Every coming but a dim adumbration of the final coming.—Trench.
THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST.
The entire Christian world is agreed as to the fact of the second coming, but differ widely as to the time; the one part holding that he will come before, and the other after, the Millennium. It will be perceived at a glance that a world-wide distance separates these two classes, and that the plan of interpreting the whole book of Revelation, as well as other portions of the scriptures, will depend entirely upon which of the two theories we adopt.
In order to a full and intelligent understanding of the relative claims of the two we must know precisely the things asserted and believed.
The view of the postmillennialist is simple and easy of comprehension. He holds that Christ will not come till the end of time, when he will return as he went up, in great pomp, with a retinue of angels, and shall sit upon his throne, when all the living and the dead shall appear before him, the latter being raised from their graves, and be judged out of the books, and every man to receive as his works shall be, whether good or bad.
The theory of the Premillennialists, on the other hand, is complicated, and not so easy of comprehension, requiring study fully to understand it, even the advocates themselves differing among themselves on several points. As far as I can gather it, they hold that Christ will first come to meet and receive his people, at which time there will be a resurrection of the just, and a change of living believers, when these shall all be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. This is what they term “The Rapture,” and which is imminent, and may occur at any moment, the object being to take the church out of the tribulation about to be visited upon the earth. The church being thus removed, the great tribulation, which is to continue through Daniel’s week of seven years, will follow, when all the judgments will be visited, and vials of God’s wrath poured out. During this period Antichrist will appear and the Jews be restored, in part or whole. At the end of this tribulation period the Savior, with his saints, will descend to the earth in flaming fire, to execute judgment on the earth. This is what they term the “Revelation,” and what they regard as the second coming proper. Then the judgment of the nations, or of all the living, spoken of in Matthew xxv. 31-46, to determine who shall be subjects of the millennial kingdom, will take place, which will be followed by the destruction of Antichrist, the beast and false prophet, these having arisen during those seven years, and the binding of Satan. Then the resurrection of the tribulation saints, those who lived and died during the tribulation period, and which they term the “Gleanings,” and which completes the first resurrection. Then the Millennium, which is “one continuous judgment,” and in which Christ shall reign with his saints on earth for one thousand years. After this Satan is to be loosed, and then destroyed, with Gog and Magog. Then the erection of the great white throne, and the resurrection and judgment of the remaining dead, who they say are only the wicked dead.
The above outline I take from a little work, Jesus Is Coming, by “W.E.B.” published by Fleming H. Revell Co., one hundred and twenty thousand copies of which have been issued, and which has the endorsement of such men as Dr. J. H. Brooks, Dr. A. T. Pierson, Dr. A. J. Gordon, and Dr. R. A. Torrey and others, and quite a number of religious journals, and which I take as giving a fair representation of that side.
Dr. Seiss in his lectures on the Apocalypse, which has reached its eighth edition, and comprising in all five thousand sets, and which may also be considered as standard, puts the case a little differently. In order to escape all complications connected with the different resurrections, he presents a clear-cut view, boldly asserting that there will be but two resurrections, one for the righteous before and at the beginning of the Millennium, and another of the wicked at the judgment at the last day; and if not asserting it in so many words, clearly teaching that there is to be no resurrection at all after the beginning of the Millennium, except of the wicked, the righteous being exempt from death after that period, being secretly caught up to heaven at different times.
He also differs from “W.E.B.” in the length of the tribulation period. Instead of seven years he makes it forty, and even seventy years and more. The first coming for his saints he terms the “parousia,” and his coming with them the “epiphania.” The period of about seventy years immediately preceding the Millennium will comprise the “parousia,” the seals, the trumpets, the vials, the judgment of the living: the “epiphania,” the rise and destruction of Antichrist, and the binding of Satan. During the Millennium the saints will reign with the Lord on earth, ruling the nations with a rod of iron, which he terms “shepherdizing the nations” of the redeemed earth, the inhabitants of which will perpetuate themselves upon the earth by a method of generation which he terms “after the flesh,” the resurrection saints, however, being of the royal family,” whose peculiar prerogative it will be to reign over the others.
Dr. Rutledge in his recent work, Christ, Antichrist and Millennium, a very able, exhaustive, and in some respects a most remarkable book, presents the same general view, differing, however, in many important particulars. For example, he denies the imminency of Christ’s coming, but puts it in the distant future. He makes the “man child,” and not the Holy Spirit, the hindering power. He dissents from the idea that there will be no righteous in the second resurrection. He also differs from them in this, that Christ will not reign on earth, but in heaven; his reign, however, will be over the earth.
In order to assist the reader the better to keep in mind the different parts of this complicated scheme, I make the following diagram:
To many of my readers the foregoing will doubtless appear to be new, and even startling. No matter what interpretation overweening critics and scholars may draw out of certain texts, I seriously doubt whether one tithe of the things herein asserted would ever suggest themselves to the plain and unsophisticated reader of the scriptures. We submit, therefore, at the very outset, that a theory that runs so far counter to the common trend of Christian thought and sentiment, as held by ordinary Bible readers and students, as to startle by its very announcement, must at once awaken suspicion as to its unsoundness. Standing, therefore, upon the high vantage ground which the easy, and most direct and simple, interpretation of the scriptures unmistakably gives, I proceed to point out some of the more serious, and even fatal difficulties with which the premillennial theory seems to be hopelessly environed.
I. NUMBER OF COMINGS.
In the first place, the reader will please notice the number of comings. There are three of these:
1, At the rapture, when Jesus shall come for his saints.
2, At the revelation, when he shall come with his saints, to setup his mediatorial kingdom.
3, At the last day, when he shall come to judge the ungodly.
Now we submit just here, if it be not a misnomer to speak of these three distinct comings as simply one, and characterize them as his second coming. They hold that he is first to come for his saints, and then with his saints, and that this last is his second coming. But why not the first as well, especially as it is so emphasized with the sounding of the trumpet, the voice of the archangel, the resurrection of the dead, and the change of the living? If the coming with the saints be a coming, why not also the coming for the saints? To avoid this dilemma and reduce two to one, they call the first simply a “meeting”; but how can there be a meeting without a coming? And with what propriety can a coming, ostensibly for the purpose of gathering his saints, and resulting the living, be styled only a “meeting”? Dr. Rutledge terms it simply a “stage” in the coming. But how a stage, when the whole transaction is described to be, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” and at “the last trump”? How many stages can there be in the twinkling of an eye?
It seems that Paul has settled this matter in 1 Thessalonians iv. 15, where he answers the question about our sleeping dead, and where he says nothing about different stages or stoppings on the way, or mentions any other but one coming and one meeting. Says he, “At the coming of the Lord, God will bring with him those who are asleep in Jesus”; those whose spirits are already with him in Paradise, whose bodies will then be raised when the living saints will be changed, and all together be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, to be forever with the Lord.”
Here we have clearly set forth—
1st, That there will be but one coming. At the coming, την παρουσιαν of the Lord. The apostle speaks of but the one coming, and emphasizes it as the coming, without giving even a hint of any other.
2d, He also describes the manner of the coming. It is to be both with and for the saints. He is to come for the bodies of the dead saints, all at once; also for the living saints, all at once. But for the souls of the dead saints is to come one by one, which he does at death, and this, in advance of the other coming. How different this from the account of the Premillennialists, that he is to come for all his saints, living and dead, at once! Paul says he is to bring a part with him, and come for the rest. They say he comes for all, and at once. Their theory simply shuts dead believers out of Paradise, for a season at least, and is in direct conflict with the old theology, that “The souls of believers do immediately pass into glory.” Paul would comfort with the thought that our departed friends are in the bosom of their Lord; their theory robs them of that comfort, by holding that their souls are still on earth, and he is yet to come after them!
3d. The time is also set for the coming. This is to be at the “last trump” (1 Cor. xv. 52), and therefore the final gathering. No other falling asleep in him, no other awaking of the dead, after this. And yet Premillennialists tell us that this is only the first stage in his coming, and gravely assure us that there are “gleanings,” yet to be gathered! But if gleanings, how gathered, and when? Is another trumpet yet to sound after this, declared by the apostle to be the “last,” to awake those who, if not “born,” yet seemingly died “out of due time”? Is Christ to come in person a second time after these, or is it to be simply another “meeting,” without a coming? Obviously, if there is to be an after gleaning, then the whole transaction is to be repeated; for those who constitute the “gleanings” will also be asleep in Christ, and he must go after them, that hey may also bring them with him when he comes. The conclusion seems inevitable, either no death after the rapture, or else a second coming for his saints. If he is to come back after these, then there will be a second coming for his saints. If he is to come again with them, as they claim, this also will be a second coming with them. According then to their theory, there must be two distinct comings, both for and with his saints.
Furthermore, how make this second coming stop with the Revelation as the only coming, when they themselves teach that he is to come again at the last day, to judge the ungodly dead? If he is to come again as judge, this will clearly make the third coming, unless the Lord is to remain on the earth after the Millennium, until the final judgment, as Dr. Rutledge affirms. But in this they are confronted with this dilemma: either to join issue with the apostle as to the continuance of the earthly reign, or else admit a third coming. The language of the apostle is explicit in this, that he limits the reign to one thousand years. If they lengthen that reign, they place themselves in direct conflict with the inspired word. If they end it with the Millennium, they leave Christ on earth, a disenthroned king, or else require him to return to heaven, and if so, to come again, which will make it the third time for him to come.. The language of the scripture is everywhere “come again”; Jesus says “come again”; the angels say “come again”; so also the apostles, prophets, and the church in all ages; but the theory says come again, and again, and again-three times. We leave it with the premillennialist to explain by what process of computation three can be equal to one, or one equal to three?
II. Number of Judgments.
The same, and even greater, incongruities appear in connection with the number of judgments. The uniform style of the scriptures is to speak of the judgment as one, as “the judgment.” The word is never in the plural—never judgments. They declare unqualifiedly that all men are to appear before the judgment seat of Christ, without any allusion whatever to different classes, times, or occasions. In the parable of the talents there was but one time of reckoning; so in that of the husbandman, the angels were to separate the wheat and tares on the same day. In the judgment in Matthew xxv. 31-46, the righteous and wicked both appeared before the same august throne, and received sentence on the same occasion. And yet they would have us believe that there are to be two distinct judgments, and two distinct occasions, one for the righteous and one for the wicked; and that, too, at periods far removed from each other. If the sacred writers wished to say that we were all to appear before the same bar, both righteous and wicked, and be judged at the same time, we do not see how they could be more explicit. If the Saviour intended to teach that the righteous and wicked were to stand before him on the same occasion, and at the same hour, we do not see how he could have used language more to the purpose than when he said, “before him shall be gathered all nations, and he shall separate them as a shepherd his sheep from his goats. Then shall he say to the one, Come ye blessed of my father, and to the other, Depart ye cursed.” To say that this was a judgment simply of nations is too trifling for serious consideration. Nations are never welcomed or excluded from heaven as nations. It will never be said of them, “these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.” We are to stand in judgment before God as individuals, and not as a nation.
In order to make the incongruities the more apparent, we are only to consider the different judgments they allow, and the different classes to be judged. The different judgments are—
1, Of the righteous at the rapture.
2, Of the living described in Matthew xxv., at the Revelation.
3. Of the wicked at the last day.
The classes, according to the theory, to be judged are:
1. The pious living and dead at the rapture.
2. The pious living at the time of the revelation.
3. The pious dead during the tribulation.
4. The living, good and bad, at the judgment of the nations.
5. The pious living during and after the Millennium.
6. The pious dead during and after the Millennium.
7. The wicked at the judgment at the last day.
Here, then, are seven distinct classes. Let us see what provision their theory makes for their judgment. They tell us of two visible judgment thrones, and two visible judgment scenes. One is to judge the nations, namely, all the living, good and bad, recorded in Matthew xxv. 31-46, and the other, the great white throne, at the last day, before which all the wicked dead are then to appear, and no one else; “wicked sinners,” as Dr. Seiss expresses it.
A mere glance is enough to show the classes necessarily omitted in this scheme.
(1), The living and dead to be taken up at the rapture; when are they judged? (2), Then the tribulation saints; when are they judged? (3), And the resurrected martyrs, when are they judged? (4), So the pious living and dead, during and after the Millennium; are these all to escape? (5), And lastly, the wicked living at the time of the last judgment; for, according to their theory, only the wicked dead are to be then judged.
Thus this theory of only two judgments, one for the living and one for the dead, falls, self-impaled, like Saul upon his own sword, as it makes no provision whatever for the judgment of any of the dead saints at the rapture, the tribulation, or final judgment; nor yet for any living wicked that might be living at the time of the last judgment.
And not only does it make no provision for these several classes, but also makes a distinction that is wholly unaccountable; for the question at once springs up in every thoughtful mind, why this discrimination? Why this judgment at the revelation, and not at the rapture? Why this judgment of only the then living and not the dead, at the judgment of the nations, in Matthew xxv.? And this judging only the dead, and not the living, at the last day? And why this double judgment, one in Matthew xxv. and one in Revelation xx.? And this difference, a part of the righteous judged secretly and a part openly?—a part of the wicked now, and a part not at all? Why in advance, formally and openly, send a part of the wicked to perdition, when the same sentence of exclusion is again to be formally pronounced against the remaining wicked, at the last day? We must confess these things seem to us a little confusing.
To meet all the exigencies of the case, Dr. Seiss has found it necessary to deny altogether the existence of any formal judgment in the case of the righteous. “Christ never mounts the throne of judgment towards his church and people,” says he (Vol. III., 326), “the judgment being the result of antecedent judgment.” (Vol. II., 325.) But when this antecedent judgment? He fails to tell us. If at all, it must have been in private, or secret. But how is this assertion to be reconciled with the saying of the Master, that the righteous, as well as the wicked, shall stand before him; or that of Paul, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,” must be left with him to explain.
To us he seems to be confounding two things entirely different, namely, he judgment of condemnation, and that of awards. If by judgment he means acquittal from condemnation, we are in hearty accord with him. But this is not the point before us. The point we are considering is the formal judgment which precedes the awards, which is quite another thing, and is everywhere insisted on in the scriptures, which none shall escape, not the angels, nor yet even the devils in hell, for they are reserved in chains of darkness for the judgment of the great day.
On the other hand, W. E. B. would avoid the difficulty by making the day of judgment an indefinite period, “and not a day of twenty-four hours.” (P. 67.) But this brings no relief. The thing that concerns us is, not the continuation, but the number of judgments. A court may run through a long time, and yet be the same court. The problem before the Premillennialists is simply this: how can his assertion about two judgments sitting on two different occasions, for different purposes, and a thousand and more years apart, one to judge the living nations, and the other to judge the wicked dead, be made to agree with the scripture account of one judgment? In opposition to both of these views, we place the following express declarations of the word of God: “Who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing.” (2 Tim. iv.1.) “And before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from his goats.” (Matt. xxv. 32.) “Because he hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness.” (Acts xvii. 31.) “For the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation.” (John v. 28, 29.) “Reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day.” (Jude 6.) And leave with them the problem of harmonizing their theory of a double judgment with these express statements of the word of God.
Then it might be interesting to inquire what would be the status of these glorified saints, the fruits of this judgment of the nations as they term it. They are not the ingathering, for that, as they say, is already completed at the rapture; nor the gleanings, for these are the tribulation saints, as they declare. Will they be included with the martyrs, and reign too with the Savior? Or is it intended that special honor be thus put upon them, inasmuch as they should thus be openly recognized as inheritors of the kingdom, and invited to enter therein, and thus made superior to others, and made to sit upon his throne, and to judge at last the pious dead as well as the wicked? And thus have on-half of the saints sitting in judgment upon, and lording it over the other half? Where do we find any such teaching in the scriptures? Why put such honor, and confer such special prerogatives upon the one, and place such seeming humiliation upon the other? On the other hand, the scriptures everywhere, as a rebuke alike to the sordid spirit of Diotrephes and the ambitious aspirations of the sons of Zebedee, teach that the same rules of judgment will apply alike to all, and that even the living shall not prevent, or anticipate, or get any advantage of the dead.
III. NUMBER OF RESURRECTIONS.
The same incongruitites exist in connection with the resurrection. They speak of only two resurrections; one of the righteous, and one of the wicked; but their theory clearly demands more than that. The following is the enumeration we make:
1, Of the righteous, when Christ comes at the rapture.
2, Of the tribulation saints, who die during the tribulation period, termed by them “the gleanings.”
3, The rest of the dead, at the close of the thousand years.
4, The last resurrection of the dead, at the last judgment.
5, Dr. Seiss asserts that there was a resurrection of the righteous even before John’s day; for he interprets the elders in the first vision as the first risen saints. This will make another class.
6, Then the righteous people who died during and after the thousand years. So here is another resurrection of the righteous, making six in all, whereas they say only two.
To reconcile all this they claim that the wicked are raised up all at once at the last day; and that the resurrection of the righteous will be at different times, as Dr. Seiss affirms is to be understood as one, in the sense that these different resurrections are all included under one, and that the first resurrection, spoken of in Revelation xx. 5, covers the whole field, and includes all the saints arisen at different times, from John’s vision of the elders till after the martyrs. But why stop with the martyrs? Why not include all who lived during and after the Millennium, and thus make it one continuous resurrection, that it may meet all the demands of their theory?
Now we submit, whether this interpretation does not violate every law of speech? How can six be made to mean one? Where is the scripture warrant for such a computation? The common reader, when he reads about the resurrection, thinks of but one. When the Savior said, “In the resurrection they neither marry nor give in marriage,” he thinks of but one. Again, when he said, “I will raise him at the last day,” the simple-minded reader would understand just what is said, the last day, and not a day before or after. The resurrection is everywhere spoken of as a common event. The word, like the term “Judgment,” is always in the singular, never in the plural; never resurrections. If it were the intention of the sacred writers to say that there was but one common resurrection, how else could they express themselves? Why, then, did the Holy Spirit use language so calculated to mislead? And why did the Savior, the great teacher, not correct the error? There was a notion of a common and general resurrection in his day. Hence the language of Martha, “I know he will rise in the resurrection at the last day.” (John xi. 24.) Not at the rapture, or the revelation, or end of the age, but the last day. How, then, account for his not correcting this, as he did every other abuse of misinterpreted law, and that, too, when discoursing upon that very subject? With him not to correct was simply to endorse. His very silence fixes the common interpretation as the correct one.
The theory of two resurrections, one for the righteous and the other for the wicked, one at the rapture and the other at the end of the world, is further confronted with the following serious and insurmountable difficulties.
1, It directly conflicts with the scripture teaching as to the time set for the destruction of death. Paul declares that the “last enemy to be destroyed in death,” which places it beyond the battlefield of Gog and Magog. John states that the destruction will not be till after the last great judgment, when death is to be cast “into the lake of fire.” If there is to be no Resurrection after the rapture, then no death; and if no death, then here comes the irreconcilable disagreement between their theory and the teachings of the apostles. Paul teaches that the destruction will be at the resurrection, whenever that is to be. (I Cor. xv. 54.) They say the resurrection will be at the rapture; if so, death will be destroyed at the rapture; and yet John says, not till after the last judgment! How reconcile the two? How destroyed both at the resurrection and after the last judgment, unless the resurrection be in close conjunction with the final judgment?
NUMBER OF RESURRECTIONS.
2, It makes no provision for the resurrection of the righteous who live during and after the Millennium. That there will be such no one will deny. The very idea of Millennium is that of triumph. The binding of Satan warrants the same conclusion. If there be righteous during that period, they must die, and if they die, they must be raised up. But how, since the “last trump” has already sounded, the last resurrection accomplished, and Christ already come for and with his saints? Their theory obviously requires another and after sounding of the trumpet, and another and after resurrection of the dead. If another resurrection be necessary to reach the postmillennial saints, then what becomes of their theory that none but the wicked are raised up at the last day? Dr. Rutledge admits a resurrection during that period, but says the number will be “infinitesimally small.” But how does the smallness of the number affect the argument? To admit the resurrection of any is but to surrender the whole scheme. He also terms this a “supplementary resurrection”; but Paul says nothing about a supplementary resurrection, either in 1 Corinthians xv. or 1 Thessalonians iv., where he handles the subjects so exhaustively and concludingly. Dr. Seiss, seeing the difficulty, asserts that none but the wicked will then die; and further, to relieve the situation, suggests the possibility of secret invisible translations, as in the case of Enoch and Elijah. He speaks of death not as death, but as a “stealthy eruption,” invisible to the world at large. (Pref. Vol. III) Believers are not to die, but are “stealthily erepted,” snatched up; and this ereption invisible and also inaudible, though accompanied with the sound of the trumpet! all of which will require a standing miracle, or else a change in the very constitution and course of nature, of which the scriptures say nothing. To what great straits Premillennialists are reduced to maintain their theory!
3, A third difficulty is the living wicked at the end of the world. They interpret the description of the last judgment literally, and make “dead,” mean dead and nothing else, and therefore the wicked dead. But what about the living wicked at the time? Are they all to be slain, that they may then be raised up? To restrict the final judgment to the dead is completely to ignore the existence of any living wicked at that time; and if not, either require their slaying, or else to allow them to escape the judgment altogether. If the living wicked are included in that judgment, so may the living righteous; and if the living righteous, then their interpretation fails. The theory, then, is confronted with this fatal alternative, either to deny the existence of any living wicked at the time, or else admit the judgment of all, both living and dead, righteous as well as wicked.
4, There is another and still more serious difficulty confronting the theory, and that is the great chasm that separates the Millennium and the last judgment. The continuance of the present order of things after the Millennium will necessitate death and resurrection. In order to avoid the difficulty growing out of that continuance, Premillennialists are compelled wonderfully to shorten the time between the thousand years and the last judgment, and even find it necessary to place the final judgment at the end of the Millennium, and allowing little or no time to intervene. But have they forgotten that Satan is again to be turned loose for a season, and that the nations of the earth are again to be deceived by him? Have they forgotten that he is to gather his forces from the four quarters of the earth, and in number, “as the sands of the sea,” and thus prepare for the great and final struggle of Gog and Magog? All of which will require time; how much we are not told. The expression, “little season,” determines nothing. The Savior said, “Things shortly to come to pass,” and yet eighteen centuries have glided by, and none of them, as they affirm, are yet accomplished. The evolution of God’s plans is always slow. He can be patient because eternal, as Augustine expresses it. For aught we know ages may intervene; and reasonably so, even an hebdomad of Millennial periods; thus making the incoming of the heavenly rest the final jubilee. Whether long or short, the intervening period will require death and resurrection, unless there be a change in the constitution and course of nature. To insist upon that change before the final restitution of all things, and the making of the new heavens and new earth, seems to us nothing but the wildest fancy, without the slightest foundation in scripture.
Thus it appears that the theory of a double resurrection and double judgment is beset with too many and serious difficulties and entanglements to be entertained for a single moment.
IV. Revelation xx. 4-6.
A consideration of the main scripture upon which the whole premillennial theory rests will reveal a similar weakness. It is worthy of remark, that the chief and only foundation for the whole scheme is the three short and obscure verses in the book of Revelation, a book abounding in symbols and symbolic imagery. Take these away, and the chief support is gone. This fact is alone sufficient to shake our confidence in the scheme, and make us hesitate long before embracing a theory beset with difficulties. These verses are as follows:
“4. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them; and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
“5. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
“6. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.”
Whatever else the meaning of these words may be, we cannot see where they teach the personal advent of the Lord to this earth. There is not a single word on that subject; “nothing of the Messiah’s reign on earth,” as Professor Stuart affirms; nothing is said about his coming to this earth, or his reigning on earth; not one word concerning the removal of his throne from heaven, and its re-establishment upon earth.
We must not confound the words “reign on earth” in Chapter v. 10 with what is here said. That was a different scene and a different occasion. That was before the rapture; this after the revelation. That was the saying of the four and twenty elders and four living creatures, representatives of all the redeemed in heaven and earth; this simply of the martyrs, who had been beheaded, and who had not been defiled with the beast. The description and attendant circumstances are entirely too different to make them the same. That the saints are to reign on earth we doubt not, as we believe this to be their future abode, as all other worlds the home of their several inhabitants; but that will be an eternal reign, and after the final judgment, something grander and far more glorious than a mere Millennial reign.
You will notice, too, the peculiarity of the language in these verses. It is not such as we would expect in a simple rehearsal of facts. It forms part of a vision, an we see no reason why we may not receive this, as other apocalyptic scenes, more as a picture than a reality, and therefore to be interpreted symbolically.
In the vision herein mentioned, John tells us what he saw. He saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment given them, but does not tell us where those thrones were located, whether those thrones were located, whether in heaven or in earth; nor who sat upon them, whether angels, apostles or men; nor the character of the judgment, whether favorable or adverse. All here must be inferential.
Moreover, he tells us that he saw souls, and whose souls they were; namely, of them that had been beheaded; but says nothing about bodies. The gloss that souls stand for persons, as the seventy souls in the house of Jacob, and the two hundred and seventy-six souls with Paul in the ship, stand for so many persons, is wholly inadmissible. If he had simply said souls, without any qualifying word, the explanation might stand. But “souls of beheaded people” would hardly mean the people themselves any more than the head or limbs of beheaded people would mean the living people. No one thinks of resurrected martyrs in the vision in the fifth seal, where John saw the souls of them that had been slain. They very interrogation, “How long, O Lord?” shows they were still in a disembodied state. If souls there, why not souls here? The qualifying words “Of those beheaded” show that only a part of the persons was seen, and that part, their souls. Wherein, then, comes the idea of a resurrection?
Admit that the expression means the persons, and the question at once comes up, who were those persons? You will notice not a word is said about any saints, only martyrs. Where, then, is the authority for saying that all the sainted dead were raised, as Premillennialists affirm? To make the expression, “Of the beheaded,” mean not only the martyrs, but all the sainted dead, is a strange abuse of terms. Indeed, a strict and literal construction would not only confine it to martyrs, but to those of a particular class- only those who were beheaded, and not those stoned, or sawn asunder, or put to death in any other way; and not only those who had been beheaded, but only those beheaded on account of their testimony for Jesus, in not “worshipping the beast,” these last words representing not so much a different class as a different characteristic of the same class; thus limiting it to martyrs after the rapture; since, according to their theory, the beast is not to appear till after that event; and therefore only the few who were beheaded after the rise of the beast, and during the tribulation period, were declared fit to reign with Christ on earth. According to this, not one of all the martyrs of the Old Testament, nor of New Testament times; neither Isaiah, nor Stephen, nor James, nor any of the thousand martyrs up to the time of the Savior’s first coming at the rapture, will be there, for only the martyrs raised after the appearance of the beast were the ones John saw sitting upon thrones. The Premillennialists must either change the time of the appearing of the beast, or make it antedate the time of the rapture; or else make the words, “the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast,” mean, not only all the sainted dead, but also all the saints then and now living, and all saints and martyrs yet to come, neither of which would be allowable by his theory.
Then concerning this reigning “on earth.” We repeat, by way of emphasis, that the interjecting of these words is entirely gratuitous, not being in the copy. No torture of language can make the words, “reign with the Lord,” mean reign on earth. Dr. Rutledge says, “Reign in heaven, but over earth.” The very fact that they were to reign with him determines the position of the throne. That throne was in heaven, for John saw it there at the commencement of his vision; and if in heaven at the first of the vision, and no account of its removal and if Jesus be there, and if the souls of the martyrs to reign with him, if at all, would seem to be in heaven, and not on earth. This would also be in strict accord with the statement of the Master, “If I come again, I will receive you to myself, that where I am ye may be also.” That is, ye may be with me where I am, and not I am to be with you where you are.
If there be one word in the above verses about Christ coming back to earth after he has once taken up his people to himself, or raising up anybody that has been dead, we have utterly failed to see it.
The question then becomes very pertinent, what the meaning of the phrases, “the first resurrection” and “the rest of the dead not living again until the end of the thousand years”? Is there no implied resurrection here? We answer, Yes. But what kind of a resurrection? What, and who, raised up? when and for what purpose?
Concerning this resurrection from, or out of, the dead, the preposition (εκ) being wanting in the Greek, and therefore a different species of resurrection from that which they so much insist upon, to prove the antedating of one resurrection before the other.
2, The use of the word (ζαω) to live, instead of (ανιστημι) to resurrect, likewise raises a doubt as to the literalness of the resurrection; the meaning seeming rather to be more of a continued and flourishing life than a coming to life again, the one class living and flourishing, and the other not living and flourishing till after the thousand years.
3, The expression, “rest of the dead” (not of those yet to die), must mean either the rest of the righteous dead, beside the martyrs, or else the wicked dead. If the rest of the righteous, then, as they are to live at the end of the thousand years, there must be two resurrections of the righteous, of which the scriptures say nothing, and which the Premillennialists themselves deny. So, if it means the wicked at the time of the Millennium, that would likewise make two resurrections of the wicked, one at the end of the thousand years, and the other at the final judgment, which they also deny. To make it mean all the wicked to the end of the world is to confound the thousand years with the last day, for which there is no authority in the scriptures, the final restoration clearly being when the new heavens and new earth shall be set up. The rest of the dead, then, must mean the wicked dead at the time of the raised martyrs, and not those yet to die; and if so, they are the ones to come to life again at the end of the thousand years, and which resurrection must not be confounded with that of the wicked dead at the end of the world.
4, Further, as there are but two classes of the dead mentioned in the preceding portions of the book, namely, one of the martyrs, and the other the slain enemies mentioned in the close of the preceding chapter, these must be the ones to come to life again. If the first resurrection refers to the former, then naturally the second resurrection would likewise refer to the second class, namely, the wicked slain.
5, The resurrection is to be followed by a reign which is to continue only a thousand years. Why this limitation? There is absolutely nothing in the law or the prophets, or ceremonies, or teachings of the Old Testament, or the experience of believers, to explain such an episode in the kingly reign of Christ. The interpretation is contrary to all analogy. Scriptural analogy teaches a Millennium of rest, and not of rule. Besides, how reconcile this idea of a limited reign with the common teaching, that we are to reign forever with Christ?
6, Then over whom are the saints to reign? The language is simply “reign with Christ.” But Christ reigns over nature—over mind and matter—over devils—over saints—over the wicked. Are we to understand that the resurrected martyrs are to rule over all these, and that only for a thousand years?—and that, too, with a rod of iron, with the greatest severity? Surely the interpretation is beset with unending entanglements.
7, If the verses above considered, singly and alone, say nothing about Christ coming back a second time to reign on earth, and nothing about the bodies of martyrs being raised up, and nothing about the fate of those raised to life at the end of the thousand years, this resurrection not being confounded with that at the end of the world, we must seek another interpretation than that given by Premillennialists; and we are thus forced to construe the language figuratively, and, like the rest of the book, make the resurrection a resurrection of the martyr spirit; and as Elias was raised and lived in John the Baptist, who had come in his spirit and power; as the beast that was wounded was said to live in his successor; as the two witnesses who had been slain lived again in those who followed them; and as Huss and Jerome were said by Pope Adrian to be living in the person of Martin Luther, so the dead martyrs could well be said to be alive, and live in those who should come after. And what is true of the martyred dead would also be true of the “rest of the dead,” or wicked dead; they, too, would come to life, and live in the persons of the wicked who were to live after the thousand years.
The interpretation, then, would be that, with the restraining of Satan’s power, the spirit of the martyrs would return and be honored, hence represented as reigning upon thrones, and thus described as “blessed,” and holy; and that, after the thousand years, with the losing of Satan, the former spirit of worldliness would return and live again, to dominate the world for a while; the return of the martyr spirit being denominated “the first resurrection,” in contradistinction to the return of the opposite spirit, which would be the second resurrection.
We understand, then, the whole passage to teach that there is to be a literal chiliad of righteousness and peace. We interpret the thousand years literally; for there seems to be a different nomenclature used in prophetic count from that of common years. Prophetic years are given in symbols, as so many months, weeks, days, and hours. “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people.” “Forty-two months,” the time of beast’s reign. So “time, times and a half time” the period of the woman in the wilderness. As the outspoken number 666 is to be understood literally, so here we interpret the thousand years literally. Elliott well remarks, no scheme of prophecy but has a commingling of the natural and figurative. Our understanding, therefore, is, that there is to be a glorious time ahead of the church, even here on earth, set forth under the sabbatic year of old, and to precede announcement of the little stone filling the whole earth, and the leaven leavening the whole mass, a time foretold in glowing strains by the old prophets. Not that everybody will be converted and become true believers; for the wheat and tares are to grow together to the end; the same appearing in the admixture of good and evil in the seven churches; but simply that all organized opposition will be done away with, the principles of the gospel being in the ascendancy. The church shall dominate the world by the dissemination of her principles, and Christ recognized as supreme. After the thousand years Satan shall again be loosed for a season, and the world again be corrupt. How long, we know not. Hence the Master’s words, “When the Son of man shall come will he find faith upon the earth”? “As in the days of Noah, they were eating and drinking…. so shall it be at the end of the world.” And then, in his own time, for of that day and hour no man knoweth, the Lord shall come in power and great glory, to wind up the affairs of this world, and give to every man as his work shall be.
The interpretation we here offer of this difficult passage is the one usually held, and, in the main, the one held by postmillennarians. To the writer it appears the most rational, and in accord with the symbolistic character of the book, and other portions of the scriptures. Whether this be the correct one or not, we do not see how it is possible to bear the construction put upon it be the premillennialist.
Having pointed out some of the glaring contradictions and inconsistencies of the premillennial theory, its utter want of coherence, and the little support it receives from the main passage upon which its advocates especially rely, I now proceed to give other considerations for its rejection.
V. OTHER CONSIDERATIONS.
1, It directly antagonizes the scripture teachings as to the time of the second coming. We have clearly been put on guard against the delusive notion that that coming was near at hand. “Take heed that no man deceive you,” says the Master. “For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many; but the end is not yet.” (Matt. xxiv. 4-6.) So Paul: “That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter, as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.” (2 Thess. ii. 2.)
Three things are declared necessary before that event. (1), The preaching of the gospel in all the world, for a witness unto all nations (Matt. xxiv. 14.) (2). The restoration of the Jews, with the bringing in of the fullness of the Gentiles (Rom. ii. 25.). (3). The falling away, and the revelation of the Man of Sin (2 Thess. ii. 2), neither of which they claim as yet has happened. It is an indisputable fact, that the majority of the world is still in the depths of heathenish darkness, never having heard of Christ. We see as yet no signs of the fullness of the Gentiles being brought in, or of the conversion of the Jews; and according to their own theory, the Man of sin will not be revealed till after the rapture. With what propriety, then, can they say that this coming is imminent, and urge us to accept their statement as true, that he may come at any moment, when they themselves are compelled to admit that neither of these necessary things has yet happened? To say that all these things will occur after the rapture, and before the revelation, is but to assume one of the points in dispute, that he can come before his second coming, and yet can come but once, which we stoutly deny.
For further confirmation of this view, we have only to point to the declaration of the Apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost, “The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou on my right hand until I make thy foes thy footstool.” (Acts ii. 34, 35.) The time is thus definitely fixed- till his foes are all made his footstool. Are his foes all yet subdued? So in Hebrew x. 12, 13, “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, forever sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.” Can anything be plainer than that he is to remain at the right hand of the Father until his enemies are all subdued, which will not be till after the millennium? Yet in the face of all this, we are told that his coming is imminent, and we may be looking for him at any moment!
2, It likewise antagonizes the general teachings of the Scriptures as to the finished character of the Savior’s work at his appearing. The appearing and the judgment are everywhere closely conjoined in the Scriptures. Premillennialists divorce this union by interjecting the Millennium between the two. We are taught that, when he comes, he will come to wind up the affairs of this world. When he came first, he came to set aside the Jewish dispensation, and to set up the Christian; so he will come again to set aside the Christian and set up the heavenly. In connection with the last commission, to make disciples of all nations, is the promise, “Lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” To the end of the world; that is, till he shall come again, clearly implying that, when he shall come again, the gospel and living ministry, and all the means of grace, shall cease; nothing being said about any other gospel or other means or agencies. The present order of things is to continue only until he comes. The theory of the Premillennialists requires a continuation of these things after his coming.
So also with regard to those whom he is to bring with him at his coming. He is to bring all his saints. There are to be no additions after his coming. “Christ, the first fruits, afterward they that are Christ’s, at his coming.” The church will then be complete. The Scriptures say nothing about receiving a part before and a part after his coming. He is to bring his holy angels and all his saints with him, to be admired, not by a part, but by all. Nobody to be saved, nobody added, after he comes. According to Premillennialism, there are to be additions of the tribulation saints and others during and after the Millennium.
3, It antagonizes what Peter says about the destruction of the world. He distinctly asserts that that destruction will take place at his coming. In answering the question of the scoffers, “Where is the promise of his coming?” he says, “That the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens shall pass away with a loud noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat.” Peter says noting about reigning on earth, or waiting a thousand years before this destruction; but the time for it will be at his coming,- which will be as a thief in the night,- on the day in which he comes, and which is to usher in the new heaven and new earth, in which righteousness is to dwell. We leave it with the Premillennialists to reconcile their teachings with these unequivocal declarations of the Apostle Peter. They must either flatly contradict the apostle, or else make all this refer to the Millennium, which is simply to confound the Millennium with the final state of glory. Which will they choose?
4, It makes an unwarranted distinction between the church and the kingdom, and asserts that that kingdom will not be till the Millennium; whereas the scriptures everywhere speak of the kingdom as already set up, and all are urged to press into it. Daniel clearly tells when the kingdom was to be set up: not later than the fourth monarchy. “In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed.” (Dan. ii. 44.) The time for the setting up of that kingdom is therefore past. To say it is yet to be set up is to contradict Daniel.
So the sayings of the Savior, “There hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist; notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (Matt. xi. 11.) “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” “The kingdom is near you, even within you.” “Not far from the kingdom.” “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness.” “There be some standing here, who shall not taste of death till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matt. xvi. 28.) All of these show that the kingdom was near at hand, even in touch with the people of that generation, and therefore already in existence.
We presume Paul knew what he was saying when he said, “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” (Col. i. 13.) Also John, when he said, “I, John, who also and your brother and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.” Both of these saints, while in life, declared they were already in the kingdom, and yet we are told that that kingdom will not be set up till the Millennium!
In the second Psalm we have the prophetic announcement,” I do set my king upon my holy hill of Zion,” and the command to acknowledge and serve him. If the kingdom is not yet set up, then this double anomaly presents itself. On the one hand, of Christ being a king, so appointed of the Father, with all power in heaven and earth, and authority to rule, and yet no kingdom over which to rule. On the other, of requiring men to serve a king who was not a king, thereby absolving from all obligation to own allegiance to his throne, or press into his kingdom, until it shall be shown that that kingdom was fully established. The theory is clearly chargeable with confounding the setting up of the kingdom with the full establishment and recognition of it. We agree with them that the kingdom is not yet established, in the sense of full recognition on earth as in heaven; but we utterly repudiate the idea that it is not yet set up. For if it be not set up on earth, neither in heaven, and if not in heaven, then what means that exaltation to the right hand of the Father, the apocalyptic song, and the ascription of such high honor and glory to the Son? If not a king yet on earth, neither indeed can he yet be a king in heaven. The theory of the Premillennialists, that the kingdom will not be set up till the Millennium, plays sad havoc with the old theology we have been taught from childhood, that Christ executes his three offices of prophet, priest and king “both in his state of humiliation and exaltation.” And also the typical teachings, which make the portion of the land on the east side of the river Jordan typical of the part of the kingdom on earth, and the part on the west side typical of the part of the kingdom in heaven, the Jordan being the type of death, and, like the tribes of old, we must all enter the one before entering the other. Clearly, if we die out of the kingdom, we will ever continue out. So says the type; for how seek it after we are dead?
Then notice the conflict as to the progressive nature of the kingdom. Daniel speaks of it at first as “a little stone,” but to become the mountain and fill the earth. Their theory requires that the kingdom be large and full fledged at the start. The Savior speaks of it as “little leaven”; that is, it is to work silently and gradually till the whole mass is leavened. But they give us to understand that the kingdom cometh as a whirlwind, with judgments and earthquakes, and even mighty convulsions in nature, with the whole constitution and course of nature changed, and changed at the beginning and setting up of that kingdom. The description of the kingdom by Daniel and the Savior, and the account of it given by the Premillennialists, both as to time and progress, are wonderfully divergent!
To break the force of the argument from the expansiveness of leaven, Premillennialists take the leaven in the parable to represent evil, and the interpretation they give of this familiar passage is, that evil in the church, like leaven, will spread till it corrupts the whole. But this seems clearly a perversion; for, as Alford says, “If the progress of the kingdom of heaven be towards corruption, till the whole is corrupted, surely there is an end of all the blessings and healing influence of the gospel on the world.” (Com. in Loc.) Trench gives the common-sense view, when he says, “We cannot consider these words, ‘till the whole be leavened,’ as less than a prophecy of a final complete triumph of Christianity; that it will diffuse itself through all nations, and purify and ennoble all life.” (Par., p. 101.)
5, It robs prophecy of its witnessing power, by placing the whole of it in the future. If the prophecy be not predictive, as Professor Milligan asserts, p. 188, and as Dr. Ramsay assumes as the basis of his interpretation, in his “Spiritual Kingdom”; and these things be not fulfilled till after his coming, then there will be no special necessity for them at all. Neither can we understand why such minute descriptions of things in such unintelligible language, if all be in the future. If no part is to be fulfilled till he comes, the prophecy would mean no more than this: that Jesus is coming, and just wait till he comes, and he will tell us in plain words what he is now saying in unintelligible symbols. Professor Stuart, as it seems to us, strikes the key note when he says, “There must be historic existences connected with such a series of symbols.”
6, It temporarily robs the world of the mediatorial work of Christ. It is the creed of Christendom, that he is gone to heaven to finish his priestly, and enter upon his kingly work, as already stated. That he is in heaven, the indwelling Spirit abundantly testifies. If it were expedient at first that he should ascend to heaven, it is equally expedient that he should remain there still. The author of the epistle to the Hebrews labors to prove this very point. He distinctly asserts that if he were on earth he could not be a priest. (Chap. 8: 4) There is a part of his priestly function that can be performed only in heaven. Under the Aaronic priesthood, the high priest, after offering the sacrifice, then went into the Holy of Holies to offer incense. So our High Priest, having offered himself as a sacrifice, has gone on high, where he ever lives, to make intercession for his people. The high priests of old never left the precincts of the earthly temple. Aaron was always at his post; Eleazar always in his place. For our High Priest to leave the heavenly courts would be contrary to all analogy, and express utterances of the word of God. And should he leave his high place on high, who would then be the worlds intercessor? Who would be there to take the petitions of his people and present them with acceptance at the heavenly throne of grace?
And is there no kingly works for him to perform among the angels and saints on high? Who is to occupy his throne there, and to receive the adoration and thanksgiving and praise of the mighty angelic host ever singing the song of Moses and the Lamb? And will he remain on earth with all his saints after the Millennium, during the re-enthronement of Satan’s power? And all this in the face of the express declaration of Scripture, “Whom the heavens must receive till the restitution of all things.” (Acts 3: 21) “In the regeneration (αποκαταστασεως), not before, said the Savior, ye shall sit with me.” To bring him back before the restitution and making of all things new; unless we make the Millennium the regeneration and making of all things new, which the Scriptures nowhere teach.
7, It equally brings dishonor upon the work of the Spirit. They hesitate not to affirm that the gospel is a failure thus far in converting the world to Christ. “A perpetual failure,” and will “continue a failure till the second Adam shall come to enforce the same with his judgments,” says W.E.B. (p. 26). Apart from what might be the divine purpose in the matter, and what will be hereafter, the question arises, whether mere judgment would secure the end? It is not in the nature of judgments alone to lead to repentance. They did not lead Pharaoh to repentance, nor King Saul, nor thousands of others. Conviction is the sole work of the Spirit; and when he fails, judgments will surely fail. All power is vested in the Spirit, as all grace and merit in the Son. The Son works through the Spirit. It was when the Spirit came upon Jesus that he performed those mighty works. It was through the Spirit he offered himself a sacrifice for sin, and through that same eternal Spirit he raised himself from the tomb; and by that same Spirit he is carrying on the affairs of his kingdom. To charge the work with failure is to accuse him of the veriest weakness.
And, then, why the necessity of the personal presence of the Lord on earth? Could he not work through the Spirit from heaven as well as on earth? And even if necessary for him to speak through judgments, could he not do so as well from his throne in the skies as if he were here on earth? Besides, let it not be forgotten that Satan is to be loosed again after the Millennium, and the nations again deceived by him. Is the world then to witness the humiliating spectacle of the King of glory again returning to his throne on high a defeated king, with his work after all only partially accomplished, and thus bring greater discredit upon himself, as well as additional dishonor to the Spirit?
8, It defeats in a measure the very object for which the judgment is appointed. That object is twofold. (1), The vindication of the judge himself. Many hard things have been thought and said against the Lord and his government. These things have been allowed to pass unchallenged, because he hath appointed a day in which he will vindicate himself from all these wicked aspersions, and for the revelation of his righteous judgment, as the apostle expresses it, in which his creatures will all see the righteousness of his acts, and join in the final decision with a loud and hearty “Amen.” But for the full and complete vindication of himself, as well as this revelation of his righteous judgments, it will be necessary for all his creatures to be present, every eye to see him, and witness his decisions. Nothing to be covered, but everything brought to light. What has been spoken in secret is to be proclaimed from the housetop. To keep any of his creatures away from that grand tribunal, or suppress any of the facts, will just so far defeat the very purpose of the appointment.
(2), A second object of the judgment is the bestowal of awards. As a man really lives in his works, after he is dead, like Abel of old, though dead still speaking, and his influence, like the advancing waves of the tumultuous sea, will continue to move on and on till they strike the utmost shore, the proper time for the judgment obviously will be the last day, when the whole life, with all its results, may be gathered up. To bestow the award before that time is simply to judge a man before his works are ended.
9, It presents a false view of the relation of the church and tribulation. They tell us that the object of the rapture is to remove the church from the tribulation to be visited upon the earth; then why take a part and leave the rest? Why leave the tribulation saints behind? And how reconcile this with the words of the intercessory prayer, in which the Savior expressly says, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” (John 17: 15.) So also in the message to the Philadelphian church, “I also will keep the from the hour of temptation which is to come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” (Rev. 3: 10) Notice, not to take them out of the world, but to keep and shield them while in it.
Even admitting it a mercy to remove the living, what about the dead, and who constitute by far the largest part? Why should they be taken? The tribulation could not reach them, nor disturb their repose in the tomb. Why raise them up to get them out of trouble, when they are not in, nor affected by it? We hesitate not to affirm that this whole idea of taking his people out of the world to get them out of tribulation is unscriptural, being contrary to the whole scheme of probation. Why take them away when the world was made, and they were put here, for the very purpose of being tested, tried and purified, as gold by fire? And why the many promises to be with them when they go through the fire and deep waters, if they are to be removed? Are these promises only for the lesser evils, and not the greater? And is not God’s grace sufficient to sustain, as well as save to the very uttermost, under any and all circumstances? Why then minimize that grace by talking of removal, when it is declared sufficient for every emergency, and the very sending of the trial was to show that sufficiency?
So the promise of the shortening of the tribulation days for the elects’ sake proves the presence of the elect on earth, and in the midst of it all. Why shorten the days for the elects’ sake if removed? The whole thing smacks entirely too much of the cloister and asceticism of medieval times for the Christian enlightenment of this age and generation.
10, Moreover, we reject the theory because of the shortness of the time given for the fulfillment of the prophecies. They crowd into one short period of half a week of years, or three and a half years, which is their tribulation period, all that is included in the rapture, the seals, the trumpets, the vials, the two beasts, all the different vials of judgments, the rise of Antichrist, his deceiving the nations, practicing his arts, shedding of blood to the extent of being drunk therewith, all this in the short space of three and a half years! The time, even allowing Dr. Seiss’ seventy years, seems entirely too short for all of this. And the long delay in the appearing of Antichrist, whom they say is a man; and contrary to the general rules of interpretation in thus applying the prophecy to an individual, and not to a kingdom or power. How a mere man could begin to work in Paul’s day, some eighteen hundred years before his birth, is something we can neither comprehend, nor do they undertake to explain. Apart from the marvel of the thing, it does seem to us that the long delay in his coming is out of all proportion with the rest of the scheme. So with the slaying of the witnesses. They insist upon a literal three and a half days, and yet it is asserted that “kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three and a half days.” “And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another.” How they can do all that in three and a half days, we leave them to explain.
11, We reject the theory because it necessitates additional revelation. In replying to the question, “How will men be saved during the Millennium,” and what the means of grace? W.E.B. says, “It is just as consistent that we shall receive an additional revelation to the word of God, when he comes, as it was when he came before” (p. 73); and thus not only requiring an addition to the canon, but even the return of the Savior to complete his prophetical work. Surely a cause must be hard pressed to require such a resort as this. In striking contrast with this supposed necessity for additional revelation, we place the ringing words of the Master himself, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”
12, We reject the theory because of the unnatural placing of the resurrection at the rapture a thousand years or more before men cease either to be born or to die. How much more reasonable, satisfactory, and scriptural the view which places the resurrection after the Millennium, and in connection with the closing scenes, introducing the new heavens and the new earth?
13, We reject the theory because it necessitates the coming of another, or a second coming of the same Antichrist. In the preceding pages we have shown clearly, as we think, that one Antichrist has already come in the tripartite form of Rome, Pagan, Christian, and Papal. Is another yet to come? And will the second, when he does come, match the description any better? Will he be an improved and more complete Antichrist?—more terrible in his nature, and shed more innocent blood, than the triune monster of iniquity already described?
Of Babylon, it is said, “And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.” (Chap. 18: 24) If another great apostasy, or enemy, is yet to arise, call it Babylon, Man of sin, Antichrist, woman on a beast, or what else you please, how will it be possible for him to be guilty of the blood already shed?
Furthermore, their theory requires that he is to take the city, pollute the sanctuary, and set up the abomination. But this has already been done. Jerusalem has long since been taken, the temple destroyed, and the abomination that maketh desolate been set up for centuries. Is all this to be repeated, the temple rebuilt, and the abomination set up a second time?
14, We reject the theory because it imposes an unnatural and impossible condition of prayer. We are expressly commanded to pray, “Thy kingdom come.” If the kingdom here spoken of be the Millennial kingdom, to be established on earth by the personal advent of the Lord, to pray thy kingdom come is simply to pray that Christ would come at once, and change the living and raise the dead, and immediately proceed with the visitation upon the wicked of the threatened judgments contained in the trumpets and vials. How many of God’s people, think you, would yet be able to offer such a petition, asking to be removed at once? Not one in a thousand. Why then impose such an impossible condition upon the consciences of God’s people? Where is the authority for such a prayer, when he has clearly called us and sent us forth as laborers in his vineyard, and cautioned us against this very thing, of idly waiting for his coming? And how reconcile it with that other petition, “Pray ye the Lord of the harvest to send forth more laborers into the harvest”? See the conflict! With one breath we are to pray for an increase of laborers, and with the next for the immediate coming of Christ, and removal of the laborers, ourselves, and all his people, both dead and living, out of the world! What is the use of the first petition at all, if Christ is to come and set up his kingdom by the direct exercise of his power and overawing influence of his presence?
15, We reject the theory because it presents a view of the Millennium entirely different from that given in the word of God, and as held by the church in all ages. Premillennialists speak of it as a “continued judgment,” whereas the scriptures everywhere represent it as a time of unwonted favor, with the power of Satan curtailed, and the Spirit most graciously bestowed. Premillennialists speak of it as a “failure,” so far as the gospel is concerned, whereas the sacred writers speak in the most exulting strains of the wonderful triumph of the gospel, as exhibiting its power to elevate, transform and save; as making the wilderness to become a fruitful field, and the earth to bud and blossom as the rose; as a time when the nations shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks, and learn war no more.
It is impossible for us to reconcile their sad and gloomy views with the bright, cheerful and glowing descriptions of the prophets. The prophets would encourage us with the sweetest assurances that the gospel is yet to triumph over all the earth, and that, as the hammer and fire, under the influences of the Spirit it can break and subdue the hardest heart. If the gospel be so inefficient as they affirm, what have the poor missionaries, and those laboring so sacrificingly for the conversion of the world, to look to for comfort? If the judgments of God be the only thing to tear down the strongholds of Satan, instead of hazarding their lives, and wasting their energies in a hopeless undertaking, it would be far better for them to surrender their credentials at once, and spend the rest of the time in praying for the speedy coming of impending judgments, and the sooner the coming the better! A Millennium of triumph is clearly the fulfillment of Daniel’s little stone becoming the mountain and filling the whole earth. Take away the idea of final triumph, and you at once destroy the uniqueness of the scheme, as well as rob the gospel and the Spirit of all their accredited power as agents for the accomplishment of so grand and glorious an end.
16, We reject the theory because it fails to define the position of the resurrected saints during the rapture. Caught up in the air for seven years! Why exactly seven years? What authority for this in Scripture? What analogy or typical allusion to corroborate the same? Then what the location or position of the raptured saints? They are not in Hades, for they have been snatched from that place; not in Paradise, for Paradise is this side of the resurrection, as shown by the words of the Savior to the dying thief; nor in heaven, for heaven is the place of final awards, and these are not yet distributed. If, then, not in Hades, or Paradise, or heaven, what region or clime in the celestial planisphere are they to occupy? Dr. Rutledge says, “The heavenlies,”—the place from whence he asserts the dragon is to be cast after the rapture, and where he must be just now. It strikes us as a strange incongruity that Satan is to vacate his seat for the saints. The heavenlies! We candidly confess, that is a new division or district in God’s empire of which we have never heard before, and of which the Scriptures say nothing. If the air overhead simply is to be the stopping place in this rapture, then that air must be the permanent abode of the saints, for they are to be forever with the Lord, in the place to which first taken.
17, We reject the theory because it demands the unnatural commingling of things earthly and things celestial—of beings mortal and beings immortal—of two sorts of Millennial saints, part perfect and part imperfect, part glorified and part unglorified; and likewise the unpeopling of heaven, or else the division of the kingdom and throne, a part on earth and a part in heaven! If the saints are to be raised up, with what bodies will they come? And what relation to the living? If any, what the character of the association? Mortals and immortals mixed up! Will the latter live in houses or in the air? Will they be visible or invisible? If visible, wherein differ from others? If invisible, what the use of the earthly reign? And, then, what their employment? Will they be angels of mercy sent forth to minister to the heirs of salvation, or, bent on vengeance, will they go forth as God’s messengers, in the execution of his purposes of wrath upon the wicked, and at the same time as “shepherdizers” as Dr. Seiss informs us, to lord it over their less fortunate brethren still struggling in the flesh? And, then, are they to remain on earth after the Millennium until the end? or ascend into heaven? And at the last judgment, will these Millennial saints have equal honors with the raptured ones, and sit as co-judges with them; or will the latter occupy higher seats, and be invested with special supernal honors, by virtue of their priority in the resurrection?
18, Then, lastly, we reject the theory because of its affiliations and associations. Its companionships in the past have been anything but desirable. It not only furnishes an ample field for visionary schemes and fanciful interpretation of the scriptures, but, true to its proclivities, has also given birth to the wildest extravagancies, both in practice and belief. Witness the rugged asceticism, as well as assumptive claims to prophecy, of the Montanists of the second century, who stirred up so large a part of the world under the delusion of the Saviour’s immediate appearing. Witness the still greater fanaticism of the people of this country, who, under the teaching of William Miller, in 1844 were wrought up to the highest pitch of religious frenzy over the idea of the sudden coming of Christ. Still more recently, witness the “Christ craze” of the colored people of Liberty county, Georgia, in 1889, who, believing that Christ had already come in the person of one Dupont Bell, neglected their farms and ceased from every sort of business, and frantically followed their leader from day to day, expecting soon to be taken up to Paradise. Interpret the Millennium to mean a personal coming, and temporal rule, instead of gospel triumph and a peaceful spiritual reign, and set the time for that coming, and the world is liable to witness just such scenes at any time.
And then, what fanciful interpretations and wild deductions from Scripture! Says a recent writer, “Imagine Paul acting under Immanuel as president of the United States, Peter king of England, James superceding the Czar of Russia, John as emperor of China, Bartholomew succeeding to the throne of Kaiser William of Germany. Imagine the guileless Nathaniel as president of the turbulent French Republic. How about John Wesley for mayor of London, or the immortal dreamer, John Bunyan, as mayor of Paris? How would D. L. Moody do for Chicago’s chief officer? Or Jonathan Edwards for Greater New York?” And even such a man as Dr. Rutledge, with all his intelligence and learning, indulging in the fanciful conceit that Antichrist will “probably be killed by the explosion of a bomb!
Ifa tree is to be judged by its fruit, and a man known by the company he keeps, and these and similar vagaries be the legitimate fruitage and social concomitants of the scheme, we fell fully warranted in setting it aside, more as the work of human devising than the teaching of the Spirit. “But the end of all things is at hand, be ye therefore sober.” Christian sobriety, and not fanaticism, is the inspired coupling with the coming of the Lord.
Enough has been said to show the utter inconsistency and unscripturalness of the premillennial theory. While truth is ever in harmony with itself, error is always contradictory, and in its very contradictions furnishes evidence for its own conviction. The theory, as we have endeavored to show, is so disjointed and out of harmony with itself and everything around it, and so interjected and overburdened with fancies and whims of its own, as to leave behind endless problems and questions, which it can neither remove nor satisfactorily explain. Thus, as we have seen, it fails to tell us why there should be a Millennial reign on earth, and if a Millennium, why the seventh thousand? And why a continuance of judgment and not of gospel triumph and peace? Why rule with a rod of iron, and not a scepter of mercy, while Satan is chained? How death can be destroyed at the resurrection, and yet continue till the last judgment? It has not explained, neither can it explain, why the Savior should temporarily leave his throne on high, abandon his priestly work, reign only so long on earth, and leave the world again to Satan’s rule. Neither can they tell us what is the object, and what accomplished by this temporary reign on earth. It does not, nor yet can it explain, why there should be such a discrimination among the saints; why some should be removed from the coming tribulation, and others, including martyrs, should be left in it; and, indeed, why any, especially the dead, be removed at all, when the Savior promised to be with his people when called to go through fiery trials, to shield and deliver them, as Daniel in the lion’s den, and the Hebrew children in the fiery furnace. It fails to explain the problems of life and death after the rapture. How the race is to perpetuate itself without a judgment? It does not, nor yet can it explain, why such a complete system of symbols, so fully and so minutely described, should be given with the distinct understanding that they were not to be understood till the Saviour should come in person to explain them, and thus make them of no use as furnishing evidence of the truth of Christianity by their fulfillment. They cannot tell why, though hitherto, when in the midst of all the trying vicissitudes through which the church has been called to pass, distinct intimations have in every instance been given, of the trials about to come upon her, yet here should arise in her very bosom a most wonderful and marvelous monster, debasing and degrading her, and reaching out and blighting with its withering touch the fairest portions of earth, and for ages enveloping the world as with the pall of death; and yet not a word, nor even a hint ever given by way of warning, as to its approach! It fails to tell us how, if Antichrist be a man, as they say he is, and yet to come, how he could have showed himself eighteen hundred years ago, in Paul’s day!—how he is to become guilty of the blood of saints and prophets already shed; or how, if he is to live but three and a half years, he will be able to do in so short a period all the wonderful things they ascribe to him. It fails to tell us of the fate of Millennial saints, and those who shall live after that event, whether they are to be raised up, and when?—whether they are to judge or be judged, to rule or be ruled? And also what the fate of all the living, both good and bad, when the great white throne is set up, as they hold that only the wicked dead are to be the subjects of that judgment? So it fails to explain why not the righteous, but only the postmillennial wicked dead, are to be raised at the last day?; why no mention is made before of the sea giving up its dead, in previous resurrections? And if only the wicked are to be judged, why mention should be made of “the book of life”?
How different, on the other hand, the postmillennial view! How easy, how simple, how philosophic in all its parts! How consistent with itself and the rest of the word of God! Agreeing with its every teaching and doctrine, and in exact harmony with the hebdomadal idea running through the entire scheme of creation and revelation. The seventh day the Sabbath, the seventh year the sabbatic year, and the seventh, the year of jubilee; thus furnishing a reason for a Millennium of peace and rest; and pointing to, and terminating in the jubilistic rest of heaven. So the turning Satan loose again, being in exact accord with God’s dealings with his people in every age, in thus leaving them to themselves after a period of success, to show them their utter weakness and dependence upon him; as Israel at Ai, Elijah in the cave, Peter at the judgment hall, and David confronted with the trying problem of the three evils.
So the present and past history of the world is in full accord with all the appointments of prophecy, thus furnishing indisputable proof of Scripture, everything showing the certain triumph of the gospel and speedy approach of the glorious time when the little stone shall become the mountain and fill the earth, and his kingdom shall extend from shore to shore—and is only awaiting the seed sowing, the accumulation of prayer, and the final outpouring of the Spirit, when the last upheaval shall take place, bringing in the final and universal establishment of the gospel kingdom, when the angel with the trumpet shall proclaim in thunder tones that the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ. As the Son of man came not in person to destroy Jerusalem, neither will he come at last to bind the tares, but commit that to his angels. His work on earth is done; the days of his humiliation ended. He will remain seated upon his heavenly throne, henceforth expecting, until his enemies become his footstool, until the kingdom is ready for him, and to the end that the Holy Ghost may receive the honor due him as one of the Adorable Trinity—reserving for himself the pomp and grandeur of his final and triumphant entry, when he shall come in the chariot of clouds, in great glory, with his angels, and bringing his saints with him, to sit upon the throne of his glory as judge of all the earth, and when the congregated millions of heaven, earth and hell shall stand before that august throne, to be judged out of the things written in the books.
We are indeed looking for him to come again, but not till Elias and his coadjutors have fully restored all things, and his messengers prepared the way before him, and the whole world ready to receive her king. Then, and not till then, may we look for his coming:
“Amen; even so come, Lord Jesus.”
 The Greek is very striking and unanswerable, εν τη αναστασεῖ εν τη εσχατη ημερα. The article τη makes it the resurrection; and there is no preposition εκ, out of, to make it mean out of, or from among the dead, so much insisted on by W.E.B. Nor yet is the word αιων age, but, ημερα at the last day. Martha was clearly speaking of the common resurrection at the last day.
 Premillennialists say the great tribulation is yet to come, and speak of it as τη θλιψει the tribulation. John uses the same language. He says, “Your brother and companion (εν τη θλιψει) in the tribulation. If yet to come, how could he be in it? Will they explain?”
 Dr. Rutledge holds the same view (p. 566).
 W.E.B., p. 68.
 Pickett’s Bible Hope, p. 162.
 P. 203.
 Dr. Seiss places the coming of Antichrist, or Man of Sin, after the Parousia or rapture; and yet it is the brightness of the Parousia (τη επιφανεια της παρουσιος αυτου) that is to destroy him. Thus, according to the theory, Antichrist is actually to be destroyed before he comes. What a tissue of inconsistencies!
Then there can be coming without personal presence; as the coming of the Lord to punish Israel, Isa. xxvi. 21; to smite Egypt, Jer. xliii. 11; to destroy Jerusalem, Matt. xxiv.; to overthrow Sardis, Rev. iii. 3; in neither of which was there any personal presence.
Two things are mentioned in 2 Thess. ii. 8 to be employed in the destruction of Antichrist: The first is the “breath of the Lord”; that is, his word, or truth; the other, the “brightness of his coming.” It is not, then, his personal presence, but the brightness of his coming, in connection with his preached word, that is to destroy him. Our understanding of this passage, upon which they so much rely, is that, in connection with the preaching of his word, the very brightness of his coming, like the light that precedes the rising sun, will be so great as to overwhelm or destroy him, even in advance of his actual coming.