THERE is to be a period during which righteousness is to prevail on the earth as never before, and called the Millennium because spoken of in Rev. 20:4-6 as continuing for a thousand years. Our Lord is to come in person a second time to the world, in close connection with this transcendent era in the history of the Church.
These statements are accepted by the whole Christian world with but few exceptions. There is great diversity of opinion, however, as to the nature and duration of the millennial period, and Christendom is sharply divided on the question of the relation of our Lord’s second coming to this grand epoch. Pre-millennialists believe that He is to come before the millennium to usher it in by the assertion of His personal power, and to reign with His people on the earth until its close. Post-millennialists hold that He is not to appear until the close of this period, when He will come in connection with the tremendous scenes of the “resurrection of the just and unjust,” and to “judge quick and dead.”
Pre-millennialists generally have a very profound conviction of the importance of their special view as to the coming of the Lord, and press it with great energy and persistency. It is made a chief subject of their preaching from the pulpit and of testimony in social services. Great conferences are held, year after year, in which the best talent among them is laid under contribution to press it with might and main. Institutions are maintained in which this belief is the central feature of the teaching. A superabundant literature is being scattered everywhere—through the mails, by travelling agents, from door to door, and in other ways. In churches, however few there be who hold the pre-millennial view, they feel not only at liberty, but under obligation, to press it upon the attention of those who do not share it with them.
On the other hand, Post-millennialists do not feel called upon to give their view special emphasis in preaching or testimony. Indeed, they are tempted to give the whole subject of the second coming of our Lord less attention than it deserves, because of the over-emphasis they conceive is given it by their pre-millennial brethren; much less are there conventions and other general means for pressing the post-millennial view and combating the opposing one. Neither is there an abundant literature on this side of the subject to be scattered broadcast, even were any disposed to take the trouble. Those who wish to secure something on the post-millennial side of the question, so far from having it thrust upon them, find it difficult to obtain it when sought for. Thus Christian people are at the mercy, so to speak, of our pre-millennial friends, except as they are able, unaided, to resist the champions of the pre-millennial view by an independent study of the Word of God. The silence of Post-millennialists is really being misconstrued. It is being whispered that little is said and spoken on their side of the subject because they are conscious that they have no valid arguments in support of their view.
Under these circumstances it is little wonder that the pre-millennial view has made considerable progress. It is really surprising that a larger proportion of Christians have not accepted it. Unless, therefore, we regard the issue between the pre- and post-millennial views as of so little moment that it is a matter of practical indifference which is held, it is high time the Christian public were put in possession of a clear and candid statement of the grounds of the post-millennial belief. As I proceed I hope to make it plain that this issue is not an unimportant one; but that the pre-millennial view involves a whole system of interpretation, a distinct conception of the nature of Christ’s kingdom and rule, a peculiar idea of the purpose of the preaching of the Gospel and the work of the Spirit, and a number of other features which are most serious in themselves and far-reaching in their tendencies and logical outcome.
At the request of a number of brethren I have consented to write something on this subject. It is only because I am convinced the interests of truth demand some more adequate discussion of this question that I undertake the duty, as I have a growing reluctance to antagonize the views of estimable brethren, some of whom I number among my very dear friends.
It will be impossible in the present treatise to go into minute details. I shall examine the question along the line of the plainest New Testament teaching in reference to the plainest New Testament principles, seeking to interpret the obscure by what is clear and not the reverse.