« VorigeDoorgaan »
overthrow of the great Roman antichristian confederacy1. On this point, however, I would speak with that modesty and diffidence, which becomes the writer, who ventures, even in any the smallest measure, to comment upon unaccomplished prophecy.
10. From the whole of what has been said, relative to the scriptural use of such phrases as the bright coming of Christ with the clouds of heaven and the arrival of the great day of the Lord's controversy, I am inclined to deduce the following canon of prophetic exposition.
Whenever the judgment of some distinctly specified or plainly insinuated wicked Empire or Community is described, as being effected by the coming of the great day of retribution and by the advent of the Lord with the clouds of heaven: then the temporal judgment of that particular Empire or Community is alone intended; and the language, in which it is set forth, must be understood figuratively, not literally. But, when the judgment of no distinctly specified or plainly insinuated Empire or Community is thus described: then the coming of the great day of retribution and the advent of the Lord with the clouds of heaven, being mentioned generally with reference to the whole world and not particularly with reference to some special body politic, must be understood literally not figuratively.
See Bp. Warburton's Julian passim, but particularly book ii. chap. 3.
RESPECTING THE PREDICTED MILLENNIUM WITH ITS CONCOMITANTS AND SUBSEQUENCES.
WITH the destruction of God's enemies in Palestine, terminates the seventh vial; and, with the termination of the seventh vial, the third woe passes away. Every obstacle being removed by the overthrow of the Roman beast with the false prophet and the irreclaimable kingdoms of his communion, a happier order of things succeeds: and, with the general conversion of the whole world to sincere Christianity, the glorious Millennian Church is forthwith inaugurated.
The matters, prophetically connected with the yet future period of the thousand years announced by St. John, are: the binding of Satan; the first and second resurrections, at the commencement, and at the end, of the thousand years; the blessedness of the thousand years themselves; the confederacy of Gog and Magog; the ultimate literal judgment both of the quick and of the dead, at the third or literal resurrection, and at the true or literal second advent of Christ; and the consecutive
eternal happiness of God's redeemed people in heaven 1.
I. With respect to that binding of Satan which immediately precedes the Millennium, it must plainly be considered as a transaction not visible to human eyes.
The power of the evil spirit being effectually restrained through the well nigh universal prevalence of genuine religion, perhaps also his seductive influence being specially coerced by the direct though unseen interference of the Almighty, he is said, by an easy and natural image, to be chained fast in the poetical central prison of the great oceanic abyss: an abode, the notion of which is familiar alike, both to the pagan bards, and to the inspired writers 2.
II. Much speculation has been excited by that first resurrection from the dead, which is said to be experienced, at the beginning of the Millennium, by those who had suffered martyrdom for the faith and who had refused to pollute themselves with the idolatry of the apostate Roman Empire.
The doctrine of a literal resurrection of the martyrs at this prior epoch certainly prevailed, to a considerable extent, throughout the early Church: and, as it often animated the primitive believers to seal the truth with their blood; so it gave rise to
1 Rev. xx. xxi. xxii.
Compare Virg. Æneid. lib. i. ver. 297-300. Hesiod. Theog. ver. 725-745. 2 Peter ii. 4. Jude 6.
those first prayers for the dead, not that they might be delivered out of a now existent romanising Purgatory, but that they might have part in the first resurrection and might pass triumphantly through the future renovating conflagration.
Yet, since we have no scriptural ground for expecting the literal second advent of Christ at the commencement of the Millennium, we shall be prepared to doubt the theory, which would teach a contemporaneous literal resurrection of the martyrs: for, if there be no literal or personal reign of Christ upon earth during the thousand years, neither can there be any literal or personal co-reign of the martyrs resuscitated.
1. Accordingly, this obvious inference, from an already established position, is fully substantiated by the internal evidence, which the entire passage in question itself affords.
In that passage, we are first taught, that those, who were beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years: and we are next taught, in immediate consecution, that the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished; whence, of course, it follows, that, so soon as the thousand years are finished, the rest of the dead do live again.
These two particulars, being thus uninterruptedly set forth in one and the same passage, and being thus evidently foretold in direct mutual relation, must, according to the rules of good composition, be interpreted homogeneously: that is to say, of
whatever nature the one resurrection is whether literal or figurative, of that same nature must also be the other resurrection.
Now the resurrection of the rest of the dead takes place, we are told, at the end of the thousand years. But the end of the thousand years is not the end of the world. On the contrary, the thousand years are followed, in regular succession, first, by the liberation of Satan; next, by his going out to deceive the nations, which are then existing in the four quarters of the earth; next, by the formation of the confederacy of Gog and Magog out of those thus deceived nations; next, by the going up of the confederacy to compass the holy city; next, by the miraculous destruction of that confederacy through fire from heaven; and then, at length, after the lapse of some undefined period subsequent to the destruction of the confederacy, by the ultimate universal judgment of the resuscitated dead, both small and great, at the literal second advent of Christ and at the final consummation of all things1. Therefore, what is called the resurrection of the rest of the dead, occurring as it does only at the end of the thousand years and long before the final consummation of all things, cannot be the literal resurrection of the dead, both small and great, both from the sea and from hades, which the prophet, as might naturally be expected, determinately fixes to the unknown and undefined
1 See Rev. xx. 5-15.