in that they shall be greatly increased in number and efficiency. - Raymond, Systematic Theology, II. pp. 490-492.
From what has been said, it must be evident, even to the casual reader, that premillennialism and postmillennialism represent opposite extremes of thought, and a totally different method of approach. One can sense the difference in the feeling tone. The millennium as postmillennialists conceive it, is the flowering age of the Church - a time in which righteousness shall reign and peace spread throughout the world. This condition will be brought about by the present means of evangelism, to which will be added, "the binding of Satan," or the restraining judgments of God. While the righteous are in the ascendancy, the millennium is, nevertheless, a mixed condition of saints and sinners - all in the flesh. Post-millennialists do not, therefore, regard the millennium as an absolute reign of righteousness, as some premillennialists argue; and furthermore, the inconsistency of the argument by those premillennialists who likewise regard the millennium as a mixed reign, must be evident to all.
What may be said to be the scriptural basis upon which this superstructure of postmillennialism rests? It is built upon two assumptions: (1) the spiritual nature of the first resurrection; and (2) the spiritual character of the reign of Christ during the millennium.
Post-millennialists generally, though not universally, maintain that the first resurrection is purely spiritual, and that the second only, is bodily and literal. This argument for the two types of resurrection is drawn from the words of our Lord found in John 5:24, 25 and 5:28, 29, Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath evertasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live (John 5:24, 25). There can be no doubt that our Lord refers here to a spiritual resurrection, and that St. Paul also, uses the same figure in his epistles. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation (John 5:28, 29). This refers, of course, to a bodily or physical resurrection. In commenting on these scriptures Dr. Pope says, "Now we have seen that our Lord expressly speaks in one and the same discourse of a first resurrection, understood spiritually, and of a second resurrection understood physically. If we apply the same principle here, this much contested symbolical prophecy (Rev. 20:1-9) is made perfectly harmonious with the rest of Scripture, and the most substantial ground of the premillennial Advent is taken away (POPE, Compend. Chr. Th., III, p. 898).
[ Dr. David Brown, a postmillennial writer of note says, "On opening your hooks (referring to Mr. Bickersteth's Guide") we find you making the millennium the same Christian state that we expect it to be. The Jews you say, looking on their pierced Savior will repent and believe, and be the missionary instruments of the Gentiles' conversion; and you speak of the spiritual blessedness of that period when 'the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea,' when 'the kingdom and dominion under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High.' when 'men shall be blessed in Christ [with salvation of course], and all nations shall call him blessed. Here, then, is the inextricable difficulty into which your system shuts you up; and yet you are either unaware of it, or will not face it. You expatiate with equal confidence upon two things, the one of which is destructive of the other. You rejoice that Christ will bring all His people with Him, before the millennium. You no less rejoice in the prospect of a world peopled with believing men for a thousand years after His coming!" - David Brown, Christ's Second Coming, p. 78
Dr. Daniel Steele makes the following statements concerning the views of John Wesley: "Wesley, in his 'Notes on the New Testament. followed Bengel largely but definitely on the nearness of the binding of Satan and the millennium; also in the opinion that Rev. 20:1-l1 included two thousand years, the first of which Satan will be bound and the Church and the world will have 'immunity from all evils and an affluence of all blessings' - the millennium. During the second thousand years Satan will be loosed, and 'while the saints reign with Christ in heaven, men on earth will be careless and secure.' After this second thousand years, according to Mr. Wesley, the Second Advent will occur. His words are unequivocal and decisive: 'Quickly he [Satan] will be bound; when he is loosed the martyrs will live and reign with Christ, Then follows His coming in glory,' (Notes on Rev. 20:1-1l) So, in his sermon on 'The Great Assize,' Wesley distinctly places the Second Advent at the judgment (Rev. 20:11.15), which the apostle says and all admit is after the millennium. These facts show conclusively that Wesley placed the Second Advent after the millennium. And in this parted from Bengel, if, as alleged, he placed the Advent before the millennium." - Steele, Antinomianism Revived, pp. 273, 274.]
2. Post-millennialists uniformly regard the reign of Christ during the millennium as purely spiritual., Consequently they generally view the apocalyptic statement (Rev. 20:1-11) as purely symbolical or figurative. In a reference to premillennialism, Dr. Miley says, "The chief reliance of the theory is upon a single passage of scripture (Rev. 20:1-6). This may be said, first, that the passage contains not a word respecting any Advent of Christ, nor a word respecting His reigning personally on the earth. Further, it is in a highly figurative or symbolical book, and is itself highly symbolical. Consequently the construction of a theory of the Advent on such ground is without the warrant of any principle of doctrinal formation, and the more certainly so as there are many explicit texts on that subject" (MILEY, Systematic Theology, II, p. 442). The various attitudes which postmillennialists take toward the statement in the Apocalypse, and the different construction which they put upon it, must be reserved for the appended notes.
[ Dr. Raymond in his objections to premillennialism says, "The theory has no support but in a literal interpretation of the twentieth chapter of Revelation. If that chapter contained all the information we have on the subject, we might be compelled to concede that postmillenarianism is the eschatology of the Bible, but the Book of Revelation is confessedly highly figurative and symbolic, and its interpretation extremely difficult. It is an accepted rule of exegesis that the obscure is to be explained by the perspicuous, the figurative by the literal, and not the reverse. - Raymond. Systematic Theology, II, p. 478.
Here a difference emerges between the Revelation and the other New Testament writings. Whereas, the latter join the judgment and the consummation of the world to Christ's Second Advent. the Revelation interposes another phase. It makes a thousand years' reign of the rule of Christ fall into this earthly world period, and before the final decisive struggle and the victory of Christ. But the meaning of the passage is disputed. According to one interpretation, the martyrs and saints will he previously raised to life in a first resurrection with glorified bodies. According to others, their resurrection only means endowment with power in order to their reigning with Christ. It is further disputed, whether according to the Revelation Christ will he visible upon earth during the millennium, or will come again at the millennium only in the sense of the triumphant and glorious manifestation of the power of the gospel, upon which depends the other question, whether the joint reigning of the saints with Christ will take place invisibly and therefore spiritually in heaven, the earth remaining the old earth, or upon earth. After the millennium the Revelation makes Satan to he loosed once more for a short time, and Cog and Magog to march against the Holy City, in which representation the earthly relations in the millennium are viewed as essentially the same as the old ones. But this being so, it is improbable that the author is thinking of a visible government of Christ with saints raised in glorified bodies on the old earth. Neither Christ's visible return, nor a glorifying and transforming of the world, is promised in the Apocalypse for the thousand years' kingdom. The only characteristic of Christ's Second Advent mentioned with certainty is the joint reigning of the saints with Christ upon thrones and the temporary binding of Satan's authority, which latter may just as well take place on the outwardly unchanged earth as the time of the unchaining of his power. Only after the last conflict with the antichristian powers do the final judgment and the manifestation of Christ in glory follow (Rev. 20:1 0ff), with the account of the new heaven and new earth, with which cosmical changes the general resurrection is connected (Rev. 20:11 - 15, 2 1:1; Cf. 2 Peter 3:13). - Dorner, System of Christian Doctrine, IV, pp. 389, 390.
RICHARD WATSON'S STATEMENT OF POST-MILLENNIALISM
The following statement in regard to the millennium, and the blessings which shall be more particularly enjoyed during that period as marked out by prophecy, is from the writings of Richard Watson, the earlier theologian of Methodism. The article in its entirety can be found in Watson's Dictionary, Article, "Millennium."
1. It is expressly said of those who shall partake of the first resurrection, that they shall be "blessed and holy"; by which the inspired writer seems to denote that it will be a time of eminent holiness. This will constitute the peculiar glory and the source of the happiness of the millennial state (Zech. 14:20, 21).
2. There is reason to expect a remarkable effusion of the Spirit, about the commencement of this happy period, even as there was at the first setting up of Christ's kingdom in the world. Besides the promises of the Spirit, which were accomplished in the apostolic age. there are others which from the connection appear to refer to the time we are now speaking of. Thus Isaiah, after having described Christ's kingdom which was set up at His First Coming, and then the succeeding desolate state of the Jews, represents this as continuing "until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest" (Isaiah 32:15-19). (Cf. also Rom. 11:26, 27 and Isaiah 59:20:21. Ezekiel 36:27; 39:28, 29; Zech. 12:10)
3. A universal spread of the gospel, diffusing the knowledge of the Lord throughout the world in a more extensive and effectual manner than ever it was before. This is repeatedly promised: "The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea ; and this shall take place in that day when the Gentiles shall seek to the branch of the root of Jesse, whose rest shall he glorious, and when "the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, . . and he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth" (Isaiah II:9-12). The same promise of the universal knowledge of the glory of the Lord is repeated in the prophecy of Habakkuk 2:1 4. This will he attended with corresponding effects: "All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee" (Psalm 22:27); "yea, all kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall serve him," (Psalm 72:11) - And although we may not imagine that all the inhabitants of the globe will have the true and saving knowledge of the Lord; yet we may expect such a universal spread of light and religious knowledge as shall root up pagan. Mohammedan, and the antichristian delusions, and pro. duce many good effects upon those who are not really regenerated, by awing their minds, taming their ferocity, improving their morals, and making them peaceable and humane.
4. The Jews will then be converted to the faith of the Messiah, and partake with the Gentiles of the blessings of His kingdom. The Apostle Paul (Rom. II) treats of this at large and confirms it from the prophecies of the Old Testament. He is speaking of Israel in a IiteraJ sense, the natural posterity of Abraham; for he distinguishes them both from the believing Gentiles and the Jewish converts of his time, and describes them as the rest who were blinded, had stumbled and fallen, and so had not obtained, but were broken off and cast away (Rom. 11:7, II, 12. 15, 17). Yet he denies that they have stumbled that they should fall, that is, irrecoverably, so as in no future period to be restored; but shows that through their fall, salvation might come to the Gentiles, and that this again might provoke them to jealously or emulation (v.11). He argues that if their fall and diminishing was the riches of the Gentiles, and the casting away of them was the reconciling of the world, their fullness will be much more so, and the receiving of them be life from the dead (vs. 12, 15). He further argues, that if the Gentiles "were grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree, how much more shall these which be the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?" (v.24). Nor did he consider this event as merely probable, but as absolutely certain; for he shows that the present blindness and future conversion of that people is the mystery or hidden sense of prophecies concerning them; and he cites two of these prophecies where the context foretells both their rejection and recovery (Isaiah 59:20, 21; 27:9).
5. The purity of visible church communion, worship and discipline, will then be restored according to the primitive apostolic pattern. During the reign of Antichrist a corrupted form of Christianity was drawn over the nations, and established in the political constitutions of the kingdoms which were subject to that monstrous power. By this means the children of God were either mixed in visible religious communion with the profane world, in direct opposition to the Word of God, or persecuted for their nonconformity. In reference to this state of things, the angel commands St. John to leave out the court which is without the temple, and not to measure it, for this reason, because "it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months" (Rev. 11:2); that is, they shall pollute and pro. fane the worship and communion of the Church during the one thousand two hundred and sixty years of Antichrist's reign, so that it cannot be measured by the rule of God's Word. But when the period we are speaking of shall arrive, the sanctuary shall be cleansed (Daniel 8:14); the visible communion, worship, order and discipline of the house of God will then be restored to their primitive purity, and accord with the rule of the New Testament.
6. The Lord's special presence and residence will then be in the midst of His people. . . . He also calls them to purity of communion and personal holiness, and promises to dwell in them anel walk in them (2 Cor. 6:16, 17); but this will be fulfilled in an eminent and remarkable manner during the millennial period. The Lord, having promised to raise Israel out of their graves, to gather them from among the heathen, and bring them into the Church and kingdom o Christ, as one fold having one shepherd. adds, "And will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore; my tabernacle also shall be with them; yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people" (Ezek. 37:11-27). . . . It is intimated that there will be such visible tokens of the divine presence and residence among them as will fall under the notice of the world, and produce conviction and awe, as was in some measure the case in the first churches (Acts. 2:47; 5:1 I, I 3; I Cor. 24:25). . . . Indeed this is represented by St. John as accomplished: "And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God" (Rev. 21:3).
7. This will be a time of universal peace, tranquillity and safety. Persons naturally of the most savage, ferocious and cruel disposition will then be tame and harmless; so it is promised in Isaiah 11:6-I 0. Whether we consider the persons represented by these hurtful animals to be converted or not, it is certain they will then be effectually restrained from doing harm, or persecuting the saints. There shall be no war or bloodshed among the nations during this happy period; for we are told, that in the last days, when the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it; the Lord "shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more' (Isaiah 2:4). Though war has hitherto deluged the world with human blood, and been a source of complicated calamities to mankind, yet, when Satan is bound, his influence upon wicked men restrained, and the saints bear rule, it must necessarily cease.
8. The civil rulers and judges shall then be all maintainers of peace and righteousness. Though Christ will put down all that rule, power and authority which opposes the peace and prosperity of His kingdom; yet as rulers are the ordinance of God, and His ministers for good; some form of government seems absolutely necessary to the order and happiness of society in this world; it is thought that when the kingdoms of this world are become our Lord's and his Christ's, the promise will be accomplished, "I will also make thy officers peace, and thine exactors righteousness"; and in consequence of this, "violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders (Isaiah 60:17, 18).
9. The saints shall then have the dominion, and the wicked shall be in subjection. This is clear from the united voice of prophecy: "The kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High" (Daniel 7:27, 28; Matt. 5:5; Rev. 5:10; 20:4). With regard to the nature of this reign, it will undoubtedly correspond in all respects with the spiritual and heavenly nature of Christ's kingdom, to the promotion of which all their power will be subservient.]
In reviewing the historical development of the various millennial theories, we have had a twofold purpose: (1) to furnish factual information pertaining to this important subject; and (2) to enable the student through the perspective of history, to attempt an evaluation of the several theories. The amount and variety of the material submitted may seem confusing, but it must be borne in mind that the literature on this subject is enormous. However this confusion will prove to be a blessing to the reader if it serves to guard him against the short and easy methods proposed by those who in overconfidence and self-assertiveness declare to the well-read and informed that they have not as yet seen the problems, much less solved them. In our own thinking, we have come to view the millennium as a transitional period between the present temporal order, and the eternal order that shall be. We view this transition, as we shall later show, after the analogy of the First Advent and the earthly life of Christ. During this time the older dispensation was brought to a close and the new inaugurated - the one in some measure overlapping the other. We are indebted, first of all, to Dr. Gerhart for the seed thought of this position, which he has set forth in such an able manner in his Institutes qf the Christian Religion. Then again, we acknowledge our indebtedness to Dr. J. A. Dorner and Bishop Martensen for the cosmological viewpoint which has shown us the necessity of a perfect fulfillment of the purposes of God - not only for the individual but for the social structure and its physical environment as well. If man is first redeemed from sin, and possesses this treasure in earthen vessels which later through death and the resurrection are to become immortal, incorruptible and glorious, why may not this earth out of which man's body was formed, likewise pass through a state of dissolution and emerge as the new heavens and the new earth? Lastly, we are indebted to the Dutch theologian, Dr. Van Oosterzee, himself a pronounced premillennialist, for a scholarly confirmation of this transitional theory of the millennium. He says, "Altogether there lies over this part of the expectation of the future a transparent cloud, which makes it impossible here to define more particularly; the millennium is a period of transition. The longest night is over, but still the full day has not yet come. Instinctively we think of the forty days between the resurrection and the ascension of Christ; His Church also has now its Calvary behind it, and its Olivet immediately before it, without having yet ascended this latter. Its enemies are driven back, but not yet destroyed. It is evident that the kingdom of darkness cannot rest 'until it has made trial of a gigantic concentration of its remaining forces: to this the prophetic word points; but the unintelligent mode of interpretation which would read, as it were 'between the lines' the names of the nations here intended, is not and cannot be ours" (Van Oosterzee, Christian Dogmatics, II, p. 800).
[ On the Lord's return an earthly glorification is also to be expected by His faithful Church, a glorification which js the worthy manifestation of its inner development. Without yet heing wholly overcome, the antichristian power is hound for a certain time; until a last struggle leads to its complete overthrow, and therewith to the utter annihilation of every hostile power. finally also of the last enemy. - Van Oosterzee, Christian Dogmatics, II, 798.
A pregnant eschatological element lies in the Christian faith, as such. Faith has experienced so much of Christ's effectual working, that in the presence of what is still lacking, however much this may be, it possesses not merely the hope, hut the certainty, that the divine idea of the world will not remain simply a faith, but an impotent picture of the imagination - Dorner. System of Christian Doctrine, IV, p. 377.
History must at some time reach its iK~,,', its culminating point. There must he some climax which the human race and the Church may attain to, even within this present state and these earthly conditions, a period which shall present the highest blossoming and flowering of history. Christianity must necessarily and essentially he not only a suffering and struggling power in the world, but a world-conquering, a world-ruling power likewise. It is this idea of the universal triumph of Christianity, as far as this can he realized within the hounds of time and sense, which finds its expression in the millennial reign. - Martensen, Chr. Dogm., p. 470.
It is the peculiarity of the New Testament forecast that it strongly tends to mount above the earthly horizon into the sphere of glorified existence. As was noticed in the consideration of the suhject of immortality, the national and preliminary character of the Jewish religion naturally dictated that it should deal somewhat scantily with the supramundane unfoldment of the divine kingdom. Both the Old Testament and the New are intensely prophetical; both show the impress of a divinely enkindled optimism; the great difference is that in the latter the light is upon a loftier horizon, illuminating a scene which is distinctly characterized as belonging to the region of incorruptibility and immortality. - Sheldon, System of Christian Doctrine, pp. 540, 541.
The Second Coming of our Lord is the one all-commanding event of prophecy and the future: itself supreme, it is always associated with the universal resurrection, the judgment of mankind, and the consummation of all things. Through these epochs and crises are in the style of prophecy presented together in foreshortened perspective, they are widely distinct. But while we treat them as distinct, we must he careful to remember their common relation to the day of the Lord; which is a fixed and determined period, foreshadowed in many lesser periods to which the same term is applied, but the issue and consummation of them all. - Pope, Compend. Chr. Th., III, p. 387.]
The Analogy of the First and Second Advents. The First Advent marked the transition from the Old Testament to the New - a period of brief duration in which the former dispensation reached its culmination, and the latter had its beginnings. Our Lord declared that the law and the prophets were until John, after which the kingdom of heaven is preached. But the new dispensation which had its inception in the incarnation, was fully inaugurated only with the gift of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. And further, as the ministry of Jesus was preceded by the preparatory work of John, so also after Pentecost, there was a gradual decay of the Mosaic order until the destruction of Jerusalem (A.D. 70), which marked its close. At that time, "the church was released from the swaddling clothes of Judaism" and the gospel became the heritage of all nations and all peoples. As the First Advent marked the beginning of an intermediate transitional period, which was preceded by a prophetic preparation and followed by a time of judgment, so we may expect the Second Advent to be. Thus Dr. Gerhart points out, that "like the age of the First Advent, may be the age of the Second Advent - an indefinite, intermediate period between the present aeon and the transcendent aeon. Of the peculiar nature of each of these opposite aeons, the intermediate age may in a measure partake" (GERHART, Institutes, III, p. 814). It is due to the twofold aspect of this transitional period, that much confusion arises. This intermediate period is commonly known as the millennium. Being a transitional period it looks both ways, and conjoins in itself, two widely different orders. It marks the transition from the natural to the spiritual, from the temporal to the eternal, from the immanent to the transcendent, and from grace to glory. There are those who view the millennium solely from the temporal order, and therefore regard it as merely an extension of the church age; while others, viewing it from the eternal order, sometimes confuse it with the new heavens and the new earth.
Characteristics of the Second Advent. The analogy between the First and Second Advents demands further consideration. Three things stand out clearly in the life of Christ. (1) He came into the natural race of men, that He might be the last Adam of the old order, and the New Man of the eternal order. (2) He was born under the Abrahamic covenant of promise, and became the Seed to whom the promises were made. (3) He was born in the bosom of Mosaic economy, by means of which no flesh could be justified. He was therefore manifested to take away our sins. Each of these distinctions, as Gerhart has so ably pointed out, must also bear a relation to the Second Advent. Consequently we must consider the Second Advent as a movement "new in kind, new in relations, new as to its purposes" (Gerhart, Institutes, II, pp. 806ff).
[ If the Lord is indeed highly exalted, it can but be the case that this glory should eventually be manifested before the eyes of all; and it is exceedingly worthy of God that the same earth which witnessed His deep humiliation, should also become the scene of His manifested glory. If He still continues to maintain a personal and truly spiritual relation to the Church and the world, wherefore should not here also "embodiment in outward form" be "the end of the ways of God"' . . . If He personally lives and reigns unto eternity, then the King cannot permanently remain unvisible, in the case where the kingdom is everywhere established; and just as little, from the nature of the case, can this appearing he anything else than a final judgment. The expecta. tion of so great a catastroph - whatever enigmas and questions it may leave unanswered - is, for man's reason itself, much more satisfactory than that of an everlasting continuance of the present economy, a sort of "progressio in infinitum" or indeed a long-continued dying out of creation. - Van Oosterzee, Christian Dogmatics. II. p. 580.]
1. The Second Advent will be a movement new in kind. The First Advent was a coming into the race by means of the Virgin birth; the second will be His coming in kingly glory (Matt. 25:31). In the First Advent, He came as a ministering servant; in the Second, He will sit upon the throne of his glory; and before him shall be gathered all nations (Matt. 25:32). Let it be recalled that there were two great mysteries in Christ, "the union of human nature with the divine, and the unmeasured fullness of the Spirit which dwelt in that holy nature the one administered through the other" (I, p. 330). Hence our Lord speaks of His coming as that of the Son of man; that is, He comes in His perfected and glorified humanity. He came indeed, in a spiritual sense, at Pentecost, manifesting Himself through the Holy Spirit as the Third Person of the Trinity; but He comes the second time, in His own mode of existence as the Second Person of the Trinity manifested through His glorified humanity. His Second Coming will institute a movement also, new in kind as to the redemption of man's environment, or the physical universe. By this we mean, not only an ethical and spiritual movement, but a metaphysical restoration of organic nature in the structure of the universe. "The expectation of the future transformation of the earth into a heavenly establishment," says Lange, "of the conjunction of the spiritual kingdom in the other world with that in this, is to man a mere fancy, but to every earnest Christian is a great hope, an assurance of faith, a certain prediction" (Breman Lectures, p. 251).
[ The New Testament does not countenance a theory which assumes merely a quiet, steadily growing interpenetration or subjugation of the whole world by Christianity in the course of history. This is the optimistic view, which is unprepared for eclipses of the sun in the firmament of the Church. The New Testament foretells catastrophes to the life of the Church, so that in this respect, also, it is a copy of the life of Christ and indeed catastrophes arise not merely through persecutions on the part of heathen and Jews in its beginning, but also out of itself, that is, from its outward circle, on the ground of intimations of Christ (Matt. 7:21; 24:11, 12, 24; Mark 13:6, 22); according to John and Paul (I John 2:18, where antichrists are spoken of in the plural; 2 Thess. 2:3ff), when the Christianizing of the nations has advanced, false prophets and pseudo-Messiahs will arise, desiring to enter into confederacy with Satan and to some extent with the worldpower against Christians, and to seduce to the denial of Christ. - Dorner, System of Christian Doctrine, IV, pp. 387, 388.]
2. The Second Advent will be a movement new in its relations. The First Advent was an entrance into the Abrahamic covenant of promise, conditioned upon obedience unto death, even the death of the cross (Phil. 2:8). Our Lord came to a world lying in the Wicked One (1 John 5:19), and brought to man in His own Person, the gift of eternal life. In His humiliation, he was despised and rejected of men (Isa. 53:3); He came unto his own and his own received him not (John 1:11). But His Second Coming will be governed by the law of exaltation and not that of humiliation. He will come to a world where the law of sin has already been broken, and where Satan has been personally defeated in immediate conflict. His Second Advent, therefore, will not be marked by a rejection, but by His people rising with joy to meet Him in the air, and with an innumerable company of angels forming the convoy of their glorious Bridegroom in His return to earth. The unbelieving world shall quail before Him, and the wicked shall cry for the rocks and the mountains to fall upon them, and hide them from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb (Rev. 6:14-17). At His Second Advent He will appear, not to be despised, but to be honored; not to suffer, but to judge; not to overcome death by His resurrection from the dead, but to abolish death (1 Cor. 15:26); not to introduce the principle of eternal life in the midst of the dying world, but to emancipate the members of the new race from all the limitations of the current' age; not to initiate a victorious conflict with the kingdom of darkness, but to put an end to the existing disorganization, transforming the cosmos into the new heavens and the new earth; not to found the Church and proclaim salvation, but to actualize the idea and fulfill the teleological law of the Church in the postmundane perfection of His kingdom" (Gerhart, Institutes, II, p. 810).
3. The Second Advent will be a movement new in its purposes. Christ not only came as the Seed to whom the Abrahamic promise should be given, but as a Deliverer from the bondage of the Mosaic law, as to both its guilt and its penalty. The purpose of the First Advent was the deliverance from the guilt, the power, and the being of sin; the purpose of the Second Advent is the removal of the consequences of sin. The first was wrought by means of a priestly sacrifice for sin, Himself the Priest and the Offering; the second will be accomplished through the "all power" given to Him as our glorious King. He will not only be present with His Church in the Spirit of communion, but as the Logos in nature, He will also transform the mystical body of His Church, and in its own order, the subhuman kingdoms as well. Nature will be fully restored and become the willing instrument of our Lord and His people. Dr. Dorner was right when he said that "redeemed humanity has another goal than that of common zoology, and that goal is the kingdom of the resurrection. Complete victor Christianity can never be, until nature has become an organ of its service, a willing instrument of the perfect man, that is, of the righteous who are raised from the dead" (DORNER, Person of Christ, I, p.412). Likewise, Dr. Ellicott writes that "Man and the creature, bound together in one common feeling of longing and expectancy, are awaiting that redemption of the body which shall be the immediate precursor of the restitution of the world, and the consummation of all things in Christ" (ELLICOTT, Destiny of the Earth, p.18).
The Day of the Lord. As indicated in our discussion of the days of creation (I, p. 455ff), the older Hebrew exegesis never regarded the days of Genesis as solar days, but as day periods of indefinite duration. The word "day" is frequently used in this sense in the New Testament also. Thus our Lord says, Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day (John 8:56) and again, Fo? as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day (Luke 17:24). St. Peter speaks of the day of the Lord (2 Peter 3:10, 12, 13); and St. Paul mentions both the day of the Lord (1 Thess. 5:2, 4, 5), and the day of Christ (2 Thess. 2:1, 2). This day of the Lord is generally, if not always, associated with the idea of judgment, as the following Old Testament references will show (Isa. 2:12, 13; 13:6 - 13; Joel 1:15; Zeph. 1:14; Malachi 4:5). We may confidently believe, then, that the day of the Lord is a period of time, marked by opening, intervening and closing events. "Though these epochs are crises, are in the style of prophecy presented together in foreshortened perspective, they are widely distinct. But while we treat them as distinct, we must be careful to remember their common relation to the day of the Lord; which is a fixed and determined period, foreshadowed in many lesser periods to which the same term is applied, but the issue and consummation of them all. What the Old Testament prediction beheld as one undistinguished whole is now divided into times and seasons, which all, however, converge into one decisive and fixed event, the return of Jesus from the invisible world. There is a rich and steady light thrown upon the Christian day of Jehovah, which is variously described in relation to the final manifestation of the person of Christ, and the final consummation of His work (POPE, Compend, Chr. Th., III, p.387). St. Paul views this day in relation to its opening event, the coming of Christ; while St. Peter regards it as the closing event in Christ's ultimate and triumphant accomplishment. It is, therefore, a transitional period in which a time or season kairos (kairos), is preceded by other times and seasons, kronoi (cronoi) For this reason it is often difficult to distinguish the preparatory events from those of the final consummation to which they lead.
[ Throughout the ancient economy a future period called the day of Jehovah appears as the one perspective of all prophecy. In the new Testament this day is declared to have come; all the purposes of the divine mercy and judgment are regarded as accomplished in the Advent of Christ. which is the last time or the end of the world. - Pope. Compend. Chr. Th., III, p. 387.]
[ Dean Farrar observes that "the main difficulties in our Lord's prophecy vanish when we bear in mind that prophecy is like a landscape in which time and space are subordinated to eternal realities, and in which events look like hills seen, chain behind chain, which to the distant spectator appear as one." To this J. F. Silver adds that "looking at two heavenly bodies in conjunction, one partially eclipses the other and both present the aspect of a single star. We see the feet of Christ on the Mount of Olivet in the foreground and far beyond we discern the rising mountains that border on the vast eternity. The Millennium lies between." - Silver, The Lord's Return, p. 236.]
In this prophetical day of the Lord, events appear as a confused whole. Prophecy, it has been said, "has no perspective." The seers looked forward to the great goals of the future, without clearly distinguishing the intervening events. The classical example of this is Christ's reading of the scripture in the synagogue at Nazareth. Having read of His anointing to preach the acceptable year of the Lord, He closed the book, thus indicating that the remaining portion of the sentence, the day of vengeance of our God (Isa. 61:1, 2; Luke 4:19, 20), was not then to be fulfilled. We may note also, that the point of view determines the events which are emphasized by the several writers of the Scriptures. Thus the Apostle Paul comforts the saints with the thought of Christ's personal return; while St. Peter, looking forward to our Lord's ultimate triumph, sees in this day of the Lord, the consummation of all things.
If now we analyze the debatable or controversial points connected with Christ's return, we shall find that each is a transitional event. (1) There is the appearance of Christ with its confusion of rapture and revelation; (2) there is a first resurrection, and the resurrection of "the rest of the dead"; (3) there is a judgment set immediately following our Lord's return, wherein the twelve apostles are seated on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel; and yet another "great white throne judgment" when the heavens and the earth shall have fled away; (4) there is a gathering of the righteous, and a destruction of the wicked, and yet the nations later appear in a great apostasy; (5) there is a setting up of the kingdom, and yet again, a yielding up of the kingdom; (6) there is a time of restitution of all things, when creation itself shall be delivered from its bondage; and a final dissolution of the earth, out of which shall emerge the new heavens and the new earth; and (7) there is a passing away of the old and sinful order, and the inauguration of a new and eternal Sabbath of rest, when God shall be all in all.
At the outset, I may say that I have had considerable hesitancy in discussing this phase of my subject. However, I have not felt free to pass it by without some more or less general statements concerning it. A subject that has caused such a variety of opinion should be approached cautiously, and this we have sought to do. On subjects which are not clearly revealed, one should speak with becoming modesty. Those who speak with such a degree of positiveness as to exclude the sincere thought of Bible students who hold different positions, are neither wise nor reverent. My design, therefore, is to present the material of this division, suggestively, rather than dogmatically, and we trust that the statements here made will serve to provoke further study and research. We may emphasize again, that we regard this whole period as of a transitional nature, one in which the temporal order merges into the eternal, and therefore as a period, partaking in a measure of both orders of existence. According to the law of prophetical reserve, there is enough given us in the Scriptures to furnish the Church with a glorious hope; but the events can never be untangled until prophecy passes into history, and we view them as standing out clearly in their historical relations.
The Rapture and the Revelation. The Second Coming of Christ is the opening event of the Lord's day. It will be attended by the resurrection of the righteous dead and the translation of the righteous living, both companies of the saints being caught up in the clouds meet the Lord in the air. Here a distinction is made between the Rapture and the Revelation. The Rapture is the catching away of the Lord's people to the meeting in the air; the Revelation is His return to earth accompanied by the convoy of saints and angels. The word "rapture" comes from the Greek verb arpadw which signifies to seize, to take by force, to snatch away, or to rescue. The word "meeting" is from apantaw and carries with it the idea of a going forth in order to return with. It is so used in Acts 28:15. The words used to express the idea of the Revelation have already been discussed, that is, apocalypse apokaluyi" or an unveiling; parousia (parousia or an appearing); and epiphaneia (ejpifavneia or becoming visible). As to the relation of the Rapture and the Revelation there are widely different opinions. Some identify them, maintaining that when He comes every eye shall behold him, the saints rising with joy to meet Him, and the nations of the earth wailing because of Him (Rev. 1:7). Others separate between the Rapture and the Revelation, maintaining that the former is secret and known only to the saints; the latter alone being visible to the world. As to the time intervening between the two, most writers hold that it will be a period of three and one-half years. During this time the saints attend the marriage supper of the Lamb in the heavenlies, while the earth passes through a period of 'unparalleled tribulation at which time Antichrist assumes full authority. Here we must assert that the general fact of the Rapture and the Revelation is clearly scriptural; the details just mentioned must be a matter of individual opinion.
[ Post-millennialists identify the judgment mentioned in Matthew 25:3 1-46 with the general judgment at the last day. Premillennialists are divided in their opinion. (I) Writers like Dr. J. A. Seiss look upon this judgment scene as applying only to the nations living when Christ returns, and not caught up to Him in the rapture. Consequently this judgment becomes merely "a shepherdizing of the nations with a rod of iron," only the obdurate and rebellious being destroyed. This destruction, however, is regarded merely as a violent death, such as overtook the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, the dead being raised later for final judgment. as in the case of all who were deceased previous to the coming of the Lord. However, a careful study of this judgment scene mentioned by our Lord, reveals the fact that while it concerns the living nations, it is, after all, a judgment of the individuals. (2) Other premillennial writers, such as Dr. W. B. Riley, regard this statement or account as applying to the final judgment after the millennium. He states that many premillennialists have been led into a misinterpretation here, simply because God does 'not on every age of Scripture, put forth the full program of the ages. As in the case of our Lord, who broke into two parts the prophecy of Isaiah which He read at Nazareth, so here, the juxtaposition of sentences does not involve a closeness of events. The order of judgment is against the "children of the millennium" or the living rebels first; and later, against the unbelieving dead, raised to receive their sentence (Cf. Riley, The Evolution of the Kingdom, pp. 174, 176).]
The Investigative Judgment. Immediately following the return of Christ, the investigative judgment will be set. For this we have the clear statement of our Lord Himself. When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left (Matt. 25:31-34). And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28). That this is in the investigative judgment of the living nations at the time of the Second Advent is further evidenced by our Lord's parable of the sower, previously cited. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father (Matt. 13:41-43).
The Destruction of the Wicked. Closely associated with the investigative judgment is the destruction of the wicked. In addition to the scriptures previously cited, St. Paul gives us the following statement: And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (2 Thess. 1:7-10).
The Fall of Antichrist and the Binding of Satan. Included in the destruction of the wicked, at the time of the Second Advent, is the Antichrist, whom St. Paul calls that "Wicked" or the "Wicked One." And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders (2 Thess. 2:8, 9). We may be permitted to refer at this time to the binding of Satan, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season (Rev. 20:1, 3).
The Establishment of the Kingdom. The Church Militant, in its full New Testament sense, began with the Day of Pentecost, and will become triumphant with the rapture of the saints at the coming of the Lord. The Church will then in some sense be merged into the kingdom. In a mystical sense, the kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21). St. Paul defines it as not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost (Rom. 14:17). But Jesus looked forward also to a kingdom in the future when He said, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom (Matt. 26:29). He said also, I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Luke 22:29, 30). We may say, therefore, that we are now in the kingdom of God the Holy Spirit, or the mystical reign of Christ in the hearts of His people. The kingdom of God the Son will succeed this, when the inner mystical kingdom shall find expression in outward glory. Then follows the kingdom of God the Father, when the Son himself becomes subject to Him, that is, the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, may be all in all. From the Parable of the Pounds, it seems evident that some in the days of Jesus looked for the kingdom to immediately appear, and this erroneous view He sought to correct. A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return (Luke 19:12). Jesus, having overcome the world, is now seated on His Father's throne, awaiting the time when He shall return to be seated upon the throne of His glory (Matt. 25:31). He left a promise also, that To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne (Cf. Matt. 25:31; Rev. 3:21). Thus the Church as the Bride of Christ, anxiously awaits the return of the Nobleman, and daily prays, Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10). It is this kingdom of which the prophets spoke, which John and Jesus heralded, and which the apostles affirmed with confidence.
[ Concerning the use of the word "kingdom" in the Scriptures, Mr. West says, "In its fullness, it is past, it is present, it is to come; it is inward and spiritual existing now, it is outward and visible yet to exist; it is heavenly; it is a kingdom of grace; it is a kingdom of glory; it is earthly; it is temporal; it is everlasting. In its forms it is many, in its essence it is one. It has various dispensations. It is above, it is below, and its highest consummation is the realization of the will of God on earth as it is now realized in heaven; a consummation begun below, developed in the age to come, and completed in the eternal state." - West, John Wesley and Premillennialism, p. 46.
Trench says of this kingdom, that it is "not the unfolding of any powers which already existed in the world - a kingdom not rising. as those other kingdoms, 'out of the earth,' but a new power brought into the world from above." - Trench, On the Parables, p. 160.]
[ In the Parable of the Pounds, it is interesting to note that when the nobleman having received the kingdom returns. it is to call his servants to judgment (Luke 12:19-27).
Dr. William B. Riley, in his hook entitled, "The Evolution of the Kingdom," takes the position that this future millennial kingdom is not made up of mortal men, for "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of Cod." At the first resurrection when Christ shall come, "corruptible must put on incorruption" and the life of these risen saints will not be dependent upon the heart-beat of flesh and blood. hut rather like that in which their Lord lived again after His resurrection - a body of "flesh and bones" animated by the eternal spirit, "a spiritual body." He interprets the words in Luke "equal to the angels" to mean "angel-like." This does not mean bodiless, for every angel that has appeared on earth, has appeared in bodily form. They have sat at human tables. and have taken human food; they have exercised gracious missions for men in human forms. The great difference has been that they were not mortal,' that their natural home was in a higher sphere. Yet he believes in the "ongoing of the nations" and looks for the restoration of Israel during the millennium. He further states, that "There is no indication either that converts made from the Jewish people and the nations during the millennium. under the personal reign of Christ, will be mortal men, and asserts that the scripture, "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint," refers to the children of the kingdom in the millennial age. He bases this upon the words of Christ. "he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live," as referring to all the deceased; and "Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die" as referring to all those who are alive when Christ comes, and all who believe during Christ's millennial reign. These shall escape the grave and be changed in the twinkling of an eye from the mortal to the immortal (Cf. Riley, The Evolution of the Kingdom, pp. 128-133).]
[ Bishop Martensen in referring to the millennium says, "But besides this purely spiritual view, and the literal, the carnal method of interpretation, we must notice a third form of belief which recognizes the historical points here enumerated; hut at the same time maintains that as the millennial reign is an actual prophecy of the glory of perfection, nature also will exhibit prophetic indications, anticipating its future glorification; and though Christ will not he raised up in a literal and sensitive manner to His kingly dominion, yet His presence will not he merely spiritual; visible manifestations of Christ will, during this period, he granted to the faithful, like those to the disciples after the resurrection. According to this view, the thousand years' reign would correspond with the interval of forty days between the resurrection and the ascension. an interval which implies the transition from earthly existence to heavenly glory. - Martensen, Christian Dogmatics, p. 471.
Jesus is the lawful successor, as the Son of man, to Adam's dominion; as the seed of Abraham, He is the lawful heir to the throne of David, and as the Son of God, the Father has been pleased to put in subjection to Him, "the world to come, whereof we speak" oikonhn the habitable or inhabited earth; thn mellousan that about coming; peri hs laloumen concerning which we speak (Heb. 2:5). From the numerous passages of scripture referring to this event we select the following only: "And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, hut it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever" (Dan. 2:44). "1 saw in the night visions, and, behold one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days. and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not he destroyed" (Dan. 7:13, 14). "And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall he given to the people of the Saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him" (Dan. 7:27). "Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom" (Isa. 9:7). "The Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously" (Isa. 24:23). "And his dominion shall he from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth" (Zech. 9:10), "And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one' (Zech. 14:9). The prophecies of the kingdom found in the Old Testament are reaffirmed in the New, as the following instances will show: "He shall he great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever: and of his kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:32, 33). "Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne" (Acts 2:30). "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever" (Rev. 11:1 5).
The character of the citizenship of this kingdom proves a perplexing problem to those types of premillennialism which maintain that the Church is incomplete at the time of the millennium. Postmillennialism which regards the millennium as merely the flowering period of the present age avoids this problem. Jesus specifically states that they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection (Luke 20:35, 36). St. Paul makes a similar statement that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption (1 Cor. 15:50). Hence he says, As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly; and again, this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality (1 Cor. 15:49, 53). These are the plain statements of Scripture concerning the nature of the children of the resurrection or the kingdom, and any theory which does not take these facts into consideration cannot be regarded as scriptural.
The Regeneration of the Earth. It is a significant fact that our Lord connects the regeneration with His coming kingdom. Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28). This statement is very suggestive when we consider that regeneration in the sense of the "new birth from above" stands for the direct spiritual results which come from the grace of God considered personally; and that here it refers to the divine redemption of the earth, which when our Lord appears, shall certainly be delivered from the bondage of corruption. St. Peter speaks of this event as "the times of refreshing" or "restitution of all things," and connects it immediately with the Second Coming of Christ. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord: and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began (Acts 3:19-21). We have before referred to St. Paul's clear teachings on this subject, and need now to call attention to only one statement, The creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom. 8:21).
From the above scriptures it appears that the earth must undergo certain changes at the Second Coming of Christ. In the consideration of this subject, however, we must take into account, a distinction of great importance, that is, we must distinguish between those changes which take place when the curse is removed and the earth restored to its pristine state; and those which are connected with the final consummation of all things, in which the present order shall through dissolution and a process of glorification, be changed into the new and eternal order. The "regeneration" or the "restitution," therefore, pertains to the removal of the curse from the present earth; the consummation, to the emergence of the new heavens and the new earth. The former constitutes the transition to the latter, and it is this period in its preparations and its eternal state to which the prophets have looked forward, since the world began.
[Postmillennialists usually regard these expressions as purely figurative. Thus Dr. Raymond says, "The lying down together of the lion and the lamb, of the leopard and the kid, can have no application to the heavenly state, and in the earthly must he figurative, or those animals must undergo a change of nature both as to species and genera. - Raymond, Systematic Theology, II, p. 480.]
The nature of the changes which take place in this time of restoration cannot be certainly known, but the prophets give us some foregleams of the miraculous transformations which will occur. Isaiah the prophet is peculiarly rich in his poetical descriptions of "that day." We can cite but a few of the more familiar of his prophecies: (1) There will be an increase in the fertility of the earth. To fallen Adam it was said, Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life: thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee (Gen. 3:17, 18); but the prophet sees a day, when, Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off (Isa. 55:13). There are now large portions of the earth which are uninhabitable, but in that day will become the abode of beauty and glory. The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God. . . . . For in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes (Isa. 35:1, 2, 6, 7). I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together: that they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the Lord hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it (Isa. 41:19, 20). Amos the prophet sees an enrichment of the soil and increased harvest. Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt (Amos 9:13). (2) It appears that there will be a miraculous restoration of the wild animals to their normal instincts. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the falling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaning child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea (Isa. 11:6-9). "Each animal is coupled with that one which is its natural prey - a fit state of things under the Prince of Peace. There is to be a restoration to man in the person of Christ of the lost dominion over the animal kingdom, of which he had been designed to be the merciful vicegerent under God for the good of his animal subjects." (3) There will be an increased longevity of life. There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days; for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed. And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them (Isa. 65:20-23). (4) It seems probable that there may be changes in the astronomical heavens in their relation to the earth. Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound (Isa. 30:26). The scriptures which we have just cited are fraught with intense spiritual significance, and have been the source of joy and strength to multitudes of God's holy people. While this is true, it does not necessarily forbid a conviction of their literal fulfillment also; nor does it detract from their spiritual meaning, but rather increases it.
The Final Consummation. The Consummatio seculi, or destruction of the world, marks the close of the transitional period, and ushers in the new heavens and the new earth of the eternal order. It is the closing event of the "day of the Lord." As in the beginning of this period, there is the rapture with its resurrection of the righteous dead and the translation of the living saints, followed by the investigative judgment of the living nations; so also the day closes with an apostasy following the thousand years' reign, the resurrection of the wicked dead, the destruction of the heavens and the earth by fire, and the final judgment with its rewards and punishments. Beyond earth's fiery baptism is the new and eternal day, a new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. However, we are concerned here only with the consummatio seculi - the discussion of the resurrection and the final judgment being reserved for the last chapter. As to the process of this renewal of the earth we are not left to guess. We have only to read, But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men (2 Peter 3:7). Dr. Eliott in his Horae Apocalypticae, states that these words literally translated should stand as follows: "The same heavens and earth which are now by the same word stored with fire, being reserved unto the judgment and perdition of ungodly men." Commenting upon this Dr. Cumming says, "Just as the earth of old was stored with the waters, whose fountains broken up overflowed the earth, so by the same word the earth, now stored, treasured up, or charged with fire, is ready when the repressive force is withdrawn, to burst forth, to burn up all things, and to cause the elements to melt with fervent heat" ( Comming, The Great Preparation, p. 36) . This appears to be the meaning of St. Peter's further statement that the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up; and again, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved and the elements shall melt with fervent heat (2 Peter 3:10, 12). The question is sometimes asked, "Are these words to be taken in their strictly literal sense? If the flood, to which this catastrophe is compared, was a literal and historic fact, then we must regard this cataclysmic event as a literal occurrence also. It is evident, however, that St. Peter does not intend to teach the annihilation of the world by its fiery baptism, as he does not teach its destruction by a watery baptism. Concerning the flood and its effects he uses the strongest possible expression, saying, The world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished (2 Peter 3:6). So also, concerning the coming cataclysmic event he says, all these things shall be dissolved; and again, the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved (2 Peter 3:11, 12). The word dissolved as used here is in the first instance loumenwn, and in the second lhqhsontai both being from the root verb luw which means to unloose, or to loose, to unfasten, to unbind, but never to annihilate. It is used in Luke 19:30, 33 concerning the untying of the colt; in John 1:27 concerning the loosing of a shoe latched; and it is applied to the ship in which St. Paul was wrecked. It is said that the ship was dissolved elueto in the sense of being broken up or destroyed (Acts 27:41). The dissolving of the earth, therefore, is not its annihilation, but the breaking of its bonds, the loosing of it to become what it was originally intended to be - its deliverance from the bondage of corruption. We regard this loosing as an exact parallel of the transformation of the earthly elements in the human body. In the same manner as a man's body is dissolved by death and becomes the subject of decay, out of which it shall be raised immortal, incorruptible, in power and glory; so this earth as man's habitation shall likewise be dissolved, but out of it shall appear in a comparable resurrection, the new heavens and the new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness (2 Peter 3:13). Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all (1 Cor. 15:24-28).
[ Referring to the words of St. Peter, that this world is to be burned up, Bishop Merrill says, "The burning up of this world, if it be literally understood, cannot take place until the close of time, and, if we find it connected with the judgment as one of the Incidents of the day of the Lord, it will follow that the judgment is subsequent to the gospel day. The Scriptures teach that when the gospel dispensation closes, and the Lord descends from heaven and calls the dead from their graves, the visible earth and heaven will be destroyed by fire, and afterward be renewed in righteousness. We accept this statement as pointinmg to a literal fact, and propose to test it In the light of the criticisms and objections offered by the opposers of a literal advent and future judgment." - Merrill, The Second Coming of Christ, pp. 262ff.
Dr. Adam Clarke, in his comment on 2 Peter 3, writes as follows: "All these things will be dissolved, separated, be decomposed,' but none of them will be destroyed. And as they are the original matter out of which God formed the terraqueous globe, consequently they may enter again into the composition of a new system. and therefore the apostle says, 'We look for a new heaven and a new earth' the others being decomposed, a new system is to be formed out of their materials." Again he says, "The present earth, though destined to burn up, will not be destroyed. but renewed, and refined, and purged from all moral and material imperfections and made the endless abode of happy spirits. But this state is certainly to be expected after the day of judgment."]