The Coming of Christ

Is the Millennium to come before Christ, or is Christ to come before the Millennium?

By I. M. Haldeman, D. D.

Taken from Grace and Truth Magazine 1923


The Scriptures teach that a period of universal blessing is coming to this world. That period is familiarly known as the "Millennium." The word is compound from mille, a thousand, and annus, a year, a thousand years. The base of the word is the statement of Revelation 20:4, "They lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years."

During this thousand years men will beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks, wars will cease, peace will prevail, iniquity will be banished, and righteousness will triumph. Human life will be lengthened, the man who dies a hundred years old will be, relatively, an infant, and his sudden death due to Providential judgment. The earth will become fruitful; so that the desert shall blossom as the rose. The heavens will be purified, storms will no longer rage, and the earth shall be at rest in the harmony of the spheres.

Such is the Millennium.

There is a certain class of teaching which declares our Lord Jesus Christ will not come till after the Millennium. It is known as Post-millennialism. It holds that the Millennium is to be introduced by the preaching of the Gospel. The Gospel will be preached, the Spirit will operate, all hearts will be regenerated, righteousness will rule the nations and Christ by His Spirit in men will rule the world. At the close of the thousand years Christ will come. He will raise the dead who have fallen asleep in Him and reward them. He will raise the unrighteous dead and cast them second death. After that will be the great conflagration and the end of the world.

This is the popular view, the orthodox view, the view of modern theology. In spite of Carlyle's bludgeon phrase about "insane optimism," with much self-satisfaction it assumes itself to be the optimistic view.

The watchword is, "The world is growing better."

All progress in science, art, and culture is hailed as the emphasis of the watchword. Because men can ride in automobiles, have made an advance in rapid transit and can send messages across the sea without wires, it is indisputably evident to the Post-Millennialist that Christianity is moving on to its final conquest of the world. In other words, every evolution of the natural man along the line of utilitarianism is accepted as a witness of Gospel triumph and sure indication that the threshold of the Millennium is within sight.

This doctrine of the Millennium before Christ refutes itself. That it refutes itself is self-evident. For example: If the world were converted to Christ today there would be necessarily a thousand years before Christ could come in person; but, as at this moment there are some hundreds of millions more unbelievers and pagans in the world than when Christianity began, and as at the present rate of conversion many centuries must elapse before the world can be brought to Christ, no one living for centuries on centuries can possibly behold the Coming of Christ. The Coming of Christ, therefore, is not imminent; it cannot be looked for, it cannot be a vital factor in any practical life. If Christ is not coming for hundreds of years, for a thousand at least, then His Coming is not a doctrine which interests me, immediately, at all; nay, it is so far off that I will not bother with it, nor with those who bother me about it.

This is, in truth, the attitude of all genuine Post-millennialism. It repudiates, absolutely, the doctrine of the Second Coming, treats it as a sporadic error of the early Church, looks upon those who hold it now as among the impracticable, and warns the faithful against the demoralizing tendencies which such a doctrine and such teachers are sure to produce. This is the logical attitude of it is this attitude which brings the refutation of the doctrine which it teaches.

It does so because such an attitude brings it face to face with the fact that one verse in every twenty in the New Testament (it is said) speaks of the Second Coming of Christ; the fact that in the New Testament we are exhorted to be waiting for, watching for, and looking for the Coming of Christ; the fact that Christ Himself announces His Coming in an hour when we think not and bids us watch lest coming suddenly He find us sleeping; the fact that the language used concerning the Second Coming in its simple and primal force signifies that the Coming of Christ is imminent, that it might take place in our day; the fact that the exhortation to the highest, holiest and most practical Christian living in the present is based on the assurance that at any moment Christ might come to inspect our faithfulness or unfaithfulness.

These are facts — facts which on their surface utter a protest against Post-millennialism. Post-millennialism must, therefore, explain these facts. In order to do this, it spiritualizes them.

Such a passage as, "Watch, therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man Cometh," is made to signify the coming of death; forgetting that never — not in a single case — is Christ said to come to the Christian at death, but always, the Christian at death is said to go to Christ, it confounds the Coming of Him who is Life itself with that of which He is the very opposite; forgetting, also, that wherever He comes death flees and life abides. Under the inspiration of this spiritualizing concept it feels quite at liberty to take whole bodies of promises which belong exclusively to Israel and give them to the Church in order to sustain the pleasing and optimistic idea that at the end of this age and as a result of Gospel preaching the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters the face of the deep.

Such a process of exposition violates all scientific, as it does all Scriptural, law of exegesis, and makes the Word of God a nose of wax to be twisted in any direction according to the versatility, or genius, of the spiritualizing expert.

Now, a method of exposition which denies the plain sense of Scripture, violates the basic principle of interpretation and holds out hopes which neither history justifies, nor Scripture warrants, refutes itself; nor is it too much to say that a vast deal of the unbelief in the Church today is due to this fashion of theological fumbling with and perverting of, the Word of God.

The Opposite Doctrine Stated

The Scriptures teach clearly enough that so far from this world growing better and better till Christ comes it will grow from bad to worse till He comes.

This is the testimony of the Son of God Himself.

In His last discourse on the Mount of Olives He declares that while He is away there will be war and rumors of wars, nation will rise against nation, lawlessness will be multiplied, the love of many will wax cold, there will be false Christs who will rise to deceive many, and Antichrist himself shall appear, setting up his own image in the temple of God. He declares in the Gospel according to Luke that just antecedent to His coming there will be distress of nations, men's hearts failing them for fear, the heavens full of portents, and the sea and the waves roaring as though broken loose from their bounds. In the eighteenth of Luke He asserts in the strongest possible form that when He comes He will not find faith on the earth. He declares, unequivocally, that when He comes back Lie will find the world in the same moral condition as in the days of Noah.

We know what the world was in the days of Noah; it was so vile, so corrupt that, by a flood, God swept the whole race away, with the exception of eight. He declares that when He comes back He will find the earth in the same condition as in the days of Lot in Sodom. We are not ignorant of the condition of Sodom. That evil city has passed its name into the nomenclature of crime as the word which most fitly expresses the filth and iniquity of man; the stench of that center of human corruption so filled the nostrils of Jehovah that He sent down fire out of heaven to destroy it. There is no doubt that in many respects even with all its sin and pest spots New York is today outwardly a model of virtue alongside of Sodom; yet the Son of God, the eternal headquarters for truth, testifies that when He comes back the world will equal Sodom in iniquity and that instead of the purpose and the gold of Millennial days He will find the same festering shame and wantonness as were found in the days of Noah Language could not be plainer concerning the moral condition of the world antecedent to the coming of Christ.,

Paul's Testimony

Paul does not vary from the testimony of his Master. He calls the Ephesian elders around him and assures them that the days are coming in the Church when there shall be false teachers and false doctrines. In his first epistle to Timothy he warns that youthful preacher that in the latter times there will be a departure from the faith, an open apostasy, the coming forth of wandering spirits and the widespread propagation of the doctrine of the disembodied dead, or Spiritism; while, at the same time, he warns of the uprise of that profession in the Church which would teach the merit of fasting and proclaim the doctrine of celibacy.

In his second Epistle, he emphasizes his warning by declaring that in the last days shall come, not the Millennium, but "perilous times." Men, he says, will be lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, there will be a form of godliness and side by side with it a denying of the power thereof; evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived; and the Church, refusing to listen to doctrinal preaching and turning her ears open to teachers who can tickle them will be turned away from the truth of the written Word to fables, to the constructions and imaginations of men.

In his Epistle to the Thessalonian Church he repeats to them the warning he had already given that at the close of this age there would be an apostasy; that the Day of Christ, the Millennium, could not possibly come until there should come a falling away first, and the man of sin, the son of perdition, the wicked one, the lawless one, the Antichrist, should come, and seating himself in the temple of God, exalt himself above all that is called God, showing himself that he is God.

What James and John Testify

James, the conservative Apostle of Jerusalem, testifies that in the closing hours of this age labor and capital will look at each other with threatening gaze, rich men are warned that they are heaping their treasures together for judgment; the Christian laborer is exhorted not to take things in his own hand by violence; he is exhorted to wait, not till the times shall ameliorate themselves through the preaching of the Gospel and the diffusion of the Spirit of Christ, but to wait patiently, because "the coming of the Lord draweth nigh"; and because He is coming as a Judge, is even at the door.

The Apostle John was the beloved disciple; he lay on the Master's heart and heard the beating of its gentleness and love; if ever a man could have been inspired to speak soft things he would have been that man.

And how does he speak?

He simply adds to the testimony that has gone before and adds to it an emphasis which cannot be mistaken. He assures the whole Church that the distinctive mark of the closing hours of this era is not the universal spread of Christianity, not a world under the power and domination of Christianity; no, the mark, he says, the sure, certain mark of the last time is the coming Antichrist. "Little children * * * Antichrist shall come; whereby we know that it is the last rime."

But when you turn to the nineteenth chapter of the book of Revelation, you have the beloved disciple testifying again with the most scenic effect. He pictures the Second Coming of Christ, he goes into word painting.

Say nothing for the moment about the manner of Christ's coming, just consider the attitude of the world when He does come. Note what He finds. He finds Anti-christ, the false prophet, and the confederate nations, organized in open and blasphemous rebellion, a world full of revolt against His name and His laws; as John puts it by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, "Gathered together to make war against Him that sat on the horse."

A world gathered together to make war against Christ! Could anything more dynamically demonstrate the fallacy of a Millennium before the coming of Christ?

Jesus Christ and the Apostles, therefore, without a single break in the testimony declare that so tar from this world growing from bad to better till He comes, it will grow from bad to worse.

The truth of the matter is, the Scriptures teach that the Millennium is not to be introduced by the Gospel, but by judgments at the coming of the Lord.

Judgment First, Then the Kingdom

Nay, so far from a Millennium introduced by the Gospel, that Millennium is to be introduced by judgments at the Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Mark what is done with the tares. They are cast into the fire. So, we are told, it shall be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth and cast the wicked into a furnace of fire; then shall the righteous shine forth in the kingdom.

Judgment first, and their the kingdom.

In the seventh parable of Matthew thirteen a dragnet is brought to the shore, the good fish are gathered into vessels and the bad are thrown away; so, we are told, and by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, shall it be at the end of this age. The wicked shall be severed from the just, cast into a furnace of fire, and then shall the righteous shine forth in the kingdom of the Father.

Judgment first, and then the kingdom.

In Matthew 25:31-46, Christ is represented coming in glory. He sits on His throne, He separates the sheep from the goats. He casts the latter into the fire, and then the kingdom is set up.

Judgment first, and then the kingdom.

In Luke 19, a nobleman is rejected by his citizens; he goes into a far country to get the title deeds of his kingdom and return. Having received the kingdom in the far country he returns, calls his servants about him, rewards them, summons his enemies, punishes them, and then establishes his kingdom.

The analogy is translucent. The Lord Jesus Christ has been rejected by His citizens. He is in heaven se- curing the title deeds to His kingdom; when He has received the authority and the full hour to reign is come, He will return, call His Church up about Him, reward them, enter into judgment with His enemies and then set up the promised kingdom.

Judgment first, and then the kingdom.

James testifies that the Lord is coming. And how is He coming? Not as one who bears the olive branch in His hand to match the palm branches and hosannas of a welcoming world, but as a judge who standeth, even at the door ready to smite.

In this place it would be easy to break off the line of New Testament utterance and taking up the Old Testament show that without a single exception wherever the Millennium is spoken of invariably it is preceded by a description of judgments at the Coming of the Lord. Prophet after prophet speaks in glowing terms of that day when the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord and when all shall know Him from the least unto the greatest; but, so surely as they rise into sublimity of description concerning that era, just so surely do they lift up the voice to proclaim that the day of peace and joy shall be introduced by judgments from heaven, by troubles on earth, and by the swift and fiery coming of the Lord to vindicate righteousness, and execute wrath.

Judgment first, and then the Millennium.

Apocalyptic Testimony

This is the rule, this is the testimony, and it never varies. I pass over the immense and almost measureless testimony of the Old Testament and content myself with two pictures in the book of Revelation as all sufficient and final witnesses to the proposition that judgments at the Coming of Christ will introduce the Millennium.

In the sixth chapter of this book of the Consummation you find the world on its knees in an attitude of prayer. And what is the prayer?

Are they crying, "Come, Lord Jesus, and receive the kingdom which has been Thine a thousand years? Come and behold how Thy Spirit rules and reigns in us, and the whole earth is at peace beneath Thy sway? Come, that we may behold Thy face in love?"

Nay, with one voice they cry, "Mountains and rocks, fall on us and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb-; for the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?"

Could language more definitely declare that the Lord is coming to introduce His kingdom by the execution of judgment against a world of sin?

But mark the nineteenth chapter of this book of Revelation.

That chapter gives a portrait of the Coming of Christ. Look at Him. His eyes are a flame of fire. A sword goes out of His mouth. He has on a coat dipped in blood. He is followed by armies. He is coming to make war, to smite the earth, to tread the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God; to rule the earth with a rod of iron and dash it in pieces as a potter's vessel.

Is that the picture, the portrait, of one who is coming to find a Millennial era? Nay, it is the portrait of a Judge holding in his heart the long pent-up judgment due a rebel world.

Note what He does. He casts Antichrist and his company into the lake of fire.

Note what follows: An angel from the presence of the Lord comes down, lays hold on the Devil and binds him a thousand years.

Note further what follows: The Church of Christ sits on thrones, and, it is said, "They lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years."

And when does it occur? After the Lord descends in judgment.

Judgment first, and then the Millennium.

The Coming of the Lord first, and then the Millennium.

If these two chapters, the nineteenth and the twentieth, were painted by some modern Michael Angelo in three panels in the roof of every church the voice of Post-millennialism and the easy going platitudes of so-called optimism would not be heard in the land. Here are the three panels:

The Lord coming in glory to judge Antichrist and his hosts.

An angel binding Satan.

The Church seated on thrones ruling over the earth with Christ for a thousand years.

The testimony of God's Word is conclusive. There can be no Millennium till Christ comes.

In the very nature of the case there can be no Millennium till Christ comes.

Conditions Precedent to the Millennium

There can be no Millennium till war is at an end; war cannot end till there is one universal authority recognized in the earth; there can be no universal authority recognized in the earth; there can be no universal authority, no universal king, till Christ comes and takes unto Himself His great power and reigns.

There can be no Millennium till righteousness reigns; and we are told by the Prophet Isaiah that the world will not learn righteousness till "the Lord's judgments are in the earth"; nor will the Lord's judgments be in the earth till the Lord Himself shall come.

There can be no Millennium till Satan is bound; and the Word of God distinctly teaches that Satan cannot be bound till the Lord comes.

Nay, Satan cannot be bound, righteousness cannot reign, peace cannot fill the earth till He comes Who is the Prince of Peace and Whose presence shall assure it to the sons of men.

Men may scheme, civilization may take its highest course, new plans of human government may be evolved, humanitarianism and morality may even put on the name of Christ and culture the flesh in that Name; no matter, though the chisel of the sculptor ply, the brush of the artist sweep, the pen of the author write, the voice of the orator and the rhetorician be heard and the legislators remake and burnish their statutes, over all the efforts of man and the efforts even of the Church to build a quasi-kingdom of God, while the King is away there will be heard the voice in heaven saying, "I will overturn it, I will overturn it, till He comes. Whose right it is to reign; and I will give it to him."

Christ Is Coming

Christ is coming to bring in the Millennium. He I is coming to link this world to the throne of God, to make it the home of righteousness and truth. He is coming to banish the power of Satan and the trace of his evil handiwork. He is coming to brush away all tears, stop the long procession to the grave, hush all sounds of discord, write finale over all things that hurt and destroy, make the stones vocal with praise and the very dust to be fruitful in glory. He is coming to give victory and triumph to man; to make the earth, no longer the swinging cemetery of the dead, but, as it ought to be, the Paradise of God; to make the days of man as "the days of heaven upon earth" and turn the Devil's lie into infinite truth, "Ye shall be as gods."

The full glory of that coming cannot be described; even the language' which the Spirit has chosen to proclaim it breaks down under the weight of the glory.

I have seen a wave in mid-ocean under the splendor of the setting sun until the heart of it was shot through and through with the wealth of heaven's tints; and through its irridescent but transparent brilliance have seen in clearness the vast, shoreless beyond; when, suddenly, that wave broke into foam and spray and veriest spume of crushed waters until the rising winds swept it into a wreck of color and foam and blinding mist, shutting out for a moment all concept of the beyond. So, sometimes as I read the speech of the Coming it is as the lifted wave, clear, crystal, transparent, shot through and through with the glories of heaven until I can see some way into the shoreless beyond, into that kingdom of whose "increase there shall be no end"; then the phrase breaks, the words crush, metaphor, symbol and figure fall together in indescribable spray and blinding mist of splendor, and for a moment, shut out the vista.

He is coming to the mount from which He ascended. He will sit there in judgment on the last great masterpiece of Satan, the Antichrist, whom the valley of Tophet will open to receive, both him and his, forever. Repentant Israel will take up the fifty-third of Isaiah and cry, "We did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions." They will say, "Lo, this is our God, we have waited for Him." Then voices in heaven will be heard, saying, "The kingdoms of this world are about to become the kingdoms of our Lord and His Christ." It is the official announcement of the Millennium. The Millennium era has begun.

Therefore— "Watch"

Let me warn you as a Church, that while between us and the Coming of Christ in glory, between us and that moment known as the "Day of the Lord" there are many predicted events, yet between us and the sudden, secret coming of Christ into the air there is not a single predicted event, not even a hand's breadth. According to our Lord's Word He might descend into the upper air any moment unseen and unheard by the world. All who are truly His will be gathered up to meet Him that they may be out of the way of earth's coming storm; and that they may come back at last with Him, at the appointed time in the great procession of glory and set up that kingdom for which ages have sighed and saints have prayed. We are not to be looking for "signs" but listening for "sounds," the sound of a trump; waiting as did the Thessalonians of old for the secret gathering together unto the Lord; and, while waiting, to be full of divine activities that we may be commended now as they were then for our "work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ"; living daily as "examples to all that believe," and day by day fulfilling the admonition of the Lord to "Watch, lest coming suddenly, He finds us sleeping."