By Aaron Hills
THE SECOND ADVENT AND THE MILLENNIUM
The Millennial Doctrine has been a veritable "troubler in Israel." It has risen and declined, risen and declined, again and again through the Christian centuries. One cannot write a Systematic Theology and avoid the subject. In a general way Christian thought has been divided into Premillennialism and Postmillennialism.
In my own theological reading and study I have been compelled to take the Postmillennial side. But in this theology I have invited my dear friend Dr. Chapman to state the other side, which I have also done, presenting the arguments of the champions of the Premillennial view. I want my readers to hear both sides and form an intelligent opinion.
THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS PREMILLENNIAL By J. B. Chapman
The Scriptures so clearly teach that Jesus Christ is coming back to this earth upon which He suffered and died for the sins of men that there has practically been no dispute in the Church as regards the fact. There has, however, been discussion as to the time of His second coming as related to other occurrences connected with the conclusion of man's day of grace.
In the twentieth chapter of Revelation there is mention of a thousand years in connection with the second coming of Christ and the triumph of His people, and in other portions of both the Old and New Testaments mention is made of a day or time of wonderful triumph for God and righteousness in the future. In fact it is instinctive for a Christian to believe that at last "the seed of the woman" shall bruise the serpent's head, although it shall bruise His heel. And so there has all along existed in the Church a hope for a "golden day" when Christ shall reign from the rivers unto the ends of the earth and righteousness and peace shall be universal. And from the Latin word for thousand has come our word Millennium, which has become the synonym among Christian writers and thinkers for that golden day of their future hope.
There are those who believe that the golden day of Christian triumph shall be ushered in by the power of the gospel as preached by the ministers of Christ today, and that following such a triumph Jesus will return to the earth the second time to enter upon the kingdom thus prepared for Him. And because they place the coming of Jesus after the Millennium they are called Post-Millennialists. Then there are those who hold that there can be no golden day until Jesus comes, and that His coming is now imminent, and does not await the conversion of the people of the earth. And because these place the second coming of Jesus before the Millennium they are called Pre-Millennialists. This latter is our own view of the subject, to which we have adhered for thirty years.
While the prophetic portion of the Bible has always held interest for some, still it has been the last fifty years in which the very unusual concern has been marked. Men of various schools of theology and of various stages of intellectual development and mental caliber, have spoken and written on the subject until a mass of literature difficult to catalogue has been produced, and not a few have been discouraged by the dogmatism of zealous promoters of private fancies regarding certain phases of the theme.
But it happened with our Lord that His greatest foe was a member of His family of friends, and it often happens that friends of orthodoxy are more effective in promoting heterodoxy than heretics themselves. We would therefore state in the very beginning that we do not and never have taken any stock in "date setting," or held any brief for the defense of those who in their zeal for the mysteries of the future have become wise beyond what is written. To be a pre-millennialist one is not bound to endorse all the pre-millennarians or to defend the fancies of those who hold intact the essentials of the doctrine itself. And, further, we would by no means judge the body of a man's theology by his position on the millennial question: he might be orthodox on this and heterodox on the sin question, on the truth of Scriptural holiness, or on any other essential truth of the gospel. On the other hand, one might be heterodox on the millennial question and yet be orthodox on the way of sin and of holiness. Millennarianism cannot be said to be the "touch-stone" of orthodoxy as is truthfully said regarding the deity of Christ and of spiritual regeneration.
There are many phases of the subject of course, but we think it fair to let the division come just where the words indicate that it does come and account all who believe that the millennium will come before Jesus comes the second time as post-millennialists and all who hold that Jesus must come before there is a millennium as pre-millennialists. We do therefore make this the line of distinction. And following this distinction we would admit a wide margin of thinking in either school without demanding a new classification. It has been suggested by those who find it difficult to embrace all the implications of either of the schools mentioned that they constitute a new and third school known as nil-millennialists. But this we think is not possible; for if there is to be a day of triumph for God and righteousness it must come either before or after the second coming of Christ, and it is inconceivable that a Christian should be an ultimate pessimist. All, then, who think on this subject are either post-millennialists or pre-millennialists.
Sometimes it is suggested that there is a further distinction between the two schools with regard to the purpose for which Jesus will return to the world. It is said that the post-millennialists believe that He will come for judgment alone, while the pre-millennialists hold that there will be further redemptive ministries connected with His work after He comes. But even this distinction is involved and included in the basis consideration of the time of His coming. For naturally those who believe that a very desirable state of affairs will exist at the time of His coming could conceive of nothing more that He should do than to judge the quick and dead in matters pertaining to everlasting awards and punishments. But those who believe that Jesus will come at a time when conditions among men are very far from good, not to say ideal, are bound to continue the redemptive processes somewhat or else close the affairs of men in the midst of deepest gloom. Therefore, we think the whole question is stated when we ask, Will Jesus Christ come back to the world the second time before there is a millennium or golden age upon earth? And in answering this question in the affirmative we think ourselves justified by the following considerations:
I. In describing the conclusion of the present, gospel age, both Jesus and the apostles spoke in terms of grave concern. Jesus asked, "When the Son of Man cometh shall He find faith on the earth?" Implying, we think, that faith would be relatively scarce and weak. Paul spoke of the same times as being marked by the presence of much form of godliness along with a denial of the power of godliness. These statements had reference to things ecclesiastical and religious. Then both Jesus and the apostles spoke of deplorable social conditions at the time of the end. For they told how there would be disobedience to parents and how there would be marrying and giving in marriage (a probable reference to lax marital practices), abounding iniquity, traitorous dealings between men and a general lawlessness in human affairs. And as regarding political conditions they foretold limes of confusion, war and trouble among and within nations leading right up to the return of the Lord. And we think there is significance in the fact that the parable of the virgins which has its application to the imminence and suddenness of the Lord's coming says that the cry was made "at mid-night."
II. While we would not attempt exhaustive quotation in proof, we think there is no disputing of our statement that the Church in the days of the apostles and in the centuries immediately following their day was looking for the Lord to come in the glory of His second advent. There is of course some answer in the fact that He did not come then, but we think the fact that for several generations the ministers and laity alike cherished the hope that He would appear in their day is proof that those with and nearest to Jesus understood Him to say that He was coming and that He might come very soon. It was only after the Church became pretty well established- after the close of the pagan persecution-that ministers and members alike began on a large scale to identify the Church as the kingdom and to believe and teach that the kingdoms of the world would become the kingdom of God by means of the individual conversion of men through the preaching of the gospel. And there is a strong argument for the purity of a faith which can trace its pedigree to the earliest Christians.
III. In almost every century of the Christian era good men have come to the belief that "the coming of the Lord draweth nigh." These were not necessarily the only holy men of their times, but their experiences show that, instinctively, in times of great trial when earthly hopes are dim, Christians turn to the hope of the Lord's return. Christian philosophers argue for the existence of God from the natural disposition of men everywhere to worship, and they argue for the immortality of the soul from the fact that in every nation and in every age even untutored men have clung to the idea of a hereafter. If these arguments are valid, and we think they are, then the fact that in times of world weariness Christians turn their eyes toward the second coming of Christ has weight also.
IV. There is an argument in analogy. Jesus occupies a trinity of offices: prophet, priest and king. He appeared as the "Teacher come from God" after the wisdom of the wisest had sought the way to God and had not found it. He fulfilled the highest demand of His priestly position by His death upon the cross after every sacrifice beside had been offered and every form of priesthood had, broken down. Now it would be in exact agreement with this order if He should enter upon His kingly dignity after the empire of man has failed. When every form of human government has been tried (as we think it has been now and has broken down) none has succeeded as the opposite position might require, Jesus should become King of kings as well as Lord of lords.
V. The truth of God always stands in the practical test, and the doctrine of the imminent second coming of the Lord stands such a test. In the early days of the Church Christians were taught that if they suffered with Christ they should also reign with Him. And in the times of their stress they were told, "Be patient, brethren, the coming of the Lord draweth nigh." And in later times, and noticeably so in our own times, the imminent coming of the Lord is an encouragement to sacrifice and the most earnest endeavor to preach the gospel to all the nations in order to gather out a people for His name and thus hasten the coming of the Savior. We think that this "blessed hope" is peculiarly adapted to keep the courage of the Church high when the results toward world evangelism seems disappointing. In fact this is one of the very uses made of it by the apostles.
They warned that there would be those who would say that all things continue as they have from the beginning, and that there is no occasion for special hope or fear. But Christians were to stand fast in the confidence that the Lord will suddenly, and so far as the world is concerned unexpectedly, return from heaven to rapture His saints and judge the ungodly.
VI. While we know that often the ways of God are past finding out, and that it does not devolve upon us to say why God does many things as He does, yet we believe that the doctrine of Christ's pre-millennial coming does commend itself to such as would piously try to follow the plans and workings of a good God in His redemptive dealings with the lost race of man. This doctrine presents a full vindication of Jesus Christ without necessitating untempered judgment upon men. It keeps the redemptive purpose always in the forefront, and brings on the happiest conclusion imaginable for such an unhappy world as sin has made of the one God gave us.
VII. And finally we hold that the only serious objections which can be filed against the doctrine of the Pre-millennial coming of the Lord pertain rather to the incidentals than to the fundamentals of the thesis. Teachers of this precious doctrine have often tended toward literalism in their interpretation of the future state and experiences. They have often appeared to present personal notions as of equal force with the facts of revelation. They have sometimes seemed to dwell upon prophecy to the shadowing of the privileges of the present day of grace. They have now and then entered details into the picture with too much air of certitude. They have at times become enmeshed in their descriptions of millennial order to the confusion of the principal exhortation: "Therefore be ye also ready for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh."
But with all the considerations before us, we believe that Jesus and the apostles and the Church of the first three centuries of the Christian era taught that Jesus would come back to the world in the glory of His second advent before the millennium of peace and joy should be ushered in. We believe this hope of the imminent coming of the Lord has been the instinctive solace of good men in every age in times of stress and world weariness. We believe the analogies connected with the offices of Jesus Christ suggest that He shall enter upon His kingship at the end of world failure at empire, just as He entered upon His prophetic and priestly tasks at the end of man's failure in these spheres. We believe the doctrine of the imminent second coming of Jesus stands the practical test by inspiring the highest motives for personal holiness and for the effective evangelism of others. We believe the doctrine of the Lord's pre-millennial second coming works out happily in connection 'with the revealed redemptive scheme of God for lost mankind. We believe the only serious objections to the thesis are and must be raised to its incidental details and not to its fundamental implications. We believe that the conditions existent now in the world are such as the Scriptures declare will exist at the time of the Lord's return, and that it is therefore the privilege of all believers to look up, lift up their heads, and stand in constant readiness for the glorious appearing of the heavenly Bridegroom of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe that the next red letter day on the calendar of the ages is the sudden and glorious appearing of the Son of God in the clouds, and that those who are washed in His blood and filled with His Spirit may and shall go out to meet Him with a shout.
PREMILLENNIAL TEACHING IN DETAIL BY THEIR OWN AUTHORS
I. Jesus will come again visibly in person.
"This Jesus which was received up from you into heaven shall so come in like manner as ye beheld Him going into heaven (Acts 1:11). For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God" (1 Thess. 4: 16). There is no controverting these plain statements. He will so come in like manner as He has gone. We are not to water down such words as these with anything short of a return precisely corresponding in its method to the departure: as the departure was visible, corporeal, literal, personal and local, so, too, will be His return from heaven to earth. And He will come as He went, a visible manhood, only thronged amidst the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. This is the aim that He sets before Him in His departure: He goes in order that He may come back again" (Dr. Maclaren).
II. THIS WAS THE HOPE AND EXPECTATION OF THE EARLY CHURCH.
"The second advent of Christ so clearly predicted by Himself and by His apostles, connected as it is with the Consummation of His Kingdom, was the object of longing expectation to all early Christians. So great is the glory connected with that event that Paul describes in Rom. 8: 18-23, the whole creation as looking forward to it with earnest expectation? Compare Phil. 3: 20; Tit. 2: 13. So general was this expectation that Christians were characterized as those who love His appearing, 2 Tim. 4: 8, and as those who wait for Him/ Heb. 9: 28" (Charles Hodge, D. D.).
"The earnest expectation of the Lord Jesus became one of the marks of early Christian piety. This return was promised by the Savior, and it became the settled hope and expectation of Christians that He would return. 2 Pet. 3: 12; Heb. 9: 28. And with earnest prayer that He would quickly come, John closes the volume of inspiration" (Rev. 22: 20). - BARNES.
III. HIS COMING MAY BE NEAR.
"Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. For the Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye, therefore; for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at evening, or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the morning; lest coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all. Watch." Mark 13:33-37, also Luke 12:35-46; Rom. 8: 23; 1 Cor. 1:7; Phil. 4: 5; 1 Thess. 1: 9, 10.
IV. CHRIST AND HIS APOSTLES WILL SIT UPON LITERAL THRONES.
Christ will have the throne of David. Isa. 9:6, 7. "His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it, with justice and righteousness from henceforth, even forever." Luke 1: 32; Ezek. 21: 25-27. It will be upon the earth. Jer. 23: 5, 6. "He shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute righteousness in the land. In His days Judah shall be saved and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is His name wherewith He shall be called: Jehovah our Righteousness." He shall have a kingdom (Dan. 7: 13, 14). And rule over it with His saints (Dan. 7: 18, 22-27). All kings and nations shall serve Him (Psa. 72: 11; Isa. 49: 6, 7). The kingdoms of this world shall become His kingdom. Zech 9: 10; Rev. 11: 15. They shall come and worship the King. Zech. 14: 16; His throne shall be in Jerusalem. Jer. 3:17. The Apostles shall sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. 19: 28; Luke 22: 28-30). The temple in Jerusalem will be rebuilt. Ezek., chapters 40-48. All the nations of the earth shall go up to Jerusalem year by year to worship the King, and to offer sacrifices. Zech. 14: 16-21.
V. THE PRESENT AGE.
The word for "age" is usually and improperly translated "world." The following are examples, "The harvest is the end of the age." Matt. 13: 39. "Lo! I am with you always even unto the end of the age" (Matt. 28: 20). "Be not conformed to this age" (Rom. 12: 2). "The god of this age hath blinded the minds of them which believe not" (2 Cor. 4: 4). "Christ gave himself for our sins that He might deliver us from this present evil age" (Gal. 1: 4). It stands, of course, in contrast with the age to come; and in the New Testament the present period of time has a significant character of evil, of self-denial, suffering, trial for the people of God, until that age to come shall burst upon their gladdened view. There is not even a hint from the first of Matthew to the last of Revelation that this significant character will be changed during the entire age in which we live, or until the second advent of Christ.
Jesus tells us that the tares and the wheat grow together until the harvest," and "the harvest is the end of the age." In the world ye have tribulation (John 16: 33). Where is there an intimation in the teaching of our Lord that this state of things will be changed, and that His followers shall become so numerous and victorious that they shall no longer bear the cross? Can a line be pointed out in any of the epistles which gives promise of a day when the saints must no more through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God? Each continent, nay, each state is an aceldema, a field of blood, covered with human bodies slain in battle. Crime and cruelty and vice that might shame the wild beasts, blacken all pages of the world's history. The sea roars in rebellion and wrath against the wickedness of man. The lower animals wage ferocious war with one another; and look where we may; we behold confusion, disorder and unrest. . . . Contrast this with the time when 'Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more' (Isa. 2:4; Isa. 11:6; Isa. 33: 24; 35: 1. It is obvious that the present age is under the age-rulers of darkness" (Eph. 6: 12).
VI. THERE IS NO BASIS OF HOPE IN THE TRIUMPHS OF THE GOSPEL, AND THE PRESENT MEANS OF GRACE.
There is not a line in the New Testament which shows that the gospel is to be preached for the conversion of all nations: this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come."... So far is it from being true that light breaks in amid the stumbling, the betrayal of one another, the mutual hatred, the rise of false prophets, the destruction of many, the abounding of iniquity, the waxing cold of love, things go from bad to worse, until there shall be great tribulation such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, nor ever shall be." . . . "This know also that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, etc. (2 Tim. 3: 1-5). "There shall come in the last days scoffers," etc. (2 Pet. 3:3). The parables of the kingdom in Matt. 13, do not teach the world's conversion. The parable of the Sower, the parable of the Tares and the Wheat, of the Mustard seed, of the Leaven, the Treasure hidden in the field, the Pearl, the Net of fishes, - there is not a hint in the seven of the conversion of the world, but rather only partial success, and a mixed state, growing worse and worse to the end of the age.
"The early Church, perhaps without exception, believed that the predicted Antichrist is to be a person, the embodiment of human blasphemy and wickedness." "He is not the Devil, but one of the human race, in whom the whole of Satan shall dwell bodily ... for he is the Man of Sin,' 'the Son of Perdition,' " "Popery does not answer to the inspired description." "We expect at the end a personal embodiment of Satan, with Satan's power to work miracles. He will be a counterfeit Christ. He is to personify the godless culture of these last days, possessing rare intelligence, being a scholar of fine attainments, 'understanding dark sentences' (Dan. 8: 23). He is to exult in the strength of his intellect, for he shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods. As a man of transcendent genius, as a statesman of great ability, a politician of matchless skill, and a soldier born to command, he will give triumphant expression for a time to the lawlessness that already pervades society, children becoming more and more restless under parental authority, servants hating their masters, workingmen plotting against their employers, subjects rebelling against their rulers, citizens seeking the overthrow of their governments, and the criminal and licentious and infidel classes increasing with appalling rapidity. Both a God-defying world and an apostate church, Papal and Protestant, are busily engaged in preparing the way for the advent of the Antichrist who will be destroyed by Christ at His coming."
"From Moses to Malachi, and from Matthew to Revelation there is abundant and unvarying testimony that the literal descendants of the literal Abraham and Isaac and Jacob shall be literally restored to their own land, and rejoice once more in their covenant relations to Jehovah, as the head of the millennial nations. The passages affirming this are so numerous that they would make a good-sized book." "The divine procedure is as follows: First, the call of Israel; second, the call of the Church; third, the setting aside of both for unfaithfulness; fourth, the personal return of the Lord; fifth, and the salvation of all Israel; sixth, the salvation of all gentiles, at least in outward confession; seventh, the millennial kingdom of a thousand years." "If any of thine be driven out unto the utmost parts of the heaven, from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: and the Lord thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he shall do thee good and multiply thee above thy fathers" (Deut. 30: 4, 5). "Thy people also shall be all righteous; they shall inherit the land forever" (Isaiah 60: 21). Of Jerusalem God says: "It shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down any more forever" (Jer. 31: 31-40; Jer. 33: 15-26; Ezek. 11: 16-20; Hosea 3:4, 5). "The great world empires have tried to crush Israel for 2,500 years. But all this is but the out-working of Jehovah's plans "till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth" (Isaiah 62: 7).
IX. THAT BLESSED HOPE.
"'Looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ" (Titus 2: 13). "The Second Coming of Christ is said to be mentioned 318 times in the two hundred and sixty chapters of the New Testament, and it occupies one in every twenty-five verses from Matthew to Revelation." It is a blessed and comforting hope because,
1. Only then can nature cease her travailing throes "and the desert blossom as the rose" (Is. 35: 1). Then "the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands" (Isa. 55: 12).
2. It will bring blessing to the lower animals. "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Isa. 11:6-9).
3. It will bless civil governments. "He shall judge among the nations and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares," etc. (Isa. 2:4).
4. It will bring redemption to scattered Israel. "To the daughter of Zion and to the daughter of Jerusalem it is said": "The King of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more" (Zeph. 3: 15-20).
5. Consider its bearing on sickness. "The inhabitants shall not say, 'I am sick' - Isa. 33: 24. There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed." "For as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and my elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands" (Isa. 65: 20-22).
6. Its bearing on the state of the dead. "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him." 1 Thess. 4: 13-18. Where in bereavement shall we find such comfort as in His words, "Surely I come quickly. Amen"?
7. Its bearing on the conversion of the world. "It is when Israel is back in their own land, and know that their Messiah is in the midst of them, and they shall never be ashamed, -the promise is fulfilled; 'It shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh'" (Joel 2: 28). "It is when He returns and builds again the tabernacle of David that the residue of men seek after the Lord and all the gentiles" (Acts 15: 14-17).
X. IT IS THE ONLY HOPE.
1. Christianity has utterly failed in the very countries where churches were planted by the apostles and their successors, to the number of hundreds and thousands. These churches have been enriched by the blood of the martyrs and then have disappeared from the earth.
2. The Reformation was speedily followed by rationalism, and the country that gave birth to the former is now the home of the latter. Within an incredibly short time after Luther's departure; Jesus could have said to most of Protestantism, as He said to the church at Sardis, "I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest and art dead," While the missionaries have converted 3,000,000 in a century the heathen population has increased 200,000,000.
3. "The outlook at home is not much more encouraging. The populations outgrow the churches in all our great cities. The world's greatest city has church accommodation for but a quarter of its population and they are not half filled. A similar disproportion meets us everywhere."
4. "The professors in universities and theological seminaries who have the ear of the public and are most admired and applauded, seem determined to destroy the foundation of faith in the authority and certainty of God's word.'It is an open apostasy in the bosom of professing Christendom'."
5. "The pew is in a still more deplorable condition, if this were possible. The atmosphere is laden with the malaria of skepticism, as it is said to be charged with the microbes of deadly disease. Current literature is saturated with infidelity, and news-paperdom is led by many who do not even accept the idea of a God!! What a pitiful minority of our church members support the prayer-meetings, have family worship, and exhibit in their lives the marks of a deep and fervent piety!"
6. "Society is leprous all over. The ideal of propriety held by society has no relation to the moral sense." "Our stage exhibits moral monstrosity to the edge of abomination." "It might be said that the nautch dance (performed by prostitutes) is modesty beside our waltz. ... It is a fact, gloss it over any how we may, that decent women have never dressed so indecently in our country as they do in fashionable life today. The sin of impurity is enough to challenge the Omnipotent wrath which buried Sodom."
7.Neither the United States nor any other nation in Christendom possesses the elements of stability. The vile immoralities of men in public life, the determined and desperate socialism pervading the working classes, the rapid increase of crime and licentiousness and vice in every form are surely rotting away the foundations on which alone empires and republics stand. The masses hate the Church with bitterest hatred. There is an absolute necessity for the personal coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to save an apostate Church and a Godless, undone world. Never has any former age terminated in more complete disaster and ruin than that which confronts the professing Christian body in this dispensation of the Spirit. The Coming of Christ is the sole hope of the world."
XI. IT WAS THE BELIEF OF THE EARLY CHURCH.
This expectation is expressed by all apostles in terms which fairly admit of no other interpretation. It is found in Paul (Rom. 13: 11, 12; 1 Cor. 7: 29-31; Phil. 4: 5; 1 Tim. 6: 14). The same expectation is expressed in the epistle to the Hebrews, 10: 25-27; ih the epistle of James 5: 3, 8; in the epistles of Peter; 1 Peter 4: 7; 2 Peter 3: 3; in the epistle of Jude 5: 8; in 1 John 2: 17, and in the Apocalypse (1:1-3;5:22;7:12, 20). That it was the expectation of the early Church can scarcely be doubted or denied.
POST-MILLENNIAL ADVENT THEORY Definition, the post Millennial Advent theory is: The nations of the earth are to be evangelized and all are to be converted, who ever will be converted, in this Holy Spirit's dispensation, by the present means of grace. The millennium means the triumph of Christianity in this world, the gospel being the controlling influence in human society, and in civic and national life. It will be followed by a brief but terrible apostasy, in the midst of which Jesus will come (after the millennium) with His holy angels to raise all the dead, and to judge and sentence the whole moral universe. This is our Lord's second and only future coming in this sense. Those who accept this view are Post-millennialists.
Post-millennialists feel obligated to carefully obey the laws of interpretation: among which are the following:
1. There is the law of non-contradiction. Inspired Scripture must be interpreted in harmony with itself. It cannot be correctly interpreted when it is forced to plainly contradict itself.
2. No vast, complicated and far-reaching doctrine of Scripture can be built on a single text or passage of Scripture.
3. No doctrine can be built on highly poetic, figurative, or symbolic language, if it is not also supported elsewhere by plain prose.
4. Manifestly, the Christ - taught and Holy Spirit - inspired writers of the New Testament are the best interpreters of the Old Testament, and of the meaning of its rites, ceremonies and symbols.
5. Jesus' plain statements are the ultimate authority on all questions of truth and doctrinal interpretation, from which there can be no appeal. His words brush aside all human contradictions. Any teachings, or theories, or notions that conflict with what He has said are nothing but the chaff and rubbish of human fancies and speculations. "Heaven and earth shall pass away," said Jesus, but my words shall not pass away."
Post-millennialists as they "search the Scriptures" find just one passage of Scripture that mentions a millennium (which means a thousand years). The phrase occurs six times in six verses in the beginning of the twentieth chapter of Revelation. This is one of the most figurative and symbolical passages in the most figurative and symbolical book in the entire Bible. If the vast system based on this passage is true, we might expect to see the glorious coming of God breaking through the heavens in overwhelming glory, and the risen bodies of the saints going out to evangelize the earth. Now, what are the facts?
I. There is in the passage no mention of the advent of Christ. Is it possible that John should see the mighty angel, and the key, and the chain, and the Devil, and yet not see the Son of God Himself? Alford says: "Aggelos (angel) in this book never means Christ." Dr. Steele adds: "Thus far in the Apocalypse there is not the slightest intimation that Christ has made His Second Advent in visible form."
In chapters 19-21 Christ wars against the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies, but the assumption that this is a literal battle fought on the earth by Jesus in Person, riding on a white horse, with a sharp sword going out of His mouth, is absurd and unendurable literalism. John saw these things in vision in the opened heaven, and he says he "saw the armies which were in heaven" The Scriptures are unanimous in making heaven the fixed abode of Christ, until He shall come to judge mankind at the last day. It was not till after the millennium passage that John saw Christ on the great white throne "From whose face the earth and the heavens fled away."
II. There are no raised bodies of saints or martyrs in this passage. He saw the "souls of them that had been beheaded" just as in chapter 9: 6 he saw "the souls of them that had been slain for the word of God" It was in heaven that he saw them. This fact virtually excludes the idea of seeing risen bodies. - Moreover, after the millennium, when the resurrection was reached, John did see the rising bodies: "The sea gave up its dead."
III. Post-millennialists feel that there is a total lack of evidence that these martyrs reigned with Christ on the earth. The vision has thus far been located in heaven. So say the noble commentators, Bengel, Wesley, Moses Stewart, Clarke, Barnes, Agar Beet, of England, Dr. Whedon, Daniel Steele, Henry Cowles, Dr. Hodge, and a host of others. "In heaven and not on earth!" . . . It is clear that John did not mean to teach a literal resurrection of the martyrs; but that there would exist at the time of the thousand years, a state of things "as if," "as if" the martyrs were raised from the dead. Their principles would be revived; their moral spirit would inspire the hearts of living men, as if they themselves had come back to earth. So Arch-bishop Whately wrote: "It may signify not the literal raising of dead men, but the raising up of an increased Christian zeal and holiness, - the revival in the Christian Church of the Spirit and energy of the noble martyrs of old, even as John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elias."
This is no far-fetched interpretation! It is the very language of the noble martyr Huss, who said of himself, "I am no dreamer: but I maintain this for certain, that the image of Christ shall never be effaced. It shall be painted in all hearts by much better preachers than myself. The nation that loves Christ shall rejoice at this, and I awaking from among the dead, and arising so to speak from my grave, shall leap with great joy." - In like manner, a brief, addressed by Pope Adrian, to the Diet at Nuremburg contains these words: "The heretics Huss and Jerome, are now alive again in the person of Martin Luther." These quotations justify the contention that the revival of the principles and spirit of the martyrs might, in the highly figurative language of Revelation, naturally be called a resurrection, when no literal resurrection from their graves was meant.
IV. The Post-millennialists feel driven to this interpretation to preserve the harmony of the Scriptures-the law of non-contradiction! For if we admit that a literal resurrection is taught in this passage, rising a thousand years before the general resurrection, then it appears to contradict Jesus, and a score of other passages, - all in perfect agreement, and seems to make utter confusion of the Bible on this and many other subjects. For instance, 1. In John 5: 28, 29, Jesus said: "The hour cometh in which all that are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done ill, unto the resurrection of judgment." Now that is the decision of the Omnipotent Son of God who knows the future, and tells us nothing untrue! Four times in the very next chapter He describes four good men who believe on Him and have eternal life, and of each of them He says, "I will raise him up at the last day!" Chapter 6: 39, 40, 44, 54.
Jesus said to Martha, "Thy brother shall rise again." Martha saith unto Him, "I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day" Where did Martha learn that? Unquestionably she learned it in her own home, from Jesus' own lips, as she sat with her brother and sister at His feet, and looked up into His blessed face. Those six passages, all from the lips of Jesus, prove to a demonstration that all the good shall be raised up at the last day. And I dare to suggest that there is no later day than the last day for anybody to be raised! In the second chapter of Romans, St. Paul teaches the same truth, - "A day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God upon every man that worketh evil, but glory and honor to every man that worketh good, in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men, according to my gospel, by Christ Jesus." One day of resurrection and judgment for good and bad alike! Of course Paul and Christ agree! And Post-millennialists think it is passing strange and even incredible that, if there are several resurrections and judgments, there is not elsewhere in all the New Testament one hint, one intimation, or one allusion of them.
V. Post-millennialists hold that, if Rev. 20: 1-7, describes a literal resurrection, then all must be literal, - a literal angel, a literal serpent, a literal chain, a literal pit, and literal thrones, and, mark it! a literal resurrection of only beheaded martyrs. Other martyrs who were killed by torture, or burned at the stake, or eaten by lions in the ampitheatre can not be included, much less all the righteous dead. No fair biblical interpretation can pick out one of these terms and make it literal, and read into the other terms what you please. There is an utter absence of all general terms, such as abound elsewhere concerning the resurrection of all, or of any of the righteous at the beginning of the millennium.
VI. Post-millennialists hold that the Old Testament nowhere supports the idea of two gospel dispensations. It very minutely describes one dispensation worked by the power of truth and the presence of the Holy Spirit, - the Gospel preached by Jesus and His apostles. The prophets describe it in scores of glowing passages, as blessedly successful; but they are silent as the grave about a second one, entirely different, with risen saints and preachers to convert the world.
VII. Post-millennialists accept what Jesus said about Himself as King, and about His kingdom, as absolutely true. He said to Pilate, "I am King," not "I am going to be King in two thousand years" (John 18: 37). He further said: "My kingdom is not of this world": - it is a kingdom of truth and spiritual life in human hearts, that cometh not with observation (Luke 17: 20, 21 and John 18: 36). He never led us to believe that His kingdom would be like other kingdoms, with Him on a throne in Jerusalem, with a cabinet of advisers, and generals, and admirals, and secretaries, and governors of provinces, and hundreds of thousands of office-holders, - a kingdom of this world with imposing splendor and external magnificence.
VIII. Post-millennialists accept what Jesus said about the expediency of His personal absence from the world (John 16: 7). He plainly taught that His visible presence anywhere would not be so helpful to His Church as the invisible but universal presence of the Holy Spirit in all Christian hearts. He never spoke one syllable about the insufficiency of the Holy Spirit and the gospel, and the present means of grace to win the world and establish His kingdom. He never intimated that His preachers and teachers and missionaries should go in the power of the Holy Spirit, with the gospel and the means of grace, and labor in vain, because all these Christian instrumentalities were never intended to succeed! God inaugurated these means and they will succeed!
IX. Post-millennialists believe that the Church, which is His Bride, will be complete when Jesus comes the next time. He comes for His bride, the Church, to celebrate the marriage, and "she will be ready." 1 Cor. 15: 23, 24; Eph. 5: 25-27; 2 Thess. 1: 10; 1 Thess. 3: 13; John 6: 39, 40. Dr. Daniel Steele offered a prize to any one who would point out one text that declared that there would be another conversion after Jesus comes the next time. Nobody has named the text.
X. Post-millennialists believe what the Bible says that when Jesus comes the next time "Then cometh the end." 1 Cor. 15: 24. All the hopes and promises and warnings of the Bible look forward to that event as the last in the great drama of redemption. 1 Peter 1:13; 2 Tim. 4:8; Phil. 3:20, 21; 2 Thess. 1:7-10; 2 Peter 3: 10. Jesus came the first time to redeem mankind: the next time He will come to judge the race, and pronounce its rewards and penalties.
XI. Post-millennialists believe that when Christ comes in person the next time this world will be destroyed by fire. So said Paul in 2 Thess. 1: 7-10. "The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire . . . when He shall come to be glorified in His saints." So said Peter: 2 Peter 3: 10-12. "The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night: in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth, also, and the works that are therein shall be burned up." So also said John in Rev. 20: 11. "And I saw a great white throne and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away: and there was found no place for them." "And there was no more sea" (21: 1). This earth will be a wrecked world, as dead and barren as the moon.
Thus the Scriptures teach us that the righteous and the wicked shall be judged together at the end of the world's history, at the coming of Christ. Matt. 12:36; Matt. 13:38-43; Matt. 16:27; Malt, 25:31-46; John 5:28, 29; John 6:39, 40, 44, 54; John 12; 48; Acts 17:31; Rom, 2:5-16; 1 Cor. 3:13; 1 Cor. 4:5; 2 Cor. 5: 10; 2 Tim. 4: 1; 2 Peter 2: 9; 2 Peter 3: 3, 7; Jude 6, 7; Rev. 20: 12, 13; Matt. 11: 24; Luke 11: 32; Rom. 14: 10-12. Now of these twenty-one passages nineteen speak of a definite, specific judgment, or judgment-day. Fourteen tell us that all will be judged, "the world," "all nations," "all," "each one," "every one," "the quick and the dead." Seven of these passages tell us that it will be at Christ's coming. If ever language expressed, or could be capable of expressing the doctrine of a simultaneous and universal resurrection and judgment, at the coming of Christ, it is found in these passages.
We give a brief positive statement of the Post-millennial view. It will help to an understanding of the Scriptures to observe that Jesus spoke of "His coming" in four senses, or with four different purposes.
1. He comes for the purpose of taking His people to Himself at their death. In that sense He said: (John 14: 1, 2) "I go to prepare a place for you ... I will come again and receive you unto myself: that where I am there ye may be also." See Luke 23: 43; 16: 22-25; Phil. 1: 23. The Revelation of John everywhere locates departed saints with Jesus even then. Hence spiritually, the idea that His coming and receiving His people to Himself refers to the final judgment is untenable. It must therefore refer to His coming at the death of each individual saint" (Cowles). This may be by angelic ministration. John Wesley speaks in his journal of Jesus coming for such and such a saint at their death. It is common to Christian thought.
2. In a second sense of "coming," Jesus comes to His people in the manifestation of His presence by and through the Holy Spirit. Thus we must explain John 14: 16, 18, 23. "I will not leave you comfortless. I will come to you." John 14: 28. "I come unto you." Also Rev. 3: 20.
3. In the third class Jesus speaks of Himself as "coming in power," or "in His kingdom" in the sense of bringing desolating judgments on Jerusalem: and He makes this fearful visitation of retributive justice a type and pledge of His final judgments of the whole race. The standard passages are Matt. 16: 27, 28; with Mark 8: 38; and Luke 9: 1; and Luke 9: 26, 27; also Matt. 24: 29-34 with its parallels Mark 13: 24-30 and Luke 21: 31, 32. That these have a remote reference to the final judgment is unquestionable; but primary reference to a long anterior coming of a similar character. It may be difficult whether to locate some passages in class three or four. This coming, however, is wrought by providential agencies.
4. "Of passages in the fourth class the standard one is Matt. 25: 31-46, where He comes to judgment. Probably Matt. 26: 64 may be classed with it. This and this only, is a coming in person, visibly manifested before the universe. None of these passages can be fairly interpreted to promise and prove a visible coming, yet future but long prior to the general judgment, for the purpose of inaugurating a visible reign on earth. They do not mean such a coming. Hence the doctrine of a visible coming and reign on the earth has no foundation in the recorded words of Christ. So far as His words are concerned, it is a theory without a bottom. Nothing that Jesus has said contains the doctrine, or gives it the least support" (Cowle's Commentary, John, pp. 389-392).
The Common Church Doctrine, as stated by Dr. Charles Hodge, is the following:
First, There is to be a second, personal, visible, and glorious advent of the Son of God.
Second, The events that are to precede (not follow) the advent are: (1) The universal diffusion of the Gospel: or, as our Lord expresses it, the ingathering of the elect: this is the vocation of the Christian Church, (2) The conversion of the Jews, which is to be national. As their casting away was national, although a remnant was saved; so their conversion may be national, although some may remain obdurate. (3) The coming of some peculiarly hostile power called Antichrist.
Third, The events which will attend the Second Advent are:
(1) The resurrection of the dead, both of the just and of the unjust.
(2) The general judgment. (At which all will be present.)
(3) The end of the world (it being consumed by fire).
(4) The consummation of Christ's kingdom. - (Vol. Ill, p. 792).
3. The so-called millennium will be brought about, not by the visible return of Christ to set up a temporal throne and kingdom, but by the Holy Spirit restraining the power of Satan in some unknown way, and by giving unwonted efficacy to all the ministrations of the gospel, and the means of grace. What if the power of the Papacy to corrupt and delude mankind, and to oppose the spread and reception of the gospel were set aside; and along with it should come to an end the power of the Mahometan system to fetter and enslave mankind; what if all the direct influence of Satan in causing or perpetuating slavery, war, intemperance, lust, avarice, greed, oppression of the poor, skepticism, and social injustice were checked and stayed, and the heathen nations were evangelized! Would it not justify the language of Scripture that Satan was bound with a chain? And what if at the same time, a marvelous and unwonted power of the Holy Spirit should send vast waves of ever-recurring revival power around the earth, converting and sanctifying uncounted multitudes of people throughout the entire world! What if the spiritual condition that occurred in Northampton, Mass., during the ministry of Jonathan Edwards in 1745 should spread from town to town, from land to land, from continent to continent! Might it not be said that the millennium had come?
"Presently," says Edwards, "a great and earnest concern about the great things of religion and the eternal world became universal in all parts of the town, and among persons of all degrees and ages: all the conversation in all companies and upon all occasions, was about these things only, unless what was necessary for carrying on their ordinary business. They seemed to follow their worldly business more as a duty, than from any disposition they had to it. The only thing in their view was to get the kingdom of heaven, and every one appeared pressing into it: the engagedness of their hearts in this great concern could not be hid: It appeared in their countenances. The work of conversion was carried on in a most astonishing manner, and increased more and more: souls did, as it were, come by flocks to Jesus Christ. From day to day, for many months together, might be seen evident instances of sinners brought out of darkness into marvelous light. This work of God, as it was carried on, and the number of true saints multiplied, soon made a glorious alteration in the town: so that in the Spring and Summer following, in the year 1745, the town seemed to be full of the presence of God: it never was so full of love and joy, and yet so full of distress as it was then. There were remarkable tokens of God's presence in almost every house. It was a time of joy in families on account of salvation being brought to them: parents rejoicing over their children as new-born, and husbands over their wives, and wives over their husbands. . . . Our young people when they met were wont to spend their time in talking of the excellency and dying love of Jesus Christ, the gloriousness of the way of salvation. . . . God has in many respects gone out of, and much beyond, His usual and ordinary way. The work in this town and some others about us has been extraordinary on account of the universality of it, affecting all sorts of people, sober and vicious, high and low, rich and poor, wise and unwise. A loose and careless person could scarcely find another in the whole neighborhood: and if there was any one that seemed to remain senseless or unconcerned, it would be spoken of as a strange thing." Now who shall say that the Holy Spirit is not able to repeat such a state of things in ten thousand towns around the world, and keep on doing it? It would by no means be so "far beyond His usual and ordinary way," as would be the setting up of a visible and temporal government, with Jesus on the throne at Jerusalem!
4. The Scriptures warrant us in saying that that blessed period will have the following characteristics:
(1) It will be characterized by the universal spread of the gospel (Isaiah 11: 9; 25: 7).
(2)By the universal sway of Christianity and Christian principle in the governments of mankind (Psalm 2: 8-11; Zech. 9: 10; Matt. 28: 19).
(3) By universal peace (Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4: 3; Isaiah 11: 6-9).
(4) By great spiritual power and glory (Isaiah 66: 8; 60: 22).
(5) By the return to Christ of Israel (Rom. 11: 26-29; Zech. 12: 10; 13: 1).
(6) The ascendancy of truth and righteousness in human affairs (Rev. 20:4-6; Psalm 72: 11, 17; Zech. 14: 9; Isa. 60: 12). "Religion," says Edwards, "shall be uppermost in the world in every respect."
(7) There will be a great increase in the population of the globe. Let wars cease, and intemperance cease, and the sinful habits that now shorten life, be conquered by sanctification, and there must be a vast increase in the human race.
(8) There will be an increase in the diffusion of intelligence (Dan. 11:4).
(9) There will be great temporal prosperity. The resources of nature are by no means exhausted. "Godliness is profitable for all things, having the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come." Matt. 6: 33; 1 Tim. 4: 8. The world will be opulent beyond any dream of man, when its peoples cease wasting in extravagance and vice, and wisdom and virtue develop the resources of the earth.
5. Yet we are not to suppose that all will be converted. There will still be hearts that are strangers to saving grace. There will still be on earth the remains of wickedness and corrupt human nature. Many will be constrained by the religious influences everywhere surrounding them, to fall in with the spirit of the age, catching apparently its holy impulses: but they will never come savingly under its holy power. There will still be a tendency to sin in the human soul, just as there is now. And when Satan is released from his enforced restraint, thin portion of mankind will gladly throw off the moral bonds that have held them, but were always irksome, and will lift the standard of revolt against Jesus. Satan will be able once more to rouse their enmity, and lead them in one more desperate effort to destroy the spiritual kingdom of Christ.
But in the hour of their seeming victory, when faith in Christ seems rarest and feeblest, and opposition to Jesus seems most defiant and successful, - suddenly Jesus will come, "with a mighty shout," "with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God." All the dead will rise, and all the moral universe will assemble for judgment. And this world, the scene of man's sin and shame and of his redemption, will go up in flames.