Robert W. Patterson,
THE Church has always expected a Second Coming of Christ to the earth, ever since He ascended to heaven. Many Comings of the Saviour are spoken of in the New Testament. But a literal, personal advent is the great Coming to which Christians have been looking forward for more than eighteen hundred years. In our day a few scholarly men have maintained that there is no personal Coming to be expected—that only spiritual and providential Comings were promised, and that the parousia of the New Testament is nothing but the presence of Christ with His people which He pledged to His disciples before He left the world. This view, however, is clearly contradicted by the undeniable fact that the apostles in their writings often spoke of the parousia as an event still future, long after the promise of the Redeemer’s spiritual presence with His Church had begun to be fulfilled; and Paul expressly cautions the Thessalonians against the belief that the parousia was just at hand.
But while almost all Christians are agreed in regard to a future personal advent of Christ, there is a wide difference of opinion in the Church respecting a future millennium, or reign of righteousness on the earth during a long period of at least a thousand years. Multitudes have believed and still believe that the predicted millennium is either wholly past or has long since begun. This view, it seems to us, has gained currency in consequence of a reaction from the extreme doctrines of the early Chiliasts, some of whom entertained grossly carnal ideas in regard to the millennium, or from other errors associated with the faith of those who have expected a future triumph of the Redeemer’s kingdom in the world. It has long been deemed the only alternative either to expect a literal reign of Christ in person on the earth, or to deny that His kingdom is ever to overcome all opposition, and be acknowledged as supreme and universal among men before the general resurrection and the final judgment at the end of the mediatorial reign. But in process of time the Church was brought to accept a doctrine of the millennium equally removed from that of the Chiliasts and that of the Præterists. It was seen by many, long before the time of Whitby and the Westminster Assembly, that a belief in the universal prevalence of Christianity on the earth did not of necessity involve the peculiar features of the old Chiliastic scheme, while it afforded scope for a fair interpretation of the ancient prophecies respecting the future kingdom of Christ, and met the longings of all Christian hearts for the salvation of the perishing millions of our race. This doctrine we accept as Scriptural and true, and as being alone reconcilable with the obvious teachings of the Bible. And accordingly we hold that, in strictness, all Christians are millenarians, who believe that all nations are yet to serve Christ on the earth, whether before or after His Second Coming; while we regard the premillenarian doctrine as neither Scriptural nor salutary in its influence upon the minds and characters of those who embrace it. We believe that while there were premillenarians in the Church from the middle of the second century onward to the fourth century, there was during that period of persecution and discouragement a glimmer of clearer light in respect to the future Coming of a purely spiritual kingdom on the earth.
It will, however, be the chief object of this article to present what we believe to be the Scriptural doctrine regarding the millennium in its relation to the Second Coming of Christ. And first, we shall endeavor to show that there can be no millennium after the Second Advent; or, in other words, that our Lord’s Second Coming will not be followed by the establishment of His kingdom on the earth.
Against the doctrine of the pre-millennial advent of Christ we offer the following considerations.
1. It is sustained by no direct evidence.
This position is extremely important. For if Christ is to come the second time, not merely to judge the world, but to set up a glorious kingdom, and to reign personally on the earth a thousand years, the inspired writers could not have failed to indicate these events together in many particular passages. It is incredible that they should have left such a relation of great facts which the Church was expected to accept as a part of their cherished faith, to be made out by connecting together passages found in different connections and remote from one another, or from obscure hints, the meaning of which would, of necessity, be uncertain except as explained by comparison with other Scriptures. Writers whose minds were full of expectation that their Lord would hereafter come visibly to the earth, and set up His kingdom and reign here in person a thousand years, must, unless supernaturally withheld, have referred very often to these two events together and in this order, in such clear terms as to forbid honest misapprehension. Now, what we maintain is, that there is not a single passage, either in the Old Testament or the New, in which the Second Coming of Christ is directly spoken of as preceding the establishment of His kingdom on the earth.
The only passage in the Old Testament that has been often referred to as a direct proof on this point, is found in Daniel 7:13, 14, where the prophet says that he “saw in the night visions; and, behold, one like the Son of man came on the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and there was given him dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him.” But this coming to the Ancient of Days to receive a kingdom, had its clear fulfilment when Christ ascended to heaven on a cloud and took His seat at the Father’s right hand, as recorded in Acts 1:9, and 2:32–36. (Compare Acts 5:31, 10, 36; Eph. 1:20–22; 1 Pet. 3:22.) It has been argued, we know, that the Second Coming of Christ must be spoken of in Dan. 7:13, 14, because the judgment upon the beast, and the little horn, which is assumed to be antichrist, is mentioned in vv. 9–11 as taking place before the receiving of the kingdom by the Son of man. But it seems plain that the little horn spoken of in ver. 11 was no other than Antiochus. (Comp. 8:8–27; 11:21, etc.) It should be noticed, moreover, that the judgment in 7:9–11 was held and executed by “the Ancient of Days,” and not by “the Son of man,” to whom all judgment has been committed since His resurrection and ascension, and who is to be the acting judge at His Second Coming. (See Acts 17:31; Rom. 2:16; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Thess. 1:7–10, 2:8.) Thus the kingdom of heaven, which was “at hand” when John the Baptist preached, was set up when Christ passed into the heavens on a cloud and came to the Ancient of Days after judgment had been executed upon the enemies of the Ancient Church, and when “the time was fulfilled” for the introduction of the predicted reign of the Messiah.
One other passage in the Old Testament is sometimes appealed to in this connection. It is alleged that in Zechariah 14:4, the Second Coming of Christ is foretold, and that the following verses describe the scenes and events of the latter-day glory.
But if we accept this interpretation, we must believe that Christ becomes a man of war; that, like an earthly general, He takes His stand for the observation of the contending armies on the Mount of Olives, and that while He is standing there the mountain splits asunder to create a valley through which His people make their escape to a place of security; also that living waters afterward literally flow out from Jerusalem toward the Mediterranean Sea and toward the Dead Sea and that moral and spiritual changes are not referred to in the whole chapter. He who can receive this chapter in a literal sense, can be at no loss for proofs of almost any position from prophecy or parable. The Coming of the Lord God with all His saints, is no more literal and visible than the rest of the scene. The Coming of the Lord in Zech. 14:4 is simply God’s interposition for judgment upon the foes of His true Church, which is followed at length by the scenes of the latter-day described in costume borrowed from the Old Testament economy and the physical features of Jerusalem and its surroundings. It is a weak cause that rests for its chief support upon a literal construction of such highly-wrought prophetical representations.
When we come, however, to the New Testament we find many undoubted references to the Second Coming of Christ, about which there is no dispute. Such are Matt. 16:27; 25:31–46; 1 Cor. 15:23–28; Phil. 3:20, 21; 1 Thess. 1:10; 4:16, 17, etc. Now, is there any allusion to the setting up of a kingdom on the earth at or after the Second Advent in any one of these scores of passages? Not a single instance of the kind has been pointed out. The only examples appealed to are cases in which the destruction of Judaism is confessedly spoken of in the same immediate connection; or passages about the meaning of which judicious commentators have always differed. These cases we shall consider hereafter. Now, this fact that in all the clear references to the Second Advent in the New Testament, there is not one in which there is a word about the setting up of the Redeemer’s kingdom on the earth as a sequel of His coming, seems to us decisive against the doctrine that the Second Coming is to be premillennial.
2. Not one of the passages from which it is inferred that the Second Advent is spoken of in connection with the subsequent establish ment of a kingdom on the earth will fairly bear such a construction.
The first of these passages is found in Luke 21:27–31, where Jesus says to His disciples, “Then shall they see the Son of man coming on a cloud with power and great glory.” “So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.” But is this coming on a cloud, the literal Second Advent? We answer no; and for the following reasons:
(1) While Matthew answers the question, “What shall be the sign of the end of the world?” Mark and Luke only refer to the destruction of the temple (Mark 13:1, 2, 4; Luke 21:5–7). (2) In Luke 21:20, the destruction of Jerusalem is clearly described. (3) In Luke 21:32, the latter part of the same passage, our Saviour says, “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away till all be fulfilled.” The plain meaning is that the generation then living would not entirely pass off the stage until all the events previously mentioned, the coming of the Son of man included, should take place (compare Matt. 10:23; 16:28). In the latter of these passages Christ declared that some of those persons then present would not taste of death—would not die—till they should “see the Son of man coining in His kingdom.” (4) There is nothing in the passage in Luke, or in the parallels of Matthew and Mark, to forbid this obvious construction of the Saviour’s words. Matthew 24:36, and Mark 13:32, create no difficulty, for the day and hour of Jerusalem’s destruction were as truly unknown as the time of the Second Advent. The darkening of the sun and moon and the falling of the stars, in Matthew 24:29, and the parallel of Mark, are figures of the overthrow of a civil or ecclesiastical polity, as appears from the use of the very same language in Isaiah 13:10, to describe the destruction of Babylon. And the representation that the Son of man would “be seen coming in a cloud,” is in accordance with the usage of the Rabbis who called the Messiah “the Cloud-comer,” and “the Son of a Cloud.” In Psalm 104:3, God is said to “make the clouds His chariot.” In Isaiah 19:1, which refers to “the burden of Egypt,” we have the words, “Behold, the Lord rideth upon a cloud, and shall come into Egypt.” “And our Lord said to the High-Priest (Matt. 26:64), Henceforth ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Revised Version). The “coming on the clouds” was thus to be continuous (henceforth), as well as the “sitting at the right hand of power”; and both were to be seen by the Jews. What becomes now of the confident assertion that “coming on the clouds” is used alone to describe the Second Advent of Christ? We conclude, then, that there is nothing in Luke 21 in relation to the setting up of a kingdom on the earth after the Second Coming of the Lord. The coming on a cloud was to be first a providential coming.
Again, Zechariah 12:10, and Revelation 1:7, are appealed to in support of the position that the Second Advent of Christ is to be followed by the conversion of men in connection with the sight of His glorious person. These passages are regarded as decisive, not only as proofs that Christ is to establish His kingdom on the earth, but that the repentance of the Jews is to be caused by His personal appearing. In the former passage, we read that the Spirit of grace and supplications is to be poured out upon the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and they shall look upon Him whom they have pierced and shall mourn for Him. But, as we have seen, the high-priest was told by our Saviour, that he and his people would “henceforth see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” And He said to His disciples that some of them would not die “till they should see the Son of man coming in His kingdom.” Now, the pouring out of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost was the first coming of Christ in His kingdom, which the Jews saw when their sin in crucifying Him was charged home upon them by Peter, and three thousand of them repented. They then saw Him whom they had pierced, with the eye of memory and conscience, and mourned for Him. Then there was another coming that was near at hand, when the Apocalypse was written, in which (Rev. 1:1) God showed to His servants “things which must shortly come to pass.” And then it was said, “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him; and all kindreds of the land shall wail because of Him” (5:7). This is evidently the same coming that is spoken of in Matthew 24:30, where our Lord says, “Then shall all the tribes of the land mourn.” The mourning, or wailing, spoken of in these passages is plainly that of terror and distress, and not that of penitence, and it will no doubt be repeated at the Lord’s final appearing. It is utterly without warrant to assume that Zechariah 12:10, and Revelation 1:7, refer to the same events, and that both describe the repentance of the Jews at the Second Coming of Christ. Plainly neither of them relates primarily to the Second Advent.
It has been inferred from the parable of the pounds in Luke 19, that Christ is to reward His faithful servants at His coming by setting them over earthly cities as rulers (19:17, 19). But this is simply the language of a parable drawn from temporal affairs to represent spiritual things in another world. And the like may be said of Matt. 26:29, where our Lord says that He will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when He shall drink it “new” with them in His Father’s kingdom. The word “new” is used to intimate that literal, earthly wine is not meant, but the blessedness which the wine of the eucharist symbolized. And this blessedness was to be experienced, not in the kingdom of Christ distinctively considered, but in His “Father’s kingdom,” after the end of all earthly things. And it should be remembered that there is no allusion in any of these passages to the conversion of sinners after the Lord’s Second Coming. Indeed it is not claimed by premillennialists that any such event is predicted in any passage of Scripture whatever except Zech. 12:10, which, as we have seen, they misinterpret against the whole analogy of New Testament teaching.
The question of the apostles (Acts 1:6), “Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” is often appealed to as implying that a literal kingdom is yet to be established at Jerusalem. It is true that Christ answered that it was not for them “to know the times or seasons.” But He immediately added, “Ye shall receive power when the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.” He thus reminded them of His former explanation before Pilate of the nature of His kingdom, and the means of its establishment (John 18:36, 37), “My kingdom is not of this world.” “Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end have I been born, and to this end am I come into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice”—is a subject of my kingdom. Here (Acts 1:8), He assures His apostles that they are soon to receive the promised Spirit to qualify them to take up the testimony where He left it, and so to become witnesses for Him in order to the establishment of His kingdom of truth and righteousness in all the earth. Compare Luke 17:20, 21, where He says, “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo, here! or There! for lo! the kingdom of God is within you” (Rev. Ver.). See also Romans 14:17, where Paul says that the kingdom of God is “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Then let us add further v. 9 in Acts 1, which tells us that “when He had said these things, as they were looking, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” This fact scaled the promise of the Spirit to enable the apostles to do their work as founders of the earthly part of the kingdom, which Jesus had gone to His Father’s right hand to administer. (Compare John 16:7–11.) This passage, then, affords a conclusive argument against the theory of the personal reign of Christ on the earth in the millennium.
Another passage frequently quoted in this connection is Acts 3:19–21, from which it is inferred that the Second Advent is to be followed by the restoration of all things in the millennial period. Undoubtedly the Second Coming is presented in this text as a motive for the repentance of the Jews. But two questions occur here. First, Are “the seasons of refreshing,” and “the times of the restitution, or restoration of all things” here spoken of the same? Most commentators answer this question in the affirmative. Conceding this, the further question arises, What times are referred to? In verse 19 they are called “times or seasons of rest, or refreshment,” and in verse 21, “the times of the restitution, or restoration of all things.” Of these times all the prophets are said to have spoken. The Syriac version renders the latter phrase, “the fulness or completion of the times of those things which God hath spoken.” Considering the whole tenor of the prophecies and the language here used together, we incline to the view of the Bible Commentary, that the reference is to the entire results of the Redeemer’s reign both before and after His final Coming. But the “times of refreshing” include the whole period of blessing to the Jews (for Peter did not yet fully understand the full scope of the prophecies in relation to the Gentiles); while “the restitution or restoration of all things” denotes rather the completed result of the whole process. And accordingly the times of refreshing or rest are spoken of before the coming of Christ is mentioned; for they include the millennial period. But the coming of Christ is spoken of afterward, as an event to take place when, as the Syriac version says, the times of the restoration shall have their “fulness” or completion. We accept the translation of Meyer, in verse 21, “until the times of the restoration of all things shall have come.” In the writings of Luke, achri—“until”—means, at, or after the end, not at the beginning, where a period of time is spoken of. Thus in Luke 4:13, and Acts 13:11, “until a season”; that is, until the end of a season; and in Acts 20:6, “until five days,”—until five days were completed. (Compare Heb. 3:13.) So here, “until the times of the restoration of all things,” means, until those times shall have been accomplished. But if this construction should be deemed doubtful, it would remain that it is at least equally doubtful whether the times mentioned include those of the millennium.
Another passage from which the same inference is drawn is 2 Timothy 4:1, where Paul charges Timothy by the appearing and kingdom of Jesus Christ. But it is simply begging the question to assume that the millennial kingdom is here intended. It seems to us from the whole analogy of similar passages that the reference is to the perfected kingdom when it shall be glorified and delivered up to the Father.
One other passage which is urged by many premillenarians with great confidence as proof that Christ is to come before the millennium, is found in Revelation 19:11–18, in connection with 20:1–4. It is assumed that the rider on the white horse in 19:11–16 is Christ in His personal manifestation on the earth; and then it is earnestly contended that 20:1–4 immediately follows the great battle described in the former verses, and that the beginning of the millennium here spoken of is synchronous with the literal resurrection of the saints, or at least of the martyrs at the Redeemer’s Second Coming. But we deny these positions as neither proved nor admissible. The Evangelist saw heaven opened, and thus beheld the great battle-scene. There is no mention of the Saviour’s advent to the earth. Then it is by no means evident that chapter 20:1–4 describes a scene immediately following the events predicted in chapter 19. The victory spoken of in chapter 19 closes the series of particular events prophesied of in the book, ending, as we believe, with the destruction of pagan Rome, which afforded a sign and pledge of all future victories of the Church down to the millennium. And because the last great victory was thus brought into view by the perspective of prophecy, the millennium and the final judgment, though remote in time, are predicted as the result of all the coming conflicts of the Lord’s people, just as the final resurrection is foretold in Daniel 12:2, in connection with Israel’s tribulation, under the law of prophetic suggestion, though far removed from the troubles of the Jews, in the distant ages. We deny, also, that the resurrection of 20:1–4 is to be literal, although this is not necessary in the present argument. For, as Professor Stuart has shown, the first resurrection may be literal, but invisible to men on the earth, and may precede the Second Personal Coming. But this point we shall have occasion to consider hereafter.
3. But it remains to be said, further, that while there is no allusion to the setting up of a Kingdom on the earth at the Saviour’s Second Coming, in almost every passage where the Second Advent is distinctly spoken of, the events in the sequel are represented as being the general resurrection, the final judgment of mankind, and the rewards of the righteous and the wicked.
First. The resurrection of all mankind is expressly or impliedly presented as an event to accompany the Second Advent. In John 5:28, 29, our Lord says that “the hour is coming in which all that are in their graves shall hear His voice and shall come forth.” Is not this hour the same time that is called “the last day” in John 6:39, 40, 44, 54, 11:24? And is not the “voice” here spoken of, the same that is referred to in 1 Cor. 15:52, and 1 Thess. 4:16, by which believers will be raised? Wherever the resurrection of mankind is mentioned in Scripture it is represented as one event, not two or more similar events remote from one another in point of time. (See Dan. 12:2; Matt. 22:28–31; Mark 12:23–25; Luke 20:33–37; John 11:24.) We read often of “the resurrection,” or “a resurrection,” but never of “the resurrections,” although the one resurrection is spoken of as “the resurrection of life” and “the resurrection of condemnation,” because two classes of persons will be raised to different destinies. And hence there is to be a “resurrection of the just,” and a resurrection to life from among the physically and spiritually dead, who will rise only to “the second death.” (Rev. 20 we shall consider by itself further on.) Now if the dead are all to rise at Christ’s Second Coming, it is clear that His advent will not precede the millennium.
The one judgment, also, is directly associated with the Redeemer’s Second Advent, and never spoken of as a long period of mixed events, or as consisting of several separate transactions. We read of Christ as coming at “the day of Judgment” (2 Pet. 3), but nowhere are we told that there will be one judgment at His coming, and others at different subsequent epochs. (See Matt. 13:39–43; 16:27; 25:10–12, 19–46.) We know what efforts are made to show that verses 31–46, in Matt. 26, describe only a judgment of nations. But whatever that judgment is, it is represented as the immediate sequel of the Saviour’s Second Coming. Moreover, it is clearly the final judgment of mankind. For (1) the phrase “all nations” does not mean only the Gentiles. It includes all men of every class, as in Matt, 28:19; Acts 17:26, where “every nation” is equivalent to all nations. “All nations” in Rom. 1:5, and Gal. 3:8, means all mankind, Jews and Gentiles together. We are not commanded to make disciples of all nations, as nations, but to teach and baptize them as individuals. So in Matt. 25:31, “all nations” is clearly a comprehensive expression meaning all mankind. (2) The judgment is described as pertaining to individuals and not to nations as such (verses 34–46). The final sentence is addressed only to individuals. (3) The objections to this view are futile. One is, that the righteous are said to ask, “When saw we thee an hungered?” etc., which is said to imply that they did not know Christ, and must therefore be Gentiles. Are the Gentiles, then to be saved on the ground of their kindness to Christians, whom they could hardly have known, any more than they have known Christ himself? The meaning obviously is, that the righteous in their humility might be supposed to answer so and so. Another objection is, that the resurrection is not spoken of in the passage. But such a reference was unnecessary. “All nations,” included, in this case, all the human race, dead and living. (4) If this passage does not pertain to the general judgment of all mankind, there is no clear description of such a judgment in the New Testament. For the other passages on this subject all become luminous in the light of this one clear exhibition of the scenes of the general judgment. Even Rev. 20:11–15 is by many premillenarians construed as relating only to the final judgment of the wicked.
Other passages that may be appealed to in this connection are Luke 19:11–27; John 5:28, 29; Acts 17:31; Rom. 2:6–11, 16; 1 Cor. 4:5; 1 Cor. 15:23–28; Phil. 3:20, 21; Col. 3:4; 1 Thess. 4:16, 17; 2 Thess. 1:6–10; Titus 1:2, together with 3:8, and 2:13, where “the hope of eternal life” is associated with the appearing of Jesus Christ, because the beginning of eternal life in its highest sense will occur at the judgment which the Saviour will administer at His Second Coming (comp. Matt. 25:46, and Heb. 9:28). See also 2 Pet. 3:4, 7, 10–13, where the Second Coming of the Lord is represented as being accompanied with the destruction of our globe and the perdition (not the conversion) of ungodly men. And, lastly, 1 John 2:28 compared with 4:17, where the coming of Christ and the day of judgment are spoken of as being synchronous.
Now, the argument is, that while in all these and many like passages there is no intimation that the Second Advent will be followed by the establishment of a kingdom on the earth, there is in every one of them a direct assertion or a plain intimation that the Second Coming is to be for judgment and final retribution. Would such a strain of teachings have been possible if the Second Advent were to be the signal for the setting up of a new and glorious millennial reign of Christ on the earth? We know it is contended that there will be several judgments, or at least that “the day of judgment” will be a long period of time extending from the the beginning of the millennium till the final resurrection. But while such an import belongs to “the last days,” it is not an admissible meaning of “the day of judgment.” This phrase, in the New Testament, uniformly denotes a short period of time, compared to a literal day, which is to be occupied with one single class of transactions. It confounds all exegesis to construe it as meaning a thousand years or more of mixed dispensations, including the repentance and justification of multitudes and the rejection of unbelievers during the progress of a long mediatorial reign. If “the day of judgment” is identical with a thousand years of conversions and ingatherings under Christ’s merciful visitation, there is an end of all certainty in the interpretation of Scripture. No; the day of judgment is the short time, possibly a literal day, in which all men will be sentenced to eternal life or eternal punishment. And if so, the Second Coming of Christ, which will take place at the day of judgment, will not be premillennial—certainly not if the millennium is to be a season of multiplied conversions to the Redeemer and ingatherings into His Church.
4. But there are many teachings of Scripture that exclude the possibility of a long period of conversions after the Second Advent.
In the first place, the appointed means of regeneration will be superseded by the Second Coming of Christ. In Matthew 28:19, 20, our Lord says that all power has been given to Him in heaven and in earth, and commands His apostles to go, therefore, and evangelize all nations by preaching and teaching, and to baptize them. And then He adds the promise that He will be with them always till the end of the Gospel age. If this does not imply that the established means of conversion and sanctification will cease to be used at the Second Coming, how could such a truth be intimated? Then we read in 1 Cor. 11:25, that the Lord’s supper is to be observed “until” Christ “shall come,” implying that it will then be discontinued. But if the visible Church and her ordinances are to disappear, what but arbitrary miracle will remain to convert sinners? Some say that the sight of Christ’s person will be the means of conversion. But even in the extraordinary case of Paul the vision of Christ was a prerequisite to his apostleship (1 Cor. 9:1), and is never spoken of as the only means of his conversion, which was probably a fruit of Stephen’s preaching sealed by the Holy Spirit (see Luke 16:31). Some say that the judgments upon the wicked at the Second Coming will be the converting power. But judgment alone is not a means of conversion. Hence, we do not expect the repentance of the lost in hell. Others tell us that the return of the Jews will be “life from the dead” to the Gentiles. But their conversion itself will be like life from the dead (Eze. 37). There is not a hint in the Scriptures either of conversion or the means of it after the Second Coming. And the depreciation of the present means of grace, and especially of the power of the Gospel, by many premillennialists, seems almost profane. The Holy Spirit uses “the word of truth” in all His ordinary work; and we have no intimation that He is ever to work by any new methods (John 16:7–11; 17:17; Acts 2:16–21; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:22). All theories that require us to believe that men are to be converted after Christ’s Second Coming by the agency of the Holy Spirit in the use of new means of grace, are not only without a word of Scriptural warrant, but imply a contradiction to the Saviour’s express declaration that the Spirit was to perform His peculiar work in the absence of the Son as to His bodily manifestation.
Again: We are expressly taught in many Scriptures that the judgment and rewards of all men are to be administered at the very time of the Redeemer’s Second Advent. In Matt. 10:32, 33, and Mark 8:38, we read that the Saviour will confess those that confess Him, and deny those who deny Him “when He cometh in the glory of His Father.” In Matthew 16:27, we are told that “the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He shall reward every man according to his works” (compare Matt. 7:21–23; 13:30, 38–43; 25:10, 31–46; John 5:28, 29; Acts 17:31; Rom. 2:5–16; 1 Cor. 4:5; 2 Cor. 5:9–11; 2 Thess. 1:6–10). In these and many other similar passages we read not only that the Second Coming will be synchronous with the day of judgment, but that Christ will then (at the Second Coming) reward all men according to their works. Now, if “then” means a thousand years after the Second Advent, and “the day of judgment” is a long period of mixed events, most of them not distinctively judicial, we may believe that there is to be a millennium after the Second Coming; but not otherwise. And if these words do not refer to a particular and limited time when Christ shall appear, there is an end of all certain knowledge as to the meaning of Holy Scripture.
Further: The teaching of Paul in 1 Cor. 15:23–25 is decisive against the intervention of a millennium between the Second Coming and the delivering up of the kingdom to God, even the Father. We are told that “in Christ shall all be made alive”; after which we read as follows: “But each in his own order”—not “his own band”—“Christ the first-fruits; then they that are Christ’s at His coming. Then”—in the next place—“cometh the end, when He shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He hath put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be abolished is death.” The resurrection of the wicked is not in this passage directly referred to. But the resurrection of Christ’s followers is spoken of as involving the abolition of death, which is the last enemy to be destroyed while the Son continues to sit at the Father’s right hand (v. 25). And because the last enemy will have been abolished when the saints shall have arisen at the Saviour’s coming, then cometh the end; not the end of the resurrection, but the end of the Christian dispensation, or age, when He shall, not set up His kingdom, but, deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father, when He shall have abolished all rule and all authority and power. The reason why the mediatorial kingdom will then be given up is that the last enemy, which is death, will have been destroyed, when the saints, and with them all the dead, shall have arisen. The logic of the apostle binds us to this construction of His words. We see nothing but evasion and special pleading in all the attempts that are made to construe this passage in consistency with the premillennial theory.
A further difficulty which forbids our acceptance of this theory is found in 1 Cor. 15:50, where we are told that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God”; that is, the kingdom in the glorified form of it that is to follow the resurrection of believers. It is now conceded by the best commentators that “flesh and blood” here means man’s corruptible physical organization (so even Lange). But if the kingdom of God is to be set up on the earth, where will be the unconverted men still living to be brought into it? Will there be still tares and wheat together in the glorified kingdom? “flesh and blood” mixed up with glorified bodies? or will the kingdom occupy only a part of the earth? or will the propagation of the human race in the flesh cease until the thousand years shall be finished, and all the nations be instantly converted by the sight of Christ, and changed to incorruption in the twinkling of an eye? Will death be banished from the earth for a thousand years, and then reappear with a world of sinners when Satan shall be loosed from his prison? No consistent answer to these questions has ever been offered by premillennialists. There will be an end of “flesh and blood” on the earth when the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible and the living changed.
Another difficulty to be mentioned arises from the fact that when Christ shall come “the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Pet. 3) How, then, are unconverted men still to remain on the earth to be renewed by the power of Christ? and how are the forces of Gog and Magog to be rallied on the earth after the millennium, when all destructible things have been consumed? Are the seed of the wicked to be created anew after the general conflagration? Some answer, that parts of the earth will not be destroyed by the final fires. But the words of Peter positively exclude such a supposition. Others conjecture that the wicked will be carried over the final fires by miracle. But such miracles are contrary to all Scriptural analogies, and are a desperate resort for hard-pressed theorists. Plainly “the day of God”—the day of the Saviour’s coming—will be sudden and the attendant destruction immediate (2 Pet. 3:7, 10). And the delay of that day is designed to give opportunity to the wicked for repentance (2 Pet. 3:9, 15), because there will be no further probation after the Lord’s Second Advent. Some premillennialists, pressed by this difficulty, imagine that there will be a third coming of Christ at the final judgment. But there is not a hint of any such thing in Scripture, while the contrary is everywhere implied (see Heb. 9:28).
One more insuperable difficulty consists in the revealed fact that, at the coming of Christ, the saints will ascend to meet Him “and so be ever with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:18), and that their promised rewards will be “in heaven”—not on this earth (Matt. 5:12; 6:20; 19:21; Luke 6:23; Eph. 3:15; Col. 1:5; Heb. 10:34; 1 Pet. 1:4; John 17:24; comp. Luke 24:51; Eph. 6:4; Col. 4:1; 1 Pet. 3:22; Heb. 12:2; Rev. 3:21). Heaven, then, is the kingdom which the saints are to inherit. Are this earth and heaven one and the same? The final abode of the saints is metaphorically called “a new heaven and a new earth” (2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1), because it takes the place of this earth as a home (see Cremer on kainos as distinguished from neos). Heaven is old as the abode of God and the angels, but new as the residence of the saints in the resurrection state. And the New Jerusalem is said to “come down from God out of heaven,” as a symbol of the final redemption which comes down to receive sanctified humanity, as by a wonderful condescension of grace. But still heaven is the literal home of the redeemed.
It has now, we trust, been made sufficiently clear that there can be no millennium on the earth after the Redeemer’s Second Advent.
Let us now consider briefly the other side of the question,—the doctrine that there is to be an universal prevalence of the true religion on the earth before the Second Coming.
After what has been said, it seems certain that if there is to be no millennium before Christ’s Second Advent, there will be no millennium on the earth at all. For the premillennial theory is encumbered by insuperable difficulties.
1. There is to be a spiritual subjugation of all mankind under the reign of Christ at His Father’s right hand. “For He must reign until He hath put all enemies under His feet” (1 Cor. 15:25). And this reign is to be administered while He is still at the right hand of God (Ps. 110:1). But this dominion is to embrace the willing service of all the nations and kindreds of men. “All nations shall serve Him” (Ps. 72:7–11). “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9). “The kingdom and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High God” (Dan. 7:27). The prayers which Christ prescribes to be offered by His Church are to be fully heard and answered in due time. “Thy kingdom come” (Matt. 6:10). Jesus declared that all power was given to Him in heaven and in earth; and said to His disciples, “Go ye, therefore, and teach,” or make disciples of, “all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” “And, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:19, 20). Whatever may be said in regard to the ability or success of individuals in rendering obedience to the Lord’s commands, we have surely a right to believe that what He requires His Church to do in the conversion of men, on the ground that all power has been given to Him on earth as well as in heaven, and with the promise that He will always be with His people in their efforts to obey, will in the end be accomplished. Accordingly we have the statement in John 1:7, that John’s witness to the Messiah was given, “that all men through Him might believe.” This was the ultimate end of his testimony. Then in John 3:16, 17, we read that God sent His Son not only to make salvation possible to believers, but for the end that the world through Him might be saved.” This implies not only that all men may be saved, but that there is a divine purpose to save the world as the final result of the Redeemer’s coming—that is, to save the living race when the economy of Redemption shall have attained its full purpose; just as in the prediction that “all nations shall serve the Messiah,” the final result is contemplated (comp. John 12:32; Luke 10:18; Rom. 4:13; 5:18, 19; Eph. 1:10, 22; Col. 1:20; 1 Tim. 2:1–6; 1 John 2:2). In all these passages a final result of salvation to the living race of men, seems to be implied. But a more decisive conclusion is warranted by such passages as the following, in which the final result is positively promised. Our Saviour in Matthew 13:33, assures us that the leaven of Gospel grace, which had already been placed in the meal of humanity, would work silently and pervasively until “the whole should be leavened.” Could anything be more unnatural than the assumption that the process here spoken of, which was begun in connection with the preaching of the Gospel, was to be entirely changed by the introduction of new and wholly miraculous agencies, before the achievement of the final result? The reference that has been made to the growing of the stone (in Dan. 2:34, 35, 45) after it had broken down the image, does not touch the question before us. For the image was broken by the stone before the growth commenced. The parable of the leaven is fatal to the doctrine that the millennium is to come after the great catastrophe that is to attend our Lord’s Second Advent. For the Second Advent will introduce a totally new order. Premillenarians usually prefer to deny that the “leaven” represents spiritual grace, and contend that it denotes wickedness in the Church, which is to leaven the whole mass. But if so, the gates of hell are to prevail against the Church before Christ shall come. There is no reason for the assumption that because leaven sometimes denotes moral evil, it must be always so understood, any more than there is a warrant for assuming that Christ and the devil are identical because each is called a “lion.” We must interpret such figures by the connection. The parable of the leaven is, then, an unanswerable proof that the great mass of mankind are to be converted under the present dispensation.
Again, we read in Acts 2:16, 17, that the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, was the begun fulfilment of Joel’s prophecy that the Spirit would be poured out “upon all flesh”—upon all mankind in the flesh (comp. Luke 24:47; Acts 1:4–8). This complete fulfilment is to occur while the Son is still at His Father’s right hand in heaven (33–35, 38, 39). The promise is “to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” After the same analogy we interpret Acts 3:19, 20, 21, whether “the seasons of refreshing” are to be understood as identical with “the times of the restitution of all things,” or as denoting another period. Again, in Romans 11:12, 15, 23, 25, the apostle informs us that “the fulness”—the great body—“of the Gentiles” is to be brought in, and then the Jews are to be converted. Here it is clearly intimated that the same process which was begun by the speedy preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles in consequence of the rejection of Christ by the unbelieving Jews, is to be continued until both Jews and Gentiles shall be converted. “The fulness of the Gentiles” obviously means the complement, or great body of them (see Robinson, Parkhurst, Cremer; also Stuart and Hodge). But it is objected that the Jews are to be converted before the Gentiles. Reference is here made to the judgments predicted in Joel 3, as to be visited upon Tyre and Sidon and other heathen people when God shall deliver Israel. But it is absurd to construe this as a literal prophecy of what is to befall the nations, Tyre and Sidon included, when the Jews shall be converted. For the nations by whom they were sold into captivity have long since become extinct, Keil and Delitzsch well consider this prediction as pertaining to events to occur after the Spirit shall have been “poured out upon all flesh”; and as describing the doom of the enemies of the Church, Jews and Gentiles, who are the true Israel. A further reference is made to Jer. 4:1, 2, as proving that Israel is to be restored first, and then “the nations will bless themselves in him.” But this was an encouragement to Israel, in their first captivity, to return to the Lord, by the assurance that in doing so they would experience deliverance, and the effect upon the nations would be beneficent. The passage has nothing to do with the ultimate conversion of the Jews.
Again, it is said that the conversion of the Jews is to be the cause of the conversion of the Gentiles, and verse 15 of Romans 11, is cited as proof. But the “life from the dead,” there spoken of, may be better understood as pertaining to the spiritual resurrection of the Jews themselves who have been so long spiritually dead and buried, and whose conversion is thus described (comp. Eze. 37). If, then, the great mass of the Gentiles, and “all Israel,” are to be grafted into the stock of the true church by faith, the question is, when? The process had been already commenced when Paul wrote, and he does not give the remotest hint that the entire result is not to be achieved by the continued use of the same means that were being employed in his day. The whole passage implies an unbroken continuity in the process to the end. And, by the way, the apostle evidently had no thought of a literal restoration of the Jews to Palestine, or he would have suggested it in this connection. But, however this may be, what will the millennium be, but the world of Gentiles and Jews converted to Christ and obeying Him for a thousand years, or through a long period of time?
Still again: In Rev. 11:15, we read that there will be great voices in heaven, proclaiming, “The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.” This passage occurs in connection with the prediction of the downfall of Jerusalem and the destruction of Judaism as the first great persecuting power arrayed against the Christian Church. The elders are represented as praising God for this first sign and pledge of final triumph to the Christian cause on the earth, which was interpreted by great voices in heaven proclaiming the ultimate victory to the kingdom of God over the kingdom of this world. This was the first judgment on behalf of the dead martyrs who had been slain by the enraged people. (See Ps. 2 and Acts 4:25–30.) By this judgment the answer to the prayer of the souls under the altar (Rev. 6:9–11) for vengeance upon their enemies, was begun, and its completion, as recorded in Rev. 20:1–4, was made certain. Hence the prophetic announcement in heaven that the grand result had been achieved. This we regard as a clear prediction of the millennium which was finally to be ushered in under the reign of Christ at His Father’s right hand, where He is to sit until all His foes have been made His footstool. The passage has no reference to the general judgment of mankind. (See Stuart and Cowles in loco). We shall find the final answer to the prayer of the souls under the altar, when we come as we now do, to consider Rev. 20:1–6—the passage from which our word “millennium” is derived. This passage, as we have seen, follows the prediction in Rev. 19 of the triumph of Christ over the pagan enemies of His church in the Roman Empire—the second sign and pledge of the final victory of the Christian cause over all enemies. By “the law of prophetic suggestion,” the eye of the Evangelist is carried forward to the future and greater triumph to be witnessed when Satan shall be bound, and Christ shall reign over all the earth. (Rev. 20:1–6.) This is to be the full answer to the prayer of the souls of the martyrs under the altar, (Rev. 6:9–11,) who ask that their blood may be avenged by the complete triumph of the cause for which they died. And hence John says that he saw thrones and they (the triumphant saints) sat upon them, and judgment was given to them, (the judgment for which they had prayed before, 6:9, 10,) and He saw “the souls” (not the bodies) of these martyrs, “and they lived” (not they arose from the dead) “and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” That is, “they lived,” as it were anew, in the resurrection of the cause for which they had suffered and seemed to have perished forever—were glorified together with their triumphant Lord (Rom. 8:17). This is to be a living of enhanced joy and blessedness in the spiritual resurrection of Christianity—“life from the dead to all who have suffered and died for the long depressed kingdom. For a like use of the word “live,” (see 1 Thess. 3:8; Heb. 12:9,) where the word denotes increased joy, blessedness, not physical or metaphysical life. The martyrs and other saints will reign with Christ as “priests,” (v. 6,) but not in a literal sense; and no more will they be “kings” in a literal sense. (See 1 Cor. 4:8; Rev. 1:6, 5:10.) “This is the first resurrection,” not alone of the martyrs, but of the whole cause with which they were identified. It is called a resurrection by a bold metaphor, which pertains to the entire interest of the Redeemer’s Church on earth; and hence it is said in (v. 6,) “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection.” It no more follows from the fact that the final resurrection is to be literal that this first resurrection is to be literal than it follows from the fact that the first death is literal that “the second death” will be literal also. It is “souls” that are said to “live” in “having part in the first resurrection.” In the general resurrection “bodies,” (nekrous,) will stand before the throne (v. 12). The living of “the rest of the dead,” (v. 5,) which is the other resurrection here brought into comparison, is also metaphorical like the first. For the cause with which “the rest of the dead” are identified will not live again until the thousand years shall be finished (v. 7, 8, 9). The literal resurrection is not alluded to until we come to verse 12; and there, as usual, in connection with the final judgment.
It is asserted, we know, that two literal resurrections at different times are spoken of elsewhere in the New Testament. One passage only has been appealed to as affording direct proof of this position: “The dead in Christ shall rise first” (1 Thess. 4:16, 17). But “first” in relation to what? “First,” before the living saints shall ascend. The resurrection of the wicked is not alluded to in this passage. Other passages have been thought to imply the doctrine of two resurrections at different times, especially Luke 14:14, where “the resurrection of the just” is spoken of; Luke 20:35, “The resurrection from the dead”; and Phil. 3:11, where Paul refers to his effort to “attain to the resurrection of (from) the dead.” But the first passage only teaches that the resurrection of the just is distinguished from that of the unjust, in respect to the recompense by which it is to be attended, and not in respect to time. And the other passages simply imply that the resurrection of believers is to be a resurrection to a true life from among the dead—the literally and spiritually dead—whose resurrection will not be followed by a real life at all, but is a resurrection to the second death, comparatively speaking, no resurrection from a state of death (so Bengel and Stier, both premillenarians).
If now the first resurrection is not to be literal, we have no reason to believe that Christ will come in person to the earth at the beginning of the millennial period referred to in Rev. 20:1–6. For no such event is alluded to in the passage. We conclude, then, that there is to be a glorious millennium, during which Satan’s power in the world will be suspended, and that Christ will not come before the final resurrection and the general judgment of mankind at the end of the world.
But it is alleged that there are insuperable objections to this view.
2. We therefore remark, secondly, that no real difficulty can be urged against our doctrine of a millennium before the Second Advent of Christ.
It is alleged that the Scriptures nowhere present the hope of a millennium as a motive to activity in evangelical work. But this, as we have seen, is not so. The motives to patient endurance in suffering were indeed of a different kind. And these were naturally put foremost in the first age of Christianity, when persecutions for Christ’s sake were to be borne by all true disciples. But even then, the ultimate triumph of the Church was presented as a ground of hope, as in Acts 15:16, 17; Rom. 11:25, 26; Rev. 11 and 20. It is now a brighter period, in which the glories of the latter day are nearer, and are very properly brought home to the Church as affording a peculiar stimulus to Christian effort as the time of victory approaches. The teachings of the Bible had their primary application, as they have now their broader uses in accommodation to the altered conditions of the Church.
Again, it is urged that the Scriptures abound in exhortations to continual watching and waiting for the coming of Christ, because the time is uncertain and may be very near. This, it is said, forbids the intervention of a long millennium before the Lord shall come. We are reminded of our Saviour’s words, “Ye know not when the Master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock crowing, or in the morning.” But most of the passages referred to, especially the one just quoted from Mark 13:35, have respect to the coming of Christ to destroy Jerusalem. For Mark and Luke, as already remarked, record only the Lord’s discourse as far as the fate of the temple was concerned. Matthew alone gives the answer to the further question in regard to “the end of the world.” Still it is true that watchfulness is often enjoined, but not merely watching for the final coming of Christ. The coming of the Lord is spoken of in various senses—coming in Spirit (John 14:23); coming at death to take His disciples to Himself (Phil. 1:23); coming in providential judgment (Rev. 2:5); coming to establish His kingdom (Matt. 16:26). Accordingly, Alford (a premillennialist) says: “The coming again of the Lord is not one single act,—as His resurrection, or the descent of the Spirit, or, His second personal advent, or the final coming to judgment; but the great complex of all these, the result of which shall be, His taking His people to Himself to be where He is. This erchomai is begun in His resurrection—carried on in the spiritual life, the making them ready for the place prepared;—further advanced when each by death is fetched away to be with Him; fully completed at His coming in glory, when they shall forever be with Him in the perfected resurrection state.” This whole view together, he takes, on the principle of what Stier calls the “perspective” of prophecy. And in this light we can see why the same language is frequently used in describing different parts of the one comprehensive coming, and the different applications of the one exhortation to watchfulness in anticipation of the Lord’s coming. The duty of watching is just the same, whether for the coming at death, or for providential judgment, or for the final reckoning. Thus the exhortation in Mark 13:34–37, where the providential coming for judgment upon Jerusalem is the subject; in Matt. 24:44, where both the providential and the final coming seem to be contemplated; in Matt. 25:13, where death and the final coming may both be thought of, together with the providential advent; Thess. v. 6–10, where (in v. 10) the coming at death is directly referred to, although the exhortation is at first suggested by the previous prediction of the Lord’s final coming. So in Heb. 10:25, 37, the typical coming is anticipated as near, in connection with the final coming which was more remote; and in James 5:7, 8, the exhortation to wait patiently for the coming—the parousia—of the Lord, is addressed to the persecuted Hebrew Christians, in view of the speedy advent of Christ for the overthrow of their Jewish enemies, and also His coming to each one at his approaching death (see chap. 4:14, 15). It is as clear as light that James expected the coming of which he speaks as a literally near event. Was he then mistaken, or did he refer to a coming by providential judgment, or by death, which was actually near? In such passages the language fitly describes different comings, and need not be confined to one without regard to the other. Now, after what has been said we can see the applications of the exhortation to constant watchfulness to Peter, when he was distinctly informed (John 21:18, 19) that he was to die before the Lord’s Second Advent, in old age; to the other disciples when they knew that the Gospel was yet to be preached to all nations before the end should come, and therefore many years must intervene; and to all the early Christians when they were expressly told that their Lord would not literally come until “after a long time,” certainly not for years, and when Paul had said to the Thessalonians that that day would not come until there should be first an apostasy and a revelation of the man of sin,—evidently not within a day or an hour, but at least, after the lapse of many years. But “the day and hour” of the providential coming and of death was wholly unknown to them, while the Second Advent was more remote. Is it reasonable to hold that all the long series of prophetic events to transpire before the Lord’s final coming, was purposely hidden from the Church, simply for the purpose of keeping Christians in continual expectation of a future fact which was not to occur for thousands of years? Is it like God to make such a use of a false impression touching a really remote event, when the same end could be much better answered by keeping each person in mind of the final coming by pointing him to a previous coming to him at his death, which is certainly near, and which is practically the same thing as the final coming to each individual? We conclude, then, that it was not the policy of God to keep His Church wholly ignorant of all the extended events of intervening history, for the sake of preserving in the minds of His people a continual expectation of their Lord’s literal coming as “imminent,” when in fact it was not imminent. The early premillennialists of the second and third centuries did not expect their Lord any day or hour. For they believed that the seventh thousand years of the world’s history would be the millennium (see Barnabas and Lactantius, who anticipated the coming within two hundred years). Nor did the Westminster divines expect a speedy coming. For they held that Antichrist would continue 1,260 years from the rise of Popery—a hundred years beyond their time (see “Jus Divinum,” by Dr. Calamy, Part I., PP. 35, 51).
Another objection to our doctrine of the millennium is derived from the representations of the New Testament respecting the “evil” character of “the world”—the age—which is said to be governed by Satan as its god. It is assumed that these intimations pertain to the whole period of the Christian dispensation. But the kosmos as well as the aion, is said to be evil and corrupt, and yet we are told that the Prince of this world—kosmos—is to “be cast out,” and that “the kingdom of this kosmos is to become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.” Mankind considered in relation to their connection with this outward world are called the kosmos, while considered in relation to time they are called the aion; and it was more fitting that the race considered in the former relation, rather than in the latter, should be described as to be transformed by the Gospel. For the former is the more concrete view of humanity. Otherwise, it might just as well have been said that the aion would be delivered from the dominion of the devil. The objection, though vehemently urged, has no real force.
But it is alleged that the parables of the tares and the wheat and of the king’s son cannot be reconciled with our doctrine of a millennium before the Second Advent. The parable of the tares, however, at the most, only teaches that there will be some hypocrites mingled with true believers in the Church until the end of the present dispensation, which may be true during the millennium; for we do not hold that absolutely every individual must of necessity be a true Christian during the period of our Lord’s triumphant reign over the earth. And besides, it is doubtful whether the parable in question teaches that there will be hypocrites among the living believers through every age till the end of the world. This, however, is not material to our argument.
Then as to the other parable, it cannot be shown that it is meant to describe the Spiritual condition of the Church in all the later ages of her history. The “many called but few chosen,” do not necessarily embrace all the generations of men in the later as well as the earlier history of Christianity. Such parables pertain rather to the first facts of Christianity than to its entire annals. It is by pressing such inferential reasonings beyond due limits that almost all the errors of the Christian world are made plausible.
Still another objection is urged from Mat. 24:29, 30, in connection with Luke 21:24, where we read that “immediately” after the tribulation of the Jews at the destruction of Jerusalem, the Son of man will be seen coming in the clouds, and that “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled.” These two passages taken together are supposed to teach that the tribulation of the Jews will continue till the Lord shall come immediately after it. But all the events, both in Matthew and Luke, are said to take place within the generation then living; and if there is to be a further fulfilment in the latter day, the more literal and historical fulfilment was to be the primary and typical one. We concede that the word “immediately,” is to be understood in its natural sense. But as we have seen, the “Coming on the clouds” was the providential Coming, for the overthrow of the Jewish polity; and the treading down of Jerusalem “till the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled, was the violent destruction of the holy city during the “three years and a half” spoken of in Rev. 11:2 (compare Danl. 9:27). The Roman armies were the Gentiles referred to, in like manner as Christ is said to “be delivered to the Gentiles;” that is, the Romans (Mat. 20:19, and parallels in Mark and Luke). The Jews are not now captives among all nations, although they were sold as captives when Jerusalem was overthrown in the first Christian age. The objection is based upon interpretation and assumptions that cannot be admitted, and are demonstrably ill-founded.
Once more: Appeal is confidently made to the destruction of “the man of sin,” by the brightness of the Lord’s Coming (2 Thess. 2:8). It is said that this man of sin was already beginning to be developed when Paul wrote, and will continue until the parousia of the Lord, when he will be consumed; and hence, there can be no intervening millennium. “The man of sin” is by many identified with Antichrist, which we see no ground for. But this is not material. The man of sin, however, is evidently an individual person, as the best commentators now concede (see Ellicott). Then it is clear that the Thessalonians already knew what hindered the appearance of the man of sin (2:6). He was, therefore, to be manifested soon, contemporaneously with an apostasy, but not necessarily identical with it (vs. 3). We see no reason to doubt that he was to be a persecuting and blasphemous Roman Emperor claiming divine honors, and thus assuming to occupy the temple of God, or the place which belongs to Him. The Christian fathers (some of them at least) held that Nero was the person, being a type of a future Antichrist. The first position seems probably correct. For the second there is nothing but conjecture. Now the question is, was this man of sin to be destroyed by Christ’s Coming, while He was yet alive in the flesh? This has been long assumed, because it has been held that the man of sin is an organized body (the Romish Church, with the popes in succession at its head), and not a single person. But this we do not believe, and there is no proof of it. If, then, the man of sin was a person, why might not the apostle, for the consolation of his readers, glance forward, as he does parenthetically in v. 8, to the signal judgment that will fall upon him when the Lord shall come, although this may occur centuries or even thousands of years after his death? In just the same way in the previous chapter, he points his suffering readers forward to the “everlasting destruction” to be visited upon their troublers, “from the presence of the Lord, when He shall come to be glorified in His saints” (2 Thess. 1:6, 9, 10). It might as well be argued that those persecutors were to live till the Second Coming, as that the man of sin will be alive then, and be consumed in his flesh by the Lord at His Second Advent. Thus vanishes the famous argument from 2 Thess. 2:8, without any question about the meaning of parousia in v. 8.
But, once more, it is alleged that the influence of the common doctrine of a millennium before the Second Advent has operated to change the style of preaching which was common in apostolic times in relation to the Coming of Christ and the resurrection of the dead. This is urged as an argument against our view, from its fruits. But it was natural that the first Christians should think and speak often of their Lord’s return and of the resurrection, when the ascension was a recent event and the doctrine of the resurrection had just been clearly revealed and confirmed by the resurrection of Christ. But when ages rolled away and the Lord did not appear, and the doctrine of the last things had long been familiar, it is not strange that other views of Christian truth should have received relatively more attention than at first. Of course this change of circumstances afforded no warrant for depreciating the Second Coming and the resurrection, which has not been done by the evangelical ministry in any age. But there was thus a reason for some change in the relative prominence given to eschatology in the discussions of the pulpit. And there was a further reason in the history of premillennialism which has been so often associated with fanatical and absurd expectations in regard to the speedy Coming of Christ. Such fruits of one extreme are likely to create, by reaction, counter-fruits of an opposite extreme.
3. We come now to the last argument for a millennium before the Second Coming of Christ. This doctrine tends powerfully to preserve the balance of the Christian faith and to keep the Church awake in healthful and hopeful activity and evangelical work.
It is not, of course, the doctrine of the Church that there will be no literal coming of Christ in the future, as the Rationalists maintain. It is our doctrine that every man not only may, but will, meet his Lord very soon, and that when death comes to us, the final judgment has virtually come also. And we take the current teachings of Scripture respecting the certainty and purpose of our Saviour’s Second Coming according to their obvious meaning, instead of resorting to unnatural interpretations of “the day of judgment,” and the resurrection, making the former a long period of mixed events, and the latter, two, or many, distinct events remote in time from one another. We hold that the work of converting men is to be completed by the use of the present instrumentalities and by the continued agency of the Holy Spirit in connection with the prayers and labors of the Christian Church. And hence, our doctrine tends to the hopeful consolidation of the Christian forces and the increasing development of the Church’s benevolence and efficiency in the great enterprise of spreading the Gospel and establishing Christianity at home and abroad. No sect or branch of the Christian Church holding these doctrines has ever grown permanently cold and unbelieving, or fanatical and revolutionary in its teachings or labors. The great missionary enterprises of modern times have sprung from the faith which we hold. It is said, we know, that premillennialists were the great moving power of the Church in primitive times. But is it certain that they were, as such, the evangelizing power of the Church, or any power at all, before the middle of the second century, or for more than a hundred years after the Saviour’s ascension? Is it capable of proof that the leaders of the Church were chiefly premillenarians during any long period before their decline in the latter part of the third century and onward? And is there any evidence that premillennialism was the evangelizing element during its greatest prevalence? The early premillennialists, moreover, did not believe that Christ was likely to come in their day. They labored and made sacrifices for Christ and His cause with a view to the martyr’s crown which they expected soon to receive. But their eschatology led some of them into gross conceptions of the Redeemer’s kingdom on the earth, and thus produced a reaction against them which resulted in their permanent depression.
The Anabaptists of the Reformation period in like manner brought their premillennial doctrine into disrepute by their extravagances. The premillennialists of two hundred years ago, with some honorable exceptions, were leaders of wild and divisive factions, who never became a power in any great Christian denomination. Such small sects as the Irvingites and the Adventists of the last generation and the present, have developed extraordinary fanaticism, and most of them have expected no millennium by conversions at all, while very many of them have held to the annihilation of the wicked. The more sober premillennialists of our day are scattered individuals in the various churches with relatively little influence. But since the recent premillennial excitement in connection with lay-evangelism, there have already appeared a fresh crop of the old fruits of the doctrine. In the West small sects have sprung up and their preachers are urging all Christians to come out of the existing churches, and some have gone to Jerusalem to be ready for the Redeemer’s descent on the Mount of Olives. The doctrine that the Second Coming is “imminent,” has naturally led to ignorant interpretations of supposed “signs” of the coming, and predictions of its rapid approach. And sober Christians are stigmatized as being wicked servants who say “My Lord delayeth His coming,” without regard to the remainder of the verse, which explains the evil end for which the Lord’s unquestionable delay is misconstrued by the workers of iniquity. It is said that many missionaries of this day are premillenarians. But it remains to be shown how many of this class become missionaries after they have adopted their peculiar views, and how hopefully and successfully they prosecute their work, and what is the influence of their teachings upon the benevolence and zeal of the churches at home? If we are rightly informed, the most successful missions of our Boards are not conducted by premillennialists, and the chilling influence of the doctrine upon the churches at home is already becoming evident both in England and this country.
But it is not possible to go into an examination of particular facts in this connection. It must suffice to have presented what we believe to be the teachings of Holy Scripture on this subject. The truth, whatever it is, will no doubt in the end develop the best fruits; and it will be found to harmonize with a sound moral and religious philosophy in relation to the fitness of the Gospel dispensation for the accomplishment of its saving results.
It is customary in some Christian quarters, as well as among sceptics at this day, to prophesy evil of the Church and of the progress of the Gospel in the world. But in spite of infidelity and all the prognostications of pessimists, there never was a time before when Christianity was making such rapid strides as at this day.
In our own country since the beginning of this century the number of professing believers has increased from one in fifteen to one in five of the population, notwithstanding the vast influx of sceptics from abroad. Evangelical Christianity on the continent of Europe, where rationalism was in the ascendant fifty years ago, is visibly gaining ground. And successful missions among the heathen have been multiplied within a half century beyond all former precedent. Thus the Gospel is preached everywhere for a witness, that “all men may believe.” Why then should it be asked wherefore the former times were better than these? “Thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this.”
 The little horn in Dan, 8:9, is evidently the same as the little horn of 7:8, 11, although the latter sprang from the fourth horn (one of the four kingdoms) of the divided empire of Alexander, and the former came up among the ten horns, which are ten kings in the one kingdom. It is conceded by many commentators that the little horn of 8:9 is Antiochus, but they find another little horn in 7:8; in the latter they see “the antichrist of the Old Testament,” and in the former, “the antichrist of the New Testament!” To such a medley are the prophecies of Daniel reduced, to save a theory.
 If Antiochus Epiphanes should be regarded as a type of antichrist, for which there is no Scriptural evidence, it would not follow that the primary and literal reference is not to the great Syrian persecutor. The immediate and obvious reference is clearly to him. (Compare Chap xi.)
 Similar language is used in Deuteronomy 33:2, where we are told that the Lord came from Sinai and shined forth from Mount Paran—the wilderness of Sinai—and came with “ten thousand of His saints.” But who believes that God and His saints were seen by the Israelites shining from Sinai to Mount Seir and through Paran, at the giving of the law? (Comp. Hab. 3:1–6; 1 Kings 22:19.) The literal events at Sinai were no doubt the basis of such subsequent symbolical descriptions as that of Zechariah 14. It is possible that this difficult passage is a symbolical description of the new heavens and new earth (see Delitzsch). In that case there is no difficulty, for the millennium is not referred to.
 See Prof. Wright’s Bampton Lectures on Zechariah. The great mistake of most premillenarians is that they interpret the New Testament by the Old, and not the Old Testament in the light of the New. The symbols of the Old Testament are, of course, conformed to the associations and modes of conception to which the Hebrews were accustomed. But the key to a full understanding of such representations is found in such passages in the New Testament as John, 18:36; Acts 2:33–36; Rom. 4:8, 11:11–26; Gal. 3:24–29; Heb. 8:8–13. The typical shell of the Hebrew economy is cast aside in the New Testament, and those who expect a revival of the Hebrew commonwealth, or one like it at Jerusalem, would do well to study Gal. 3:3. The early premillennialists did not hold the modern doctrine in regard to the heirship of the Jews. The Christian Church, in their view, was the true Israel, and the heir of the promises. (See Justin, Barnabas, Lactantius.)
 The word genea—generation—does sometimes in the Greek classics, and perhaps in the Septuagint, signify a tribe or race. But there is no such use to be found in the New Testament, as Prof. Schaff well remarks. (See his “Int. Rev. Commentary,” p. 322.) “This meaning (race or people) occurs in Homer and other classics, but not in the New Testament, although Matthew 12:45 and Luke 16:8 are quoted as examples.” In the present case the meaning is clear, not only from the usual import of the word, but from the connection and from Matthew 16:28. Such a blind reference to the Jewish race, without explanation, would not have been understood. A race would not be spoken of as “passing away”; but reference to a living generation as affording a limit of time was easy and natural. (See “Cremer’s Lex.”) But the passage in 16:28 is decisive. It would not disturb this literal meaning if we should concede that a further fulfilment may occur at the Second Coming.
 Lange (a premillenarian) remarks in his Commentary as follows: “And coming in the clouds of heaven. The expression does not merely refer to His final advent, but to the whole judicial administration of Christ, which commenced immediately after His resurrection, but especially at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, and shall be completed in the end of the world.”
 We regard the Apocalypse as having been written before the destruction of Jerusalem, not so much from external as internal evidence, especially chapters 11 and 17. See Stuart and Cowles; Dr. McDonald “On the Writings of St. John,” chapter ix.; Farrar’s “Early Years of Christianity”; Westcott’s Intro. to John in “The Bible Com.”; Schaff’s “Ch. Hist.,” new cd., pp. 427–429.
 The phrases, “the last day,” and “the day of judgment,” should not be compared with the indefinite expressions “that day” in the Old Testament, and “the day,” “the hour,” in the New Testament. For they denote a particular day at the end of days—not an uncertain period of time. “The day of judgment, moreover, refers to a short time devoted to judicial inquiry and trial, and not to a long period of mixed events; just as in common usage, “the day of prosperity,” “the day of adversity,” “the day of sorrow,” do not signify a long season of mingled successes and disappointments, pleasures and distresses. Besides, the simple word “day,” in the New Testament, never means a long season. “The day of temptation,” in Heb. 4:8, is the day of Massah (see Alexander, Hengstenberg, etc., on the “Psalter”). “The day of salvation,” in 2 Cor. 6:2, does not signify the whole Gospel dispensation. There is no article in the Greek: “Now is a day of salvation”—the present day, as every day, is a day of salvation. But the argument does not turn upon the meaning of the word “day,” by itself. As to the word “hour,” the meaning is more indefinite (see Cremer).
 “The end,” in such passages, cannot be shown to mean anything else but the end of the dispensation spoken of; just as in Matt. 24:14 it denotes the termination of the Jewish economy and polity. It will be shown hereafter that the resurrection of believers will be synchronous with that of the unjust.
 We need not assume that this material earth will be annihilated by the fires of the final day. It will be “burned up,” as any combustible substance is burned. But there is no Scriptural warrant for the doctrine that this earth, renovated, is to be the heaven of saved men (see Stuart on Rom. 8:19–23, and Hengstenberg on Ps. 102:25, 26). “The first heaven and the first earth”—this outward kosmos will “pass away” (Rev. 21:25, compare Matt. 24:35).
 We are not arguing here with those who deny that there is to be any universal prevalence of the true religion on the earth. It may be said, however, that their doctrine that the kingdom of Christ is to have its place in the new heavens and the new earth, and not on this present earth, is supported by only one plausible argument: that the reign of the Messiah is said to be perpetual (Daniel 2:44; 7:27; Luke 1:33). But it should not be forgotten that before the New Testament revelations were made, no clear distinction was traced between the earthly form of the Messiah’s kingdom and its final glorified form. The two forms were blended together. But interpreting the Old Testament in the light of the New, we learn that the final form of the kingdom does not exclude the previous earthly form, nor the earthly from the heavenly. But it could be shown that in the Old Testament the primary reference is always to the earlier earthly kingdom. The chief references to the future glorified kingdom are found in the affirmations of its results and its perpetuity, until we come to such passages in the New Testament as Matt. 13:43; 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:24–28; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21. (See Delitzsch on “Isaiah,” Vol. II., p. 519).
* There has been a great deal said about the preaching of the Gospel to the nations “for a witness,” as if the end and object of witnessing were to insure the condemnation of the world. The end of witnessing is, that “men may believe”; for God sent not His Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it. Acts 15:14, is often referred to in this connection, as if only a small number were to be taken from the Gentiles during the Gospel dispensation. But Peter spoke of God’s “first” visit to the Gentiles in connection with his preaching, “to take out of them a people for His name.” James goes on to quote from the prophets: “After these things I will return, and I will build again the tabernacle of David,” “that the residue of men may seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called.” The whole passage taken together completely contradicts the restrictive view of the premillenarians.
The preaching of the Gospel for a witness referred to in Matthew 24:14, took place before the destruction of Jerusalem (v. 34), although it was to have a further fulfilment at a later period.
 Those who contend that the catastrophe of the four kingdoms by the stone from the mountain, disproves the common view in regard to the gradual diffusion of the leaven, assume that the fourth kingdom in Daniel 2:40–44, is the Roman empire and not the Syrian kingdom, which we do not admit (see Stuart and Cowles on the passage; also our note, respecting the little horn of Daniel 7:8 and 8:9). Besides, “the growth” of the stone, succeeds the destruction of the fourth kingdom, and is not represented as being interrupted by that catastrophe.
 Confessedly the language used in the description of this vision is peculiar. But it should be remembered that the whole passage is highly figurative or symbolical, and partakes largely of the spirit and style of the Hebrew prophecies, although none of them is quite parallel with this. The closest resemblance perhaps, will be found in Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones and the resurrection of Israel. (Ezek. 37.) But there the reference is to a nation still in the flesh, while here the description pertains to martyred saints in their relation to a kingdom which is partly on earth and partly in heaven. We cannot agree with Dr. D. Brown and others who regard “the souls” of the martyrs as symbolical of saints in the flesh, although the spiritual resurrection of the church on earth is implied. The immediate reference, it seems to us, is to the participation of the martyrs and other departed souls represented by them, in the glorious triumph of the cause for which they suffered and died. This is the first resurrection.
 In verse 5, “the souls” of “the rest of the dead” are not mentioned because it has been sufficiently indicated already that a literal resurrection is not meant; and their souls had not been previously spoken of as were those of the martyrs in chap. 6, in contradistinction to their bodies which had been slain by their persecutors. It will be noticed that “the rest of the dead” are not said not to have been raised, but not to have lived until the thousand years were finished. The peculiar figure of “living” by sympathy with and participation in a revived cause is kept up. And this living of the rest of the dead takes place at the end of the millennium, not at the last judgment described in verses 12, 13. Thus we have a direct comparison of the first resurrection (figurative) with a second figurative resurrection, and not of a figurative with the literal and final resurrection. There may, however, be an implied allusion to the final resurrection also in v. 4. But if so, the first and the second resurrections belong to the same persons as far as they are concerned, and the first is figurative and the second literal, in like manner as “the second death” is spiritual (v. 14), while the first death of the same persons (which is implied) is literal.
 It is alleged by a late writer that there is no direct affirmation in Scripture that the millennium will precede the Second Advent, and therefore it is very improbable that there will be a millennium before the Redeemer shall come. But why should there be any such declaration if, as we have seen, the Second Coming is uniformly represented as being immediately followed by the final judgment and its eternal results, and if the preaching of the Gospel, already begun when the apostles wrote, is everywhere spoken of as the appointed instrumentality in the conversion of men? Why say that the conversion of the world will be effected by the well-understood means of conversion, and will not take place after the final judgment by other and totally different means which are nowhere alluded to in Holy Scripture?
 It is often asserted that the parousia of Christ always denotes His final appearing and personal presence. In proof of this the use of the word parousia in relation to men in the flesh is appealed to; for example, “the coming of Titus,” etc. But Christ is not merely a man. There is nothing in the derivation of the word parousia to indicate visible presence. The connection must determine its meaning in particular cases. In Matthew 24:3 it does not seem to denote exclusively the final coming (see Robinson’s Lex.) And in James 5:7, 8, it signifies a coming or presence which was said to “be near,” for the encouragement of the suffering readers. But the word, “has come near”—egike—does not mean, “may be near”; nor is it to be understood as indicating time on God’s scale of reckoning: for the nearness was spoken of as a reason for patient waiting on the part of men then living (comp. Matt. 3:2; 4:17). Did James, then, teach an error? or does the parousia here denote a providential coming?
 In 2 Peter 3:3, 4, we read that in the last days scoffers will ask, “Where is the promise of His coming? For from the day that the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” Peter, then, did not expect that Christ would come for, “a long time.” It is true, the apostle says in his first epistle (4:7): “The end of all things is at hand,” or, “of all the end is nigh.” This is regarded by Lange and many others as a proof that Peter believed and taught that the end of the world was near in point of time. And unquestionably he does mean to say that “the end” is actually at hand, not on God’s scale of reckoning, but in the human sense of the language. The only mode of acquitting Peter of mistaken teaching here, is to regard him as contemplating the end of all earthly things to his readers as individuals, which was soon to take place in their death, and would be to them practically the final “end of all.” If he meant that the end of all things to the world and the human race was “at hand,” he was evidently mistaken, and urged a false motive to patience and watching, upon the minds of his readers. We now say to those who are indulging in worldly pleasures that “the end of all is at hand,” as it certainly is to them. It is urged by many that Peter says (2 Pet. 3:8) that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day,” and that we may therefore regard the phrases, “is near,” “is at hand,” “immediately,” etc., as denoting a short time only according to God’s reckoning. But “a thousand years” are with the Lord “as one day,” just as much as the converse. Are we then to conclude that a thousand years mean one day? Surely not. The thought is, that time makes no difference with God as to the fulfilment of His promises. It is a total perversion of the text to construe it as implying that in prophetic language the terms “at hand,” “near,” “immediately,” etc., have no definite meaning, or do not bear their natural and usual import.
 It is susceptible of clear proof that the majority of the Westminster Divines were not premillenarians. They did not expect a millennium on the earth after the Second Advent. They held that many of the Gentiles and Jews were yet to be converted. But they do not seem to have expected a future millennium in the accepted sense of that term. This explains their language in the last chapter of the Confession. They thought that Christ might soon come for final judgment,—not to set up His kingdom on the earth. Thus they agreed with us in rejecting the doctrine of the premillennial advent. They differed from us in regard to the fact of any future millennium at all. But their expectation in regard to the conversion of the Jews and the Gentiles was in substance the anticipation of a millennium, excepting the length of the period during which Christianity is to prevail. Our readers will judge for themselves whether our views or those of the premillenarians are most nearly in accord with the teachings of our standards (see “Conf. of F.,” chap. viii. sec. 4, chap. xxxiii. secs. 1, 3. Larg. Cat. Ques. and Ans., 51, 53, 56, 87, 88, 90; Ques. and Ans., 190).
 It has been argued that there will be scoffers in the later ages, as there were in the days of the apostles, and that this fact warrants the inference that the corruption of the world will continue through all the intervening period. But will there not be a release of Satan after the millennium, and will not Gog and Magog then make war against the camp of the saints who will dwell in peace during the thousand years? Such arguments prove altogether too much.
 The “year-day” theory of times in prophecy is now generally, though not altogether, abandoned. It has been often refuted by such authors as Stuart, Cowles, and Dr. Lee, in Introd. to “The Bible Commentary,” on Revelation. For various views of the “forty-two months,” see Excurses B, on Rev. 2, in Bib. Com., also Stuart and Cowles, who regard the “three years and a half,” as a short period—about forty-two months, or the one-half of seven years.
 If it is still insisted that the man of sin denotes not only a persecutor soon to arise when Paul wrote, but another monster of wickedness of whom the first should be regarded as typical, why may not the second man of sin appear after the millennium, and be literally consumed by the Lord’s Second Coming? As for the assumption that the pope is the man of sin, it does not answer to the description given in 2 Thes. 2:4. It can, at the most, be true only in a secondary and subordinate sense. This reference of the man of sin is now generally abandoned by judicious commentators.
 The “millenary opinion” is set down by Calamy (in his “Jus Divinum,” Appendix, pp. 100, 101,) among the “many corruptions which crept into the Church in the very infancy of it.” Calamy was a leading member of the Westminster Assembly, and his “Jus Divinum” was adopted by the Provincial Assembly of London in 1653. For some of the fables ascribed by the early premillenarians to our Lord himself, see Irenæus, vol. ii., p. 146, respecting the vines in the millennium, bearing 10,000 branches, each branch 10,000 twigs, each twig 10,000 shoots, each shoot 10,000 clusters, each cluster 10,000 grapes, etc. See also Lactantius, vol. i. pp. 478–79, respecting the perpetual enslavement of the remnants of the nations, the running down of “streams of wine and rivers of milk,” etc., which are given as the “inspired predictions of the Sibyl.”