Table of Contents
The reader has before him an examination of a work long before the public. The author reviewed will not impute to me any lack of personal regard. We agree, too, in the importance of what is in question, doctrinally and practically. We agree in rejecting errors taught by many premillenarians. We agree in accepting truth seen by few postmillennialists. There remains much, however, and of wide, deep, and lasting moment, in which I have the firmest conviction that my Christian brother is wrong, and can only mislead the Church to the dishonour of the Lord and of the truth. I have therefore consented to the republication of my review of his book, with remarks added on the latter half of it, which was not originally taken up.
Dublin, July, 1868.
Part 1: The Second Coming and Kingdom of Christ
Part 1, Chapter 1:
The Hope of Christ's Coming Again, and Its Relation to the Question of Time*3
*(1. Christ's Second Coming: Will it be Pre-millennial? By the Rev. David Brown, St. James's Free Church, Glasgow. 1856.
2. Outlines of Unfulfllled Prophecy; being an enquiry into the Scripture testimony respecting the "good things to come." By the Rev. T. R. Birks, M.A., rector of Kelshall. Seeleys, 1854.
3. Simples Essais sur des sujets prophètiques. Par W. Trotter, Tomes I. II. 1855-56.)
The battlefield is somewhat changed. The champion of post-millennialism proclaims the second advent to be “THE VERY POLESTAR OF THE CHURCH.”
That it is so held forth in the New Testament is beyond dispute. Let any one do himself the justice to collect and arrange the evidence on the subject, and he will be surprised — if the study be new to him — at once at the copiousness, the variety and the conclusiveness of it (Brown, p. 15).
“Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me”; is a sound dear to all that love His name. They “love His appearing” because they love Himself. To put anything in the place of it is not good. Nor will it succeed; for those who preach Him bringing His reward with Him will prevail, as indeed they ought. Nor is it in regard to the personal appearing of the Savior that only premillennialists will and ought to prevail against all who keep it out of sight. There is a range of truth connected with it, which necessarily sinks out of its scriptural position and influence, whenever the coming of Christ is put out of its due place. I refer to the RESURRECTION as a coordinate object of the Church's hope, and to all the truths which circle around it, in which there is a power to stir and to elevate, which nothing else, substituted for it, can ever possess. The resurrection-life of the Head, as now animating all his members, and at length quickening them from the tomb, to be for ever with Him; these, and such like, are truth in the presentation of which premillennialists are cast, in the mold of Scripture, from which it is as vain as it were undesirable to dislodge them (Brown, p. 455).
For these and similar admissions we are thankful, and we are confident that they will not stop there. Our adversaries had long treated Christ's coming unworthily. They confounded it with the mission of the Holy Ghost, with the destruction of Jerusalem, with the departure of the spirit at death, with the judgment of the dead before the great white throne. They are now compelled to own that
Premillennialists have done the Church a real service, by calling attention to the place which the second advent holds in the word of God and the scheme of divine truth.
More than this: the immense practical importance of the question is frankly avowed. It was passing strange and most trying to hear men of God, not combating Premillennialism because of a supposed lack of Scriptural proof, but neglecting it as a mere secondary, trivial notion, even if true. Such sentiments are deplorable: better to be “cold” than thus “lukewarm.” Here, again, Dr. Brown confesses the untenable ground of such of his partisans.
Some may think it of small consequence whether this system be true or false; but no one who intelligently surveys its nature and bearings can be of that opinion. Premillennialism is no barren speculation, useless though true, and innocuous though false. It is a school of Scripture interpretation; it impinges upon and affects some of the most commanding points of the Christian faith; and when suffered to work its unimpeded way, it stops not till it has pervaded with its own genius the entire system of one's theology, and the whole tone of his spiritual character, constructing, I had almost said, a world of its own; so that, holding the same faith, and cherishing the same fundamental hopes as other Christians, he yet sees things through a medium of his own, and finds everything instinct with the life which this doctrine has generated within him (p. 8).
This witness is true. Evidence may be asked and weighed before the Lord; but the incalculable moment of the doctrine ought to be immediately and universally felt. An event which at once and definitively disposes of the saints who have slept in Jesus, or who may be then alive — an event which subsequently deals with all mankind, Jew or Gentile, and even with the tempting as well as accusing power of Satan — an event which brings the long-groaning creation out from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of glory, must obviously be one of the most solemn and impressive transactions which the world can behold, or the mind contemplate. To say, then, that it can be an immaterial consideration, really proves that those who so speak have never thought seriously about the matter.
It is also, perhaps, worthy of note, that in speaking of prejudice for and against premillennialism, our opponent puts in the first class of those ready to embrace it almost immediately, — would the reader believe, who? The curious and marvel-loving? the materializing? No, but souls that burn with love to Christ, who, with the mother of Sisera, cry through the lattice “Why is his chariot so long in coming? why tarry the wheels of his chariot?” and with the spouse, “make haste, my Beloved, and be thou like to a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of spices.”
It is indeed singular that a state of heart so healthful, and so according to the evident desire of the Lord, should predispose in favour of a scheme at variance with the word of God, crude in its principles, defective as a system, and perilous, in its results (p. 454). Nearly as strange, considering his own views, is Dr. Brown's acknowledgment of the anti-premillennial tendencies, which require to be guarded against.
Under the influence of such tendencies, the inspired text, as such, presents no rich and exhaustless field of prayerful and delighted investigation; exegetical inquiries and discoveries are an uncongenial element; and whatever Scripture intimations, regarding the future destinies of the Church and of the world, involve events out of the usual range of human occurrences, or exceeding the anticipations of enlightened Christian sagacity, are almost instinctively overlooked or softened down. Such minds turn away from premillennialism (p. 10).
Undoubtedly true, but surely unaccountable, if, as Dr. B. thinks, premillennialism be false — unaccountable, that the vigorous and spiritual, who burn with love to Christ, should be ready to embrace the doctrine, while the meager and sapless souls who search little into and expect less from God's word, “have hardly patience to listen to it.” Let the dispassionate judge.
Part 1, Chapter 2
The Hope of Christ's Coming Again, and
It's Relation to the Question of Time
The grand question begins in Chapter 2: Is habitual waiting for Christ compatible with the revelation of a millennium which must necessarily intervene first? Neither Dr. Brown nor ourselves attach any particular moment to the precise period of 1,000 years, though we believe, as he does, that there are good grounds for taking it definitely and literally. But when he says that no one is to suppose he expects the beginning and end of this period to be discernible without a doubt on any mind, one can only lament the effects of a false system. A reign of Christ and his saints, coextensive with a restraint on Satan's presence and seductions, preceded by the awful end of the Beast and the false Prophet, with the destruction of their adherents, and followed by the “little season,” during which Satan, let loose once more, shall marshal for his last battle the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth — such a time one might expect to be of all others the most strongly defined in the history of this world, as it is characterized in the Bible by features which distinguish it in the clearest way from all preceding ages, and from the eternal state which is to succeed. If it were true, therefore, that past scripture dates follow Dr. B.'s law, (that is, the law of doubt and uncertainty as to their beginning and end,) it would not follow as to the millennium, because it is an unprecedented epoch. But we must be excused if we pronounce the alleged “law” to be a delusion, and the statement, that it is “the law of all scripture dates in this respect,” to be as unfounded in fact, as it is unsound in principle. The Seventy weeks of Daniel, and the 1260 days of anti-Christian rule, are the only instances which Dr. B. adduces — those, doubtless, which he judged most in point. But he has no right to assume that uncertainty overhangs the seventy weeks: if the existence of controversy proves that, all certainty is gone as to God's election, sovereignty, and faithfulness in keeping his own; for these truths, however clearly revealed, are keenly and constantly disputed by many true Christians. Yet Dr. B. would never allow the doubts of a large portion of Christendom to unsettle the truth in his own soul; much less would he affirm that these matters were intentionally shrouded in obscurity. If he, in spite of controversy has a fixed and clear judgment as to the five points of Calvinism, he must not be surprised if others do not share his hesitation as to Dan. 9 or Rev. 11. Many thousands of God's people in our day have as much certainty touching these prophetic periods as be has touching any truths which have been debated in the church. The millennial period has signatures more peculiar and prominent than any past age, and therefore ought to be preeminently unambiguous. As to the picture which Dr. B. draws of its gradual introduction, and especially of its waning glory at the close, as if either or both could be dubious, it has but at most a shadowy support from the Word of God. There is no clearly recorded decay till after that day is over; then Satan is let loose, and this is the signal and the means of the apostasy that ensues.
Whoever examines the Lord's discourse in Luke 12 and kindred Scriptures with a simple mind, can scarcely escape the conclusion that, besides giving the disciples a personal and a heavenly object of hope, He insists much upon their so waiting that, when He comes and knocks, they may open to him immediately. “Blessed are those servants whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching.”
Now the Lord himself founds the need of thus watching upon the fact, that he was coming in an hour when they thought not; and it will be shown that no after- communications of the Holy Ghost interfere with this habitual expectancy of the Lord. The Epistles confirm the saints in looking for him; and this, for aught they knew to the contrary, as their proximate hope. Hence the Apostle in his first Epistle to the Thessalonians says, “We that are alive and remain.” The Spirit gave them no scriptural intimations which could falsify the looking for Jesus, even in apostolic times, much less since.
Doubtless to the Old Testament saints, yea even to Daniel, much was sealed “to the time of the end,” when the wise should understand. To the New Testament saints, on the contrary, all Scripture is open, and John is told not to seal the sayings even of its most mysterious book, and including of course all the prophetic times whether days or years. But so far from hinting that the attitude was changed, the last chapter of the Revelation (22) more than any other in the book supposes the Christian and the church in constant waiting, without any known obstacle to the Lord's return. Were this the mere hope of unintelligent love, we might hear the bride saying, Come; but “THE SPIRIT and the bride say, Come.” It is longing hope of love inspired and maintained by the full intelligence and power of the Holy Ghost, and not the mere sentimentalism of anon seeming long, and anon short, such as Dr. B. describes. It is fully conceded, that the knowledge of the pre- millennial advent, and this holy bridal-waiting for Christ, are two distinct things. There are those who have the correct theory, and yet know little or nothing of that blessed hope as the expression of their hearts. There are those whose spiritual instincts are sound, in spite of views about our Lord's return more or less erroneous. It has yet to be proved that Rollock and Rutherford shared the scheme adopted by Dr. Brown, as Wodrow did in substance. If they did, all that could be deduced fairly is that, where the heart is in the main true to Christ and fresh in his love, mistakes, serious though they may be in themselves, cannot stifle, but may hinder and obscure, what is of God. Nor is anything more common than language which goes beyond the narrowness of a wrong system. Who has not known the most rigid super-lapsarian sometimes overflowing with love and desire after the lost? Who has not heard the lowest Arminian now and then owning the full and sovereign grace of God that saved him?
It is not more surprising if spiritual men occasionally anticipate the coming of Christ, though, doctrinally putting it off for at least 1000 years. It may be an inconsistency, but it is a happy one, and quite useless to Dr. B. It proves simply that Scripture often asserts its supremacy in defiance of systems, where the heart is at all subject to scriptural language and thought.
Dr. Brown puts together Matt. 25:5, and Heb. 10:37, as if they indicated an oscillation of the heart between two very different and seemingly opposite views of the interval between its own day and the day of Christ's appearing. It might have struck him as remarkable, however, that the “tarrying” is not spoken of in the later statement, where one could understand, on his principles, the tried and persecuted crying out, “But thou, O Lord, how long?” Now, the reverse is the fact. It is the parable of the virgins which discloses the tarrying of the bridegroom, and most certainly this revelation did not hinder the apostles, after the Pentecostal Spirit was given, and fuller light imparted, from increasingly expecting the Lord. It is the apostle Paul, towards the close of his career, who comforts the Hebrew believers with the assurance that yet a very little while and the Coming One will come, and will not tarry. “The very little while” in the one corresponds with the tarrying of the bridegroom in the other; that being over, he will come and “will not tarry.” Both are perfectly harmonious. At the time the Epistle was written, the Lord had tarried; the apostle knew not the hour of his return, and was inspired simply to announce that it would be sure and soon. It is the less reasonable to cite Matt. 25 in support of the notion that a long revealed delay is reconcilable with constantly waiting for Christ, seeing that not a word in the Virgins or the Talents protracts his return beyond the lifetime of those first watching or trading. There is nothing to imply even another generation to succeed the one addressed. Of course we are arguing solely from the Lord's own words, and supposing the disciples to know nothing of the future, save what was fairly deducible thence. Ex post facto we know that the delay has been extended; but the question is: Could — ought the apostles to have gathered a delay of eighteen centuries at least, from what the Lord uttered? On our view, all is simple. The calling of the faithful, as here presented, was to go forth in order to meet the bridegroom: their sin was that they all slumbered and slept. The delay, which should have proved their patience, gave occasion to their unfaithfulness; and when the cry was made at midnight, they have to resume their first position — “Go ye out to meet him!” The course pursued by our Lord, we need scarcely say, was worthy of himself — the wisest, tenderest, and best in every way. He showed the only right object for the virgins; he warned all of such a delay as should check impatience, but not such as should entitle those then (or at any time) alive to say, “The bridegroom is not coming in our day.” If He had wished His people to be continually expecting Him, but withal not to be stumbled if He tarried He could have done, it seems to us, no other than He has done.
But we are told that our view is founded “on a very narrow induction of Scripture passages, and stands opposed to the spirit of a large and very important class of divine testimonies”; that we hold up but one future event, (namely, Christ's coming,) and even but one aspect of it, (namely, its nearness,) and the corresponding duty of watching for it; that other purposes had to be served besides these, which have drawn forth truths of quite another order; and if the one set of passages, taken by themselves, might seem to imply that Christ might come tomorrow, there are whole classes of passages which clearly show that the reverse of this was the mind of the Spirit.
I refer to those Scriptures which announce the work to be done, and the extensive changes to come over the face of the church and of society, between the two advents (Brown, p. 33).
The first class of passages includes the commission in Matt. 28:18-20, the parables (in Matt. 13) of the tares, mustard-seed, leaven and net, as well as those texts which announce the transfer of the kingdom from the Jews to the Gentiles, Matt. 21:43; Luke 21:24; Rom 11:25-26; and Acts 1:6-8. The question is, whether any intelligent Christian could look for all this in his own lifetime. Now, we do not hesitate to say that a true-hearted believer, after the day of Pentecost, had better grounds for expecting the world-wide diffusion of the gospel within the span of his own generation, than Dr. B. has for expecting it now, in ten centuries of such missionary efforts and successes as the world has witnessed since. We are aware that this judgment will be unpalatable to who those derive their thoughts from the strains of modern platforms and reports, and we shall be told that we are paralyzing their energies. We do rebuke their Laodiceanism; but God forbid that our belief in the increasing dangers and deceits of the present and future, and in the imminence of divine judgments, not on Rome only, but on universal Christendom, should not lead us to desire quickened zeal and redoubled exertions on the part of ourselves, and all the servants of the Lord, that at least a true testimony may be rendered everywhere. And this God will surely bless, as far as it seemeth him good, but not the baseless expectations even of Christians. It is evident that Dr. B. exaggerates the results to be expected; such misinterpretation leads to hopes doomed to bitter disappointment, and so works no little mischief in practice. The Lord, in Matt. 28, merely gives the universal direction of their service, in contrast with legal narrowness, its blessed character flowing out of the name of God, no longer hidden, but fully revealed; and his own far deeper than Messianic authority and presence with them. All the Gentiles, or nations, (not the Jews only, as heretofore,) were to be the objects of this evangelization; and he guarantees to be with them, as thus engaged, unto the end of the age: but not a trace of the predicted effects. Indeed, in his previous prophecy, Matt. 24:14, the Lord had said that “this gospel of the kingdom small be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations.” If no more than this had been done, Matt. 28 would have been fulfilled, and there was nothing to hinder it before the end of the Jewish polity arrived, though one would not restrict it to that. So also St. Paul reminds the Colossians that the gospel was come to them as in all the world, and bringeth forth fruit, etc. Again, the tares were sown during the earliest slumbers of Christ's servants. What else were the ungodly men who had even then crept in unawares, Jude 4, 16? What else the false teachers, with many who followed their pernicious ways, 2 Peter 2? These tares, like the wheat, were in the field (or world), and not merely in Israel; but there is nothing to imply a course of centuries, either for the good or the evil. The net presents, if possible, less difficulty still: all the fish of the sea are not enclosed, but the net is filled with some of every kind. No doubt the “end of the age” closes the scene, and judicially separates; but why, as far as the chapter teaches, might not this have been before the apostolic era had ceased? No solid reason for protracting the dispensation can be assigned, but the will of God. They are times and seasons which the Father has put in his own power. Nor is it true that the tree is said to overshadow the world, any more than the leaven is said to overspread all human society (p. 35). How long was to elapse before the end was in no way revealed. Doubtless the word left room for a prolonged scene; but certainly those parables do not per se disclose, much less necessitate, that prolongation. And this is the whole matter; for we are speaking of the expectation derived from the word. The tree might remain a long while, the leaven take some time leavening; but all this is left open. As to Matt. 21:43, Luke 21:24, and Rom. 11:25, 26, they have no dates or equivalent landmarks to render them precise. They are expressed in general terms, and therefore cannot be made to prove a delay of centuries, though room is left for it. Acts 1:6-8 speaks of no witnesses save those addressed and then living; it cannot, therefore, as an argument strengthen the position of a necessarily long delay. God's testimony was borne faithfully in that very age to the utmost limits of the known world. And as for that which followed for more than 1000 years, the less that is said the better: the Lord does not sanction or notice it here.
Next, such passages as 1 Tim. 4:1-3, 2 Tim. 3:1-5, 2 Peter 3:3, 4, even Dr. B. does not press; because (these germs of evil being at work) a primitive Christian, as he allows, might readily conceive of their full development in no long time. Taken in connection with the former chapter, he thinks them fitted to repress our idea. But we have only to examine the context of these and similar Scriptures, in order to see that, however the delay may have ripened the various forms of pravity, they were already there, and because they were, are warned against by the apostles. Hence it is impossible to say that these revelations necessarily involve a long future; especially as many who look for Christ's coming, believe that between our removal to meet him in the air, and our appearing with him in judgment, there will be an interval, during which the darkest shadows of prophecy shall have their appalling accomplishment.
There is still a class of passages, greatly clearer to the same effect, of which one example may suffice for all. (Acts 3:20, 22, is then cited.) Would any Christian in apostolic times, though unable to tell what might be meant by this “restitution of all things,” be encouraged by it to expect the immediate or very speedy return of Christ to the earth”? (pp. 37).
To us this reasoning seems the more extraordinary, as it is in the face of the context itself. It is evident that the apostle calls on the Jews to repent and be converted, that their sins might be blotted out, so that (not when) the times of refreshing might come from the presence of the Lord, and he might send Jesus Christ, etc., whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, etc. Unquestionably the work must be vast, but why should it not be a short one? To our mind the passage has a force directly and powerfully opposed to Dr. B.'s conclusion. We do not doubt that Peter then regarded the repentance of Israel as a possible if not probable contingency; and the passage itself shows that, on their repentance, the mission of Jesus from heaven would surely follow without delay. Not an allusion appears in the passage to the footing which the gospel had to get in the world; not a hint of blows to be afflicted on the heathenism of the empire (pp. 38). These notions imported into Acts 3 we consider clouds, not “light on this point”: they are interpolation, rather than interpretation.
In the parable of the pounds, Luke 19:11, 27, the Lord is correcting the mistake of those who thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. That is, they seem to have connected it with his next visit to Jerusalem. They forgot (alas, how often!) that first must He suffer many things and be rejected of this generation — yea, that He must accomplish His decease at Jerusalem. This parable, accordingly, corrects this hasty notion of the disciples, and the form in which it is conveyed in Matt. 25 conveys the additional circumstance of the absence of the Lord for a long time. But it is equally obvious that the revealed delay was relative, not absolute: that, so far as the parable speaks, the return might be before the death of the servants who first received and employed their master's talents.
Of Dr. Urwick's remark [that the only errors mentioned in the New Testament respecting the time of our Lord's coming, all consist in dating it too early] one can scarcely speak in too strong terms of censure. It is a worthy sequel of it, that his first example is the case of the servant who says, “My Lord delayeth his coming!!” When words expressly designed to show the evil state of heart, and the pernicious consequences of putting off the expectation of the Lord's return, can be urged by Dr. U. and repeated by Dr. B. as an instance of the error of dating it too early, it is high time to suspend discussion and to pray that our brethren may be delivered from the influence of a scheme which turns light into darkness and calls darkness light. The process of assumption, whereby the Lord's warning is thus perverted, is painfully instructive; but we have no further space to bestow on such a mode of dealing with the word of God.
A similar observation applies to, and may suffice for, the use made of the importunate widow in Luke 18:1-8. Besides, it is the Son of man's coming in judgment: and this, as already remarked, leaves room for a great and rapid development of evil at the close of the age, instead of being spread over ten or fifteen centuries.
2 Thess. 2 is the only Scripture which remains. Though it is the one on which Dr. B. has dwelt longest and most confidently, it is perhaps of all others the least understood. He supposes that the corrupt Jewish element — “that the kingdom of God should immediately appear” — had taken a stirring form in the Thessalonian church.
Their inexperienced minds and warm hearts were plied with the thrilling proclamation, “that THE DAY OF CHRIST WAS AT HAND,” or “IMMINENT” (ἐνέστηκε). And how does the apostle meet their expectation? He fearlessly crushes it . . . No such entreaty, we may safely affirm, would ever come from a premillennialist — at least of the modern school. He would be afraid of “destroying the possibility of watching” (pp. 42, 43).
Now we meet this, and what follows, by the twofold assertion,
first, that Dr. B.'s view requires us to confound the coming or presence of the Lord and His day, which we maintain to be here not only distinguished but contrasted; and
second, that it demands an indubitably wrong rendering of ἐνέστηκε. What the Apostle really combats is the impression, that the day of the Lord was present or come, (not “at hand”). Nowhere is it denied that the day is at hand; nay, more, St. Paul himself afterwards tells the Roman saints that “the day is at hand.” Is it to be believed that he deliberately affirms to them what he had denied to the Thessalonians?
Such is the natural dilemma in which our version (KJV) of 2 Thess. 2:2 plunges those who accept it, if they will but compare Rom. 13:12. As the latter text is without doubt correct (for it is the simple, sure, and sole possible meaning of the Greek), he who believes that the Spirit could not contradict Himself would naturally sift the former. And what is the result? That in every other occurrence of the word in the New Testament we are compelled to assign a different meaning to the perfect of ἐνίστημι. Nay, our translators themselves give present, and never merely, “to be at hand,” or “ imminent.” In several instances they exhibit, and with perfect accuracy, “present “ in contradistinction to “future,” or “coming.” (Compare Rom. 8:38; 1 Cor. 3:22; 7:26; Gal. 1:4; and Heb. 9:9; besides 2 Tim. 3:1.) Nor is it St. Paul only who presses that the day is nigh, for the same truth, substantially, reappears in 1 Peter 4:7, (“the end of all things is at hand,”) as well as in James 4:7-9, not to speak of Rev. 1:3, 22:10. That is, the New Testament is, from first to last, positive and consistent in maintaining what 2 Thess. 2:2 appears to set aside (in the KJV), but what we have seen is, beyond legitimate question, a mis-translation; and this mis-translation is the grand basis of Dr. B.'s argument.
Hence, he entirely misconceives the drift of the delusion which the false teachers were seeking to foist in. For they were exciting fear, and not hope; whereas the apostle beseeches the brethren by their hope, even the presence of the Lord, which is to gather them to Himself in the air, not to be shaken or troubled, as if His day, His judgment, were arrived. It was not feverish enthusiasm, but uneasy apprehension, in consequence of the terror of that day being brought on their souls. The misleaders may have given that turn to the trials which these saints were then underlying, or to any other external circumstances supposed to be capable of such a color. They may have taken advantage of the Old Testament application of that term to God's summary inflections on particular places and people. However they may have brought it about, the fact is clear that the false teachers did alarm the Thessalonians with the cry that the day was there; and the remedy which the apostle applies is, first, recalling them to their proper hope of being caught up to the Lord at his coming (2 Thess. 2:1) — an antidote as thoroughly premillennial as it is the last which our adversaries would think of; next, he explains to them that the day of the Lord presupposes not merely lawlessness working, as even then it was secretly, but, all restraint being removed, its rise to such a height and its manifestation in such a head, that the Lord must terminate all by his own appearing in decisive judgment.
It is allowed, then, that the apostle shows that the day of the Lord could not come before the apostasy, and the revelation of the man of sin, because that day is to judge it root and branch; but there is nothing to imply that the obstacle, then operating, might not be taken away in ever so short a time; and in that case the last evil or lawless one being revealed would bring on the day. There is no protracted system, but a mysterious evil then at work; and when a certain hindrance, then also existing, should be removed, that power of evil would appear without mystery, which is to call down the Lord's judgment.
We have now examined the use which Dr. B. has made of the various Scriptures to which he refers, in proof that the known interval of 1000 years, and more, is compatible with that watching for the Lord's coming which the N. T. supposes and enjoins. We have proved his application in every instance to be ungrounded and fallacious. We have shown that the true position, in which the New Testament sets the church, is the looking for Christ's return habitually, not knowing how soon it may be; whereas Dr. B.'s theory is the certainty that it cannot be till the millennium is past, and the absolute impossibility of our being alive and remaining till the Savior comes.
Can such an one be said, in a natural, unambiguous, and full sense, to wait for the Savior from heaven? He is really expecting first a millennium on earth, which, by the way, if true, would have been the obvious corrective to the false rumor that troubled the Thessalonians; but not a word of the sort is hinted by the apostle. Confessedly, premillennialists have been at a loss how to reconcile 2 Thess. 2:2, as it ordinarily stands, with the general testimony of the New
Testament: but was not their difficulty more worthy of respect than Dr. B.'s shadowy triumph, founded, as it is, on a mere blunder, though we allow he shares it with many men on both sides? It ought to be a serious thing to his conscience when be discovers, as we trust he will on adequate examination, with prayer, that the delusion which alarmed the Thessalonians is, of the two, more conceivable on Dr. B.'s own hypothesis, pp. 426-432, than on the principles of premillennialism rightly understood: for it was probably built upon a figurative sense of the day of the Lord, and it assuredly consisted in its alleged presence there and then. On the other hand, the nearness of Christ's coming, which Dr. B. characterizes as that delusion, and imputes to designing men, is, we are bold to say, the uniform presentation of the Holy Ghost.
The oscillation theory, with which Dr. Brown concludes his second chapter, may be passed over without further comment. Other topics of more importance we hope to discuss in due order, if the Lord will.
Part 1, Chapter 3
Premillennialism Consistent with the Completeness of the Church at Christ's Coming Again
Dr. Brown arranges his evidence against the premillennial advent under a series of propositions, the first of which is, the church will be absolutely complete at Christ's coming.
"If this can be established, the whole system falls to the ground. If all that are to be saved, will be brought in before Christ comes, of course there can be none to come in after his advent, and in that case, the lower department of the expected kingdom disappears."
Now, the fact is, that the mass of premillenarians hold the unbroken completeness of the church at the second advent, no less strenuously than Dr. B. How then comes it, that they and their adversary appear to hold the same thing? Because “the church” has a different sense in their lips and in his. They hold that Scripture limits the term, in its proper application,*4 to the saints that are now being gathered by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. Dr. B. extends it equally to “all that are to be saved,” the millennial saints included. Were this true, the question would be at an end: for it is admitted on all hands, that, when Christ comes, His body, the bride, is complete. If Scripture proved on the other hand, that the church of God is exclusive of the millennial saints, that others, after the church is formed, may be and shall be saved, who stand in quite different relationships, the reasoning is at least good for nothing.
*(We speak solely of the application of the term to the body of Christ. For the New Testament employs ἐκκλησία in reference to at least two other subjects: one, the assembly at Ephesus, Acts 19:32, 39, 40; the other, the congregation of Israel in the wilderness, Acts 7:28, which is in our version rendered "church in the wilderness." "Congregation" would evidently be better, as "church" here is calculated to mislead; for there is no question of a body baptized by the Holy Ghost. A similar remark, perhaps, applies also to Heb. 12:23.)
Our Lord, in Matt. 16:18, decides the question. Salvation was not a new thing, though the work which procured it had still to be accomplished. But His church was not yet built.*5 “Upon this rock I WILL build my church.” It was not even building. The foundation had to be laid in his own death and resurrection, Himself, the revealed and confessed Son of the living God, its rock. Accordingly, for this new building — the Lord prescribed, in Matt. 18, an order of discipline equally new — not Jewish law and ordinance, but grace, practical grace, reigning through righteousness, acting after the pattern of the Father's will, and the Son's work. Accordingly for the first time, we have in Acts 2:47, this body, the church, historically spoken of. It supposes two things:
first, Christ crucified, risen and ascended; and
second, the Holy Ghost, “the promise of the Father,” sent down from heaven.
It is of all importance to understand this last point; for confusion is here fatal to real intelligence as to this subject. It is not the regeneration of the Spirit; for that was true from the first, and will always be true of those who see, or enter the kingdom of God. It is the gift, the personal presence of the Spirit, sealing the believers, now that there was not promise only, but accomplishment in Christ, the earnest of the inheritance, and above all baptizing them, whether Jew or Gentile into one body, an altogether unprecedented work. Previous to the cross, such an union did not exist, and was contrary to God's command (cp. Eph. 2:14, 15). Our Savior, during his earthly ministry, bound the disciples to seek Jews only, not Gentiles or Samaritans. Risen from the dead, He sends them expressly to disciple all nations. But this is not all. The Holy Ghost, given by the ascended Lord, brings all the disciples, Jew or Gentile, into one body or corporation on earth. When we say “one body” we do not mean that all the members of the church necessarily assembled in a single locality, but that, whether they met in one chamber or in twenty, in one city or over the world, they formed a united society in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, of which the Holy Ghost, dwelling in and with them, was the bond. To this body, all the believers, all the saved since Pentecost, belong; but it would be a false inference that God can never terminate its existence here below, and introduce a totally different thing for the display of his own ways and glory. As there were saved persons in the Old Testament times, who were not, and could not be members of a society then future, so there is no reason why there should not be a fresh class of witnesses raised up by and by, and called to a different work. Nay, we can go further. Scripture is explicit, that Jewish and Gentile distinctions are to reappear in the Millennium. The Psalms and prophets which reveal this glorious time, reveal as plainly, that it essentially differs from the present dispensation, because God will not then be gathering Jew and Gentile into one. Jews and Gentiles are to be blessed richly, but in unequal measure; the former being nearest to the Lord, and enjoying His presence and honour most, the grand link between Him and the Gentiles. This we need scarcely say, is as different as possible from the present time, when, in Christ, all earthly and fleshly distinctions disappear: all is of grace and above nature, and as free, consequently, to the Gentile as to the Jew.
*The following observations from Bishop Pearson may be helpful to some, though a few thoughts and words are open to exception. "Again, being [seeing] though Christ was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, and whosoever from the beginning pleased God, were saved by his blood; yet because there was a vast difference between the several dispensations of the law and gospel, because our Saviour speaks expressly of building himself a church when the Jewish synagogue was about to fail, because catholicism, which is here attributed unto the church, must be understood in opposition to the legal singularity of the Jewish nation, because the ancient fathers were generally wont to distinguish between the synagogue and the church, therefore I think it necessary to restrain this motion to Christianity. Thirdly, therefore, I observe that the only way, to attain unto the knowledge of the true notion of the church, is to search into the New Testament, and from the places there which mention it, to conclude what is the nature of it. To which purpose it will be necessary to take notice that our Saviour, first speaking of it, mentioneth it as that which then was not, but afterwards was to be; as when he speaks unto the great apostle, 'Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church;' but when he ascended into heaven, and the Holy Ghost came down, when Peter had converted 3,000 souls, which were added to the 120 disciples, then was there a church (and that built upon Peter, according to our Saviour's promise); for after that we read, 'The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.' A church, then, our Saviour promised, should be built and by a promise made before his death; after his ascension, and upon the preaching of St. Peter, we find a church built or constituted, and that of a nature capable of a daily increase. We cannot then take a better occasion to search into the true notion of the church of Christ, than by looking into the origination and increase thereof; without which it is impossible to have a right conception of it." — Exposition of the Creed, Art. ix., Vol, i., pp. 505, 506.
These differences of dispensation are so patent in the Old and New Testaments, as to render the citation of particular proof-texts a work of supererogation. We defy any Christian to produce a single passage to the contrary. Nevertheless Dr. B. ignores all. To him, “all the saved” are the church; the Old Testament saints, those of the New Testament, and those of the Millennium, all compose “the church.” We ask for Scripture: he can produce none. He supposes and affirms that they are all one and the same body; but he has not a title of divine evidence, not a single text which implies that God regards them all as His church. The burden of proof lies on him; for such is his assertion, and it is essential to the greater part of his book. He is absolutely without any other proof than common, loose, traditional notions, the language of many ancient and modern theologians, but never once stated or insinuated in the Word of God. If it be, where? If it be not, Dr. B.'s reasoning rests on an unscriptural assumption. The church of God, in the proper New Testament use of the expression, means not the aggregate of the saved from the beginning to the end, but those who, since Christ's ascension, are being builded together, whether Jew or Gentile, for an habitation of God through the Spirit (Eph. 2:22), baptized by the Spirit into one body (1 Cor. 12:13), of which Christ glorified is the Head (John 7:39; Acts 2:32, 33; Col. 2:19; etc.). Such a basis did not exist during our Lord's life, much less before. Hence, though possessed of life, through faith, as all preceding saints were, even the apostles had not the baptism of the Spirit which forms the one body, till Jesus was glorified and sent down the Holy Ghost in a way never before experienced by Man (John 14-16). “Ye shall be,” says the Lord, just before He was taken up, “baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Acts 1:5). Pentecost saw his word fulfilled. Now it is by this operation that the body, the church, is formed, not by regeneration merely, which is common to all saints of all ages, but the baptism of the Holy Ghost, which was unknown to any before Christ was by the right hand of God, exalted. Outward signs accompanied the gift and announced it visibly to the world. But it is not to be confounded with the miraculous powers which were its external vouchers; for before He was given, the Lord said that this other Paraclete should abide with the disciples for ever, which was never said of the sign-gifts. For indeed, this baptism of the Spirit is the formative and perpetuative power of the church's existence; so that where He was not thus given, the church would not be; and so long as the church exists here below, so does this baptism of the Spirit last. “For by one Spirit,” says St. Paul (1 Cor. 12:13), “are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”
Undoubtedly then, as all agree, there were saints, saved persons born of the Spirit, before Pentecost, so all agree there shall be during the Millennium. But Scripture is plain and decisive that the baptism of the Spirit, gathering believing Jews and Gentiles into one body on earth, was not the state of things which existed before Pentecost. It is equally clear that it will not exist after the Millennium begins. Jews and Gentiles were saved before Christ, as they will be on a still grander scale in the Millennium; but there is no such thing described as union in one body, where all distinctions in the flesh vanish away.
These principles will enable the reader to judge how far the following passages decide the matter.
From 1 Cor. 15:23, Dr. B. deduces that “they that are Christ's,” means the whole federal offspring of the second Adam. But he forgets that the question is one of resurrection. This is so true that a special added revelation comes in, towards the close of the chapter, so as to meet the case of the saints whom Christ will find living when be comes. Thus the previous statement (in v. 23) which Dr. B. alleges to be so universal as to embrace all the saved of every dispensation, is in reality so restricted as not to admit all the saints of the present dispensation. Hence, it was needful for the Holy Ghost to supplement the general argument of the chapter, with a particular unfolding of what, in the Old Testament, was a secret. “Behold, I show you a mystery. We shall not ALL sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” Dr. B. says quite correctly, as opposed to Mr. Birks, that the burden of this chapter as a whole, and of v. 23 especially, is the RESURRECTION of believers; but, for that reason, it does not include in its general scope, the saints who survive at the second advent; and accordingly another statement, as to their portion as connected with those who rise from the dead is furnished by the Spirit from v. 51 et seq. But the same principle still more emphatically excludes the Millennial Saints; for it has never been shown that they, as a class, are to die at all. Nay, Isa. 65 seems to us decisive, not that death is destroyed, but that saints will not die during the millennium, that none will die save those judicially accursed of God. Hence, 1 Cor. 15:23, could not apply to these saints; for it speaks solely of those who die and rise again, whereas the saved of the millennium, it would appear, shall never see death. 1 Cor. 15:51 proves that the text on which the chief stress is laid, so far from comprehending “the whole saving fruit of Christ's work,” leaves out all the members of the church who shall be alive and remaining when the Lord comes. The argument of Dr. B. is then absolutely null and clearly refuted by the chapter itself.
Still less need such texts as Eph. 5:25-27; 2 Thess. 1:10; Jude 24; Col. 1:21, 22; and 1 Thess. 3:13, perplex any one. How do statements of the church's glory and purity, any more than its completeness, prove that none else are to be blessed? Doubtless the church will be to the praise and admiration of Christ at his revelation from heaven; doubtless all will be regarded with ineffable complacency by “God, even our Father.” Nevertheless, the questions remain: Is not the millennium a time of exceeding blessing for the world, for countless souls among Jews and Gentiles according to the Old Testament? and is it not, according to the New Testament, the special season for the reign of Christ and the heavenly saints manifested over the earth? These propositions we affirm to be equally true, and mutually consistent. But if they are, Dr. B.'s theory, which sets the completeness, etc., of the church at Christ's advent in opposition to the ingathering of saints subsequently upon the earth, is, if he will forgive our saying it, confusion arising from ignorance of the Scriptures.
It is a question of the Bible in general, and not merely of two or three texts like Zech. 14:5; Rev. 19:6-9; and Rev. 21:24; though these do plainly indicate the calling of other saints after, and distinct from, the church.
Dr. B. tries to defeat the application of Zech. 14 to the advent partly by questioning whether “saints” here may not mean angels, and chiefly, because the “coming” is not a personal advent, but perhaps the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, or even the conflicts before the millennium. The minute literal details, are, to his mind, irreconcilable with 2 Peter 3:10. Evidently here, as elsewhere, Christ's coming is confounded with his day. There are connecting links between the subjects; but it is an error to suppose that the burning up of the earth signalizes his coming (Brown p. 59). That tremendous catastrophe occurs within the day of the Lord, and as we learn from other Scriptures, at its close, not at its commencement. There is no reason therefore, from 2 Peter 3:10, to deny that Zech. 14:5 speaks of Christ's literal coming again to inaugurate the millennium; and if so, there are certainly men on earth subsequently saved and blessed.
This is confirmed by Rev. 19:6-9, where no ingenuity can fairly dispose of the fact that the marriage of the Lamb with the church takes place before the millennium, when confessedly the elect are not complete.
In reply to this (says Dr. B.) it may be enough to say that this cannot be the actual consummation of the marriage between Christ and his church in glory, because in the two last chapters of this book (which most of my opponents agree with me in referring to the everlasting state*6) the church is described as “descending,” after the millennium is all over, “as a bride adorned for her husband”; and it is rather awkward to suppose a bridal preparation and a presentation of the parties to each other, a thousand years after the union has been consummated.
But this is to totally misconceive the bearing of these Scriptures. The marriage, beyond a doubt, takes place not, in Rev. 21, after the millennium, but in Rev. 19, before it. The latter chapter merely describes the descent of the glorified church, already long married, and now entering on the eternal state, in relation to the new heavens and earth in the fullest sense, invested after the 1,000 years with the same bridal beauty which characterized her when made ready for the wedding. What is to hinder one from speaking of his wife, ten years after the marriage, and setting out on some grand occasion, “as a bride adorned for her husband”? How absurd to infer, from such a simile, that the parties were only presented to each other so many years after the union was consummated!
*We believe that the first part of Rev. 21 describes the eternal state, as the sequel to the course of events and changes presented in the preceding context, and that Rev. 21:9, et seq., is a retrogressive vision in order to enter into the relation of the heavenly bride to the earth and its nations, with their kings, during the millennium. There is a striking parallel to this arrangement in the retrospective view, Rev. 17, of Babylon, in relation to the kings and peoples of the earth, after her fall had been given in Rev. 14, 16. — REVIEWER.
As to Rev. 21:24, there is not the slightest need that the object and the prayers of the homage, the New Jerusalem, and the nations with their kings, should be homogeneous, or in the same state. It is the very thing we deny, the very thing Dr. B. ought to prove and not assume. Why should not the nations and their kings be in an earthly condition, the New Jerusalem being surely glorified? Why should not the latter answer to the transfigured Moses and Elias, and the former to the disciples, still unchanged upon the Holy mount (Matt. 17) (especially as the word εἰς may mean the vague unto, the context so requiring it, no less than the more precise “into,” which Dr. B. appears to allow, as indeed he must)? The simple, unforced meaning of the passage presents the conjunction of two different states: a higher and heavenly one; a subordinate, though blessed, earthly one. Nor can this be got rid of by the pretense that it is merely a mysterious prophecy which discloses the coexistence of two different conditions, so abhorrent to Dr. B. One might fairly ask where else it could be so naturally expected as in a book which expressly lifts the veil from the future. Still it is not made known there only. “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?” (1 Cor 6:2). Dr. B. cannot here argue that the “saints” mean angels, for the next verse positively distinguishes and contrasts them. “Know ye not that we shall judge angels?” There would be no sense if the terms were interchangeable. “Unto the angels hath he not put in subjection, the world οἰκουμένην to come whereof, we speak.” This must be in millennial times; for no such order of things can possibly exist after the millennium, and it is clearly contrary to the suffering and subject place which Scripture assigns to the saints before the millennium. The inference is plain and sure. It is the millennial relation of the heavenly saints, not of men in flesh and blood on earth. “Know ye not, that we shall judge angels?” Assuredly it is not our employment in this dispensation, or throughout eternity. The teaching of Eph. 1:10 is similar. God hath purposed in Himself, in (for or against) the dispensation of the fullness of times, to gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, etc. Clearly the apostle speaks not of the present, but of a future period, and of a grand gathering of all things, earthly and heavenly, under the headship of Christ, we being associated with him as Eve with Adam in his dominion. That is, it is the millennial and not the eternal state; for the millennium is the special display before the world of Christ's exaltation as King: that over, Christ gives up the kingdom that GOD (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost) should be all in all. Here, then, we have two states, the things which are in heaven, and the things which are on earth, united in a system of glory; not the earthly things sublimated into heavenly, much less the heavenly things reduced to the earthly level, but both, in their several spheres, under the sway of Christ and his bridal coheir. Probably Dr. B. might tell us here too, as well as in Rev. 21:24 (p. 62), that the commentators agree in applying the verse to one or other of these states, but not to both. We regret it of course; but this does not lessen our conviction that the word is against them, and that no serious Christian should allow modern tradition, any more than ancient, to make Scripture of none effect.
We have no space for dwelling on Dr. B.'s exposure of such vagaries as those of Homes, Burnet, Perry, and Burchell. If we were called on to analyze them, we might find grounds for a deeper tone of censure than what marks his criticisms. Their common difficulty is the Gentile army which Satan musters at the end of all, Rev. 20: their solutions, a mere choice of fable; for the first two take the rebels to be mortal men, and one of these two thinks that they may probably be generated from the slime of the ground and heat of the sun! the third conceived them to be the wicked when raised out of their graves, and the fourth, evil spirits. In reality they agree, or differ, quite as much with Dr. B.'s scheme as with ours.
As to the renewed asseverations that the church means “the universal family of the redeemed,” a few words must suffice:
1. “They that are Christ's at his coming,” and all like texts are necessarily limited to the dead saints. Such passages, therefore, CANNOT refer to the saints of the millennium who are never said to die.
2. Such views, being true to the letter and spirit of these scriptures, are just what ought to be looked for from those who rightly interpret the word of God. Those who argue from the use of figurative language, against the facts thereby announced, are as little to be trusted, ofttimes, in dealing with the plainest declarations in the Bible. The premillennial advent is a truth which loosens their system. It is no wonder then to witness the pertinacity with which it is rejected till God teach them better.
3. The inconsistency of premillenarians (pp. 72-77) is not so great, in the extracts cited, as Dr. B. imagines; and even if it were real rather than apparent, it would evince the badness, not of the cause, but of its advocates. We humbly think that we have in hand something more important than the justification of the Bloomsbury lecturers.
The premillennial scheme reconciles the doctrine of the completeness of the church at Christ's coming with a harvest of saints during the millennium. There is no dilemma, no shade of difficulty, save to him who starts with ignoring the scriptural definition and account of the church of God. And the notion of Christ's coming to the earth only after the millennium, so far from being “the belief which clears all up,” (p.79), is sheer error. For the vision of the great White-Throne judgment is in fact no coming of Christ, but a going of the dead before Him — no return of the Lord or of any one else to the earth, for there is no earth to come to. “I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.”
The “Supplementary Remarks” demand small notice from us; for we have already stated the sound view of “the church,” and it differs too decidedly from that of Messrs. Bickersteth and A. Bonar, and even from the Duke of Manchester's, to claim our interposition in their battles. For, although his Grace rightly made its starting-point to be the ascension of Christ, he very wrongly uses Archdeacon Hare's citation of Olshausen to prove that regeneration belongs essentially to the New Testament — a delusion which one had hoped was confined to the author of “Nehushtan,” and his wretched “Teaching of the Types.” Salvation is not possible, in any dispensation, by external operations of the Spirit; He always quickened souls, as He ever will, by the word of God. Nor is it a question of excluding the Old Testament saints from the scene of glory which we shall enjoy with them in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 8:11). But common privileges, either of grace or of glory, cannot disprove the plain testimony of the word, that the baptism of the Spirit (as distinct from regeneration) was not experienced before Pentecost; that on that baptism depends the body, the church, wherein Jewish and Gentile differences are unknown the distinguishing feature of the present economy; and that the millennium will see another condition where these distinctions reappear, with many features of the times before Pentecost, and with others peculiar to the new age. There are, thank God, many mercies which essentially pertain to all saints of all ages; but these must not be abused to deny differences which God's sovereignty has affixed to the various dispensations as it has pleased him. Heb. 11:40, taken
naturally, stands in the way of Dr. B. How, (will the reader guess) does he explain it away? They without us could not be made perfect — that is, without Christ and the Spirit!! whose proper economy ours certainly is (p. 84). Well, this is no pleasant fruit of post-millennial interpretation. It is a bold figure, in expounding a plain doctrinal statement, to treat “without us,” as equivalent to without Christ and the Spirit. Besides, it is in no way the meaning even thus: for the Holy Ghost lays down two things;
first, that God has provided some better thing for us (i.e. clearly something better than “the promise,” precious as it was, for which all the Old Testament saints were waiting); and
second, that the Old Testament saints were not to be perfected, (viz., by resurrection glory,) apart from us.
Thus, the word of God, while showing ample ground where we all meet, is decisive that the elect are not to be jumbled together in a single indiscriminate mass, and proves most important distinctions, not merely between the church and the millennial saints, but between those of the Old Testament and either. It never speaks, on our view any more than Dr. Brown's, of any portion of the church not rising and reigning with Christ. On the contrary, it proves that many saints besides the church shall reign with Christ when He comes.
Part 1, Chapter 4
The Premillennial Advent in Relation to the Agencies of Salvation
The church of God, we have seen, is not the sum of those saved throughout all ages, but rather the Scriptural designation of the one body gathered from among Jews and Gentiles since the day of Pentecost — habitation of God through the Spirit. Hence it is a manifest oversight to suppose that the agencies and instrumentalities which the Lord employs in founding and perpetuating the church, are necessarily bound up with the salvation of the elect. “God hath set some in the church, first apostles [not patriarchs, or elders, who of old obtained a good report through faith]; secondarily, prophets; thirdly, teachers”; etc. That is, a New Testament order of things is contemplated. So in Eph. 4:
When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men . . .; and he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” etc.
This machinery, most appropriate to the church-state, came in with the ascension of Christ to his place as Head, and with the consequent descent of the Holy Ghost. It was unknown to Judaism, and to the fathers. Yet all must allow God had been saving souls for four thousand years previously, when no such means or functions existed. There is not, therefore, the shadow of a presumption for maintaining that God will discontinue to save when the church disappears, scaffolding, building, and all. So that the fairest and most satisfactory test which Dr. B. can imagine, by which to try the truth of his doctrine, exposes, in effect, its total groundlessness; and confirms, in the most decided way, the speciality of the church as a body distinct, on the one hand, from the Old Testament saints, and on the other, from the millennial saints. Ministry, such as the New Testament connects inseparably with the church, flows from an ascended Lord as its source and giver, and the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven as its power. Nevertheless, as beyond doubt saints there were before, all must own that saints there may be after.
Plainly, then, the testimony of Scripture is lost, in the second, third, and fourth propositions, which are connected, and as follows:
Christ's Second Coming will exhaust the object of the Scriptures.
The sealing ordinances of the New Testament will disappear at Christ's Second Coming.
The intercession of Christ, and the work of the Spirit, for saving purposes, will cease at the Second Advent.
For though it be true that baptism and the Lord's Supper (i.e. in theological phrase, the New Testament sealing ordinances) naturally terminate with the Second Advent, it is a mere blunder to confine the stream of divine grace within these rites, let them be ever so precious; and much worse to treat them as its sole and inseparable channel. Abel, Enoch, and Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, knew them not; yet will Dr. B. acknowledge, that they were saved no less than ourselves. Why should it not be so with the saints during the Millennium?
Let us, however, examine what is urged, and in Dr. B.'s order. The following texts are cited as instances of the universal teaching of the Bible:
(1) As to Saints, Luke 19:13; 2 Peter 1:19; James 5:7; 1 Peter 1:13; 2 Tim. 4:8; Phil. 3:20;
(2) As to Sinners, 2 Thess. 1:7-10; 2 Peter 3:10; Luke 12:39, 40; 17:26, 27, 30.
Thus one half of the Scripture would be inapplicable to saints, and the other half to sinners living after Christ's coming (Brown, p. 98).
Now it is obvious that these texts are drawn exclusively from the New Testament, and from those parts of it which describe or suppose the state of things going on now, and previous to the millennium. What they prove, therefore, is the experience proper to the present dispensation, and nothing more. But this is useless, in all fairness, to Dr. B., who fallaciously takes for granted that these texts give us that which characterizes souls in the age to come. The argument deduced from them is no more valid against another experience in a new economy, than passages descriptive of the Lord as truly man in life and death could disprove his eternal Godhead. The Psalms and prophecies of both Testaments anticipate an era when (not to speak of Satan bound, and the Lord, with his risen ones, reigning over the world) righteousness shall flourish and evil be smitten; when the earth shall groan no more, but be glad; when both houses of Israel shall walk before the Lord in unenvying unjealous love, and all the ends of the earth shall fear God. These features are in contrast with those which now appear: they suppose a time for the saints on earth of good triumphant and not suffering, of enjoyment, and not hope; they involve the judgment of wickedness when it appears, not merely solemn warnings of future vengeance. It is perfectly right to use such Scriptures as Dr. B. refers to for our own guidance now; it is ignorance to neglect a mass of prophecy which predicts the earth full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea, when the Lord's people shall not be a little flock, and the godly shall not suffer persecution. That will be a day of glory doubtless, but not to the drying up of the stream of active saving mercy. “In that day shall ye say, Praise the Lord, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted.” It is clear that now, between the advents, the Lord is saving the world, and not judging it: we speak of the aspect of His coming and work, not, of course, of the results. The error is the exclusion of another economy when He will both judge and save. “And it shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall punish the host of the high ones on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth.” This is a most extensive and positive judgment; but it is in no way inconsistent with saying “in that day, lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us; this is the Lord: we have waited for him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” The evidence is ample. If the reader will only search into what is said of “that day,” he will soon satisfy himself that, while it differs essentially from the present dispensation as the season of divine intervention in the judgment of the world, it will be as evidently the season of the world's all but universal blessedness.
Hence, the disappearance of baptism and the Lord's supper need be no difficulty to any serious mind. Their importance is indisputable — the one, as the initiatory and individual, and the other as the corporate, confession of Christ and his accomplished redemption. But as they were certainly introduced late in the day of God's mercy to sinners, so if God has willed it thus, there is no ground a priori why they might not pass away, when that special hour which witnessed their imposition has come to a close. And this is exactly what Scripture shows, however opposed to the ordinary systems of theology. Not that there is the slightest reason for expecting a new revelation, as some have rashly conceived: still less is it true, as our antagonist asserts without an attempt at proof, that a new dispensation necessarily implies a new revelation to usher it in (Brown, p. 106).
The Bible shows a past economy, when God saved souls before the sealing ordinances (to use Dr. Brown's terminology) of the New Testament had appeared; it shows us the present time, and the institution of those striking rites; it shows us a future epoch clearly revealed in the prophets, when they vanish away, and yet Jehovah's house shall be called a house of prayer for all people. In other words, the old revelation is express as to a new dispensation, or age, when the glory of God shall be manifest in Christ, and His government instead of being true to faith only, shall be justified in public immediate action before the world. The sinner now, as in all past ages, is saved by grace, utterly irrespective of the external seal, ordinance or no-ordinance; it will be so far the same then, whatever be the outward forms of confession. If, as we believe, they differ, this depends on the revealed will of God, and merely distinguishes the dispensations, not the salvation. All is a question of the divine mind made known in His word, not of what “we may expect to find,” which is a prolific source of mistake and confusion. Beyond a doubt, Matt. 28:18-20, and 1 Cor. 11:26, do not extend beyond the time of Christ's absence from this world; but can Dr. B. deny that grace saved before baptism and the Lord's supper? If not, it is ridiculous to argue thence that it may not save after they are taken out the way. Nay, more: Scripture demonstrates that salvation does go on in “the world (οἰκουμενῃ habitable earth) to come” when neither is heard of.
The same reasoning, in substance, applies to Dr. B.'s fourth proposition. It is true that the Epistle to the Hebrews (7-9) treats exclusively of the priesthood of Christ carried on within the holiest, after He had entered in once by His own blood; it is true that this applies from beginning to end of God's work in forming the church of the First-born. Christ ascended and took his place as Priest, before the Holy Ghost was sent down to bring in a single soul into the proper “church-state.” But how does all this hinder the only-wise God from putting forth His grace and power, when Christ shall take His place on His own throne, instead of being, as now, seated on the throne of His Father? (Rev. 3:20). The objection is the less reasonable, because Dr. B. cannot dispute the fact that Christ was not thus a Priest in Old Testament times — had not entered into heaven by His own blood — had not yet obtained eternal redemption for any. If then the Old Testament saints were saved in spite of this lack, why not the millennial saints? If the credit of it, when it did not exist, sufficed for the one class, why not for the other? In fact, it is not that the millennial saints will be without His priesthood, but only that its form will be changed. “He shall be a priest upon his throne” (Zech. 6:13). So that the difference is really in favour of these saints, as compared with those of the Old Testament.
The fallacy as to the work of the Spirit is equally palpable. John 7:38, 39; John 14:16, 17, 26; John 15:26; John 16:7, 14; Acts 2:33; Titus 3:5, 6; Rev. 3:1, and Rev. 5:6, are the texts cited. But granting that the Holy Ghost may not be given in the way in which most of these Scriptures speak, that was as true of the times before the first advent as it can be after the second. If, in spite of this, the Holy Ghost did work for saving purposes in those early days (when be was not given in a full New Testament way, because that Jesus was not yet glorified (John 7:39)), why not in the last days, when Jesus is manifested in all His glories?
The argument, therefore, is weak to excess, and even absurd. The fact is, that the millennial saints will enjoy an outpouring of the Spirit suited to the magnificent purposes of God in those days of which Pentecost was but a sample. This will be plain to the unbiased reader of Joel 2, with its context, of Isa. 32, 44, 49; Ezek. 36, 37; and Zech. 12, 14.
Thus, the argument in connection with these three propositions entirely fails. For it does not follow that when Christ and the Church appear in glory, the work of salvation will terminate. Nor is it Scriptural, nor even logical, to assert that none will be saved when the New Testament “sealing ordinances” disappear; for beyond doubt many were saved before these ordinances appeared. All the objects of the Scripture will not be exhausted, because the special design of this dispensation is accomplished. Finally, Christ will still be Priest, and the Spirit be more than ever poured out after the completion of the Church and of this age. In every part, therefore, Dr. B. is singular and hopelessly astray; and some of his arguments go far to strengthen the system which he desires to oppose and overthrow, in particular the peculiarity of the church and of the present dispensation, and a millennium governed by different principles and characterized by mercies of another order.
Part 1, Chapter 5
If our object were the exposure of errors and contradictions in the scheme of our adversaries, no part perhaps could be found more fertile than the question of Christ's kingdom. But this would be disingenuous; for the province is so vast, and its boundaries in general so ill-defined in the minds of most Christians, that abundant scope presents itself for hostile criticism within the ranks of premillennialists. Dr. B. has, not unnaturally, taken advantage of the confusion, and seemingly with the most complete unconsciousness that it is “worse confounded” in his own statements. We shall try to steer as clear as may be of the same danger, though forced to show briefly how little the popular view can lay claim to accuracy or comprehensiveness.
Nor is our task difficult; for the scriptural account is simple enough. The Lord Jesus was born King of the Jews. Matt. 1 gives His genealogy as the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: Matt. 2 His recognition by the heaven-directed Magi, as the predicted ruler of Israel. But if He was there for His people, they were unready for Him. His star was no bright harbinger, save to the distant Gentile; His birth no joy, save to the despised of men: not only was the false King, the Edomite, troubled, but “all Jerusalem with him.” What a welcome for the newborn King! Alas! all followed true to the sad beginning, growing false to Him around whose head prophecy and miracle, grace and truth, circled for a crown of testimony and blessing, such as man had never worn. Blinded by self and Satan, the Jews saw no beauty in Him who was a Savior as well as King, who could not, would not, reign, when His people needed to be saved from their sins. They were wrong, not intellectually alone, but morally. The chief priests and scribes of the people could answer correctly, and without hesitation, where the Messiah should be born. About His kingdom, too, they had no difficulty, though doubtless little true light; but a Messiah lifted up from the earth was to them an insoluble enigma, and a deadly stone of stumbling. “We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of man?” They were not mistaken in what they imagined the ancient prophets had foretold; but their carnal minds used one part of the revealed truth to contradict another equally true, and yet more vital. It is obvious and undeniable that the law does teach the perpetuity of the Son of man and His kingdom; no subsequent revelations rescind, deny, or modify this. So far the Jews were right, and our friends are wrong. But a rejected, suffering Messiah was foreshown with no less clearness; and why was such an one excluded from their faith? Why did they look for His glory without His sorrows and His death? Because they had no adequate sense of their sins, nor of God's holy majesty; because instinctively they turned away from what is most humbling to man, and as tenaciously clung to that which might aggrandize their place and nation. Cain-like, they brought their offering to God: why should He not accept it? It was their best. Ah! in His sight it was their worst, and could only end in His cross, who proved that self-complacent race to be but a viper-brood, whose sin was unconfessed, unatoned for; and God cannot overlook that, however easily man may. Jesus can save His people, suffer for them, and forgive to the uttermost; but reign over them in their sins He will not. And Jesus was not Messiah only: He was Emmanuel, God manifest in the flesh, with all its solemnly blessed consequences for faith, with its distastefulness then and its terrors by and by for unbelief. Man likes not God: hence the rejection of Jesus.
It was not, then, a false inference from the ancient prophets, that the Son of David was to bless Israel and exalt Jerusalem, though doubtless on a holier foundation and pattern than their dark hearts were prepared for.
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a king shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is His name whereby He shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, the Lord liveth which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but the Lord liveth which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven thee; and they shall dwell in their own land (Jer. 23:5-8).
And the sons of strangers shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee: for in my wrath I smote thee” (which is true of the earthly Jerusalem, not of the heavenly), but in my favour have I had mercy on thee. Therefore thy gates shall be open continually: they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted (Isa. 40:10-12).
This is, beyond a doubt, not the holy city which comes down from heaven with healing for the nations, but the earthly city, — holy, but earthly, — the vessel of mercy, but withal the minister of righteous retribution here below in the day of the Lord.
It was not so much there that the blindness of Israel lay, but in this, that they saw not, heard not, God in Jesus. His kingdom was in their midst when Jesus was there, delivering from the thraldom of the enemy. “If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you” (Matt. 12:28). “Behold the kingdom of God is within (in the midst of) you” (Luke 17:21). This they believed not; and that fatal error led them on, under Satan's guidance, to the place which is called Calvary; and there, in His crucifixion, they proclaimed to God and man how they esteemed Him who was wounded for their transgressions, and bruised for their iniquities. Their rock of shipwreck was the exaltation of themselves in their then state, and their consequent refusal of Him who came to bless them, in turning away every one of them from their iniquities: not their expectation of His Davidical kingdom, but their exclusion of redemption, and their virtual denial of its need.
For our part, we fear something painfully akin, not externally, but in the core, pervades Christendom, and strongly tends to keep up the prevalent unbelief as to the true nature, objects, issues, and of course the time of the Lord's Advent. For men not unreasonably fear and dislike a coming of Christ in sudden judgment of what they are pursuing with eagerness. And even Christians who mingle with the literature, the philosophy, and the politics of the world, are apt to get tinctured more or less with the spirit of the age. Let them remember how the promise of a returning glorious Christ was to face with the last-day scoffers. Forgetfulness of this exposes one to the expectation unauthorized by scripture, of a gradually victorious reign of the gospel, instead of God's testimony to the gospel of the reign. This is accompanied by (if it does not create) the thought that the godly need not suffer persecution, but rather and rightfully expect a share of this world's respect and honours and influence, as their hoped-for millennium draws near. Thus they prophesy smooth things for their children, yet more than for themselves — a proximate triumph for the Church, in Christ's absence, on earth, instead of waiting for the appearing of both in heavenly glory, whereby the world shall know that the Father sent the Son, and loved the Church as He loved Him.
It is not denied, that “the kingdom of heaven” began with the ascension. Nothing can be more perversely untrue than that premillennialism obscures or weakens this. On the contrary, none have derived so much light as premillennialists from Matt. 13, which is the grand exhibition of the kingdom in this aspect, and during the present dispensation. Here they and their opponents necessarily take common ground against unbelieving Jews. But then it is a peculiar and anomalous aspect of the kingdom; not the predicted manifestation of divine power, when the evil shall be put down in this world, and the good shall dwell at ease, but “the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 13:11). It is a wholly different thing which we find in the prophets, though confessedly both are states of the kingdom. Thus, if we look at “the little stone” in Dan. 2, it is beyond legitimate question that it symbolizes the dominion entrusted to the Lord Jesus. It is cut without hands (i.e., without human agency). It is “in the days of these kings”: not, as has been assumed, and upon no substantial grounds, “during the currency of the four famous kingdoms” (for the last only is supposed to be subsisting imperially); but in the days of the ten kings just intimated by the toes of the great image; precisely as in Dan. 7, we have the closing history of the fourth empire followed by a solemn session of judgment, and the investiture of one like the Son of Man in presence of the Ancient of days. Both manifestly exclude the ascension, which is entirely passed over here, as is the Lord's stay and work on earth; both show the time in question to be during, and in reference to, the last form of the anti-Christian Roman empire before its destruction. With this all coheres. For the first action of the stone is judgment. There is no mere spiritual or moral influence which acts on the heart set forth here, but a direct and judicial demolition of the last human empire which is seen on earth. It is not the slow and checkered sowing of the gospel seed, often caught away, dying off, or choked up; neither is it some grand development ever and anon absorbing its enemies into its own substance or body. It is a grand display of divine force, which suddenly and utterly destroys the existing imperial power, with all that remained of its predecessors, before it becomes a mountain and fills the whole earth (Dan. 2). No such idea appears in the passage as “the now existing church” (Brown, p. 322), “fighting and winning its way to the throne of the world” (ibid., p. 321); which is indeed a dream worthy of Papists or Mormons, not the truth as it is in Jesus. Dr. B.'s view (and it is the common one) subverts the entire teaching of the New Testament as to our right relations to the kingdoms of this world, and therefore must be rejected, not merely as erroneous interpretation of a prophecy, but as unsound and mischievous doctrine. It denies the essentially subject and suffering place of the Christian on earth; and, if practically carried out, would degrade the Church into an organized system of rebellion against the powers that be, at least in their anti-Christian principles and characters, — a conspiracy consecrated under the plea that the kingdoms of this world are themselves conspirators against the interests and the people of God here below.*7
*We do not charge Dr. B., as some appear to have done, with making the fall of the stone to be a judgment upon a mere abstraction. On the contrary, it seems to us to be a thoroughly practical evil. Again, he has no right to limit the sphere of judgment to the Papacy. All the kingdoms of the Roman empire are judged with the little horn.
No! the more we reflect, the more are we satisfied that no Jesuit, no Hildebrand even, would ask more sanction for their ambitious schemes than Dr. B. concedes in the following words:
Christ's presently existing kingdom has within itself the whole resources by which it is destined to crush the anti-christianism that obstructs its universal triumph, and to win its way to the throne of the world (p. 319).
He may guard his thought as much as he will; he may tell us that, as a mere succession of civil monarchies, the vision has nothing to do with them; he may say that the fall of those anti-Christian kingdoms can only be considered their fall in the character of hostility to the Church of the living God. But Cardinal Wiseman justifies the projects of Rome on precisely similar principles, with equal claim, as far as expounding the prophecy goes, and with greater ability. And such are the inevitable consequences, be it observed, of the attempt to apply the ordinary notion of Christ's kingdom to the exposition of Dan. 2.
While it is true, then, that the kingdom of heaven is going on now, it must be carefully remembered that its present form is mysterious and special, because of Israel's unbelief and rejection of the Lord. This is what we find fully brought out in the Gospel of Matthew. In consequence of the people's refusing the King, He goes on high, and the anomaly appears of the kingdom, entrusted to the responsibility of man, proceeding in patience, and not enforced by power; so that if tares are sown by the enemy and seen growing in the wheat-field, there is to be no gathering of them until the harvest, when angels do that work. Such is the form and character of the kingdom presented in the New Testament — long-suffering grace on the part of Christ's servants towards evil doers, falsely professing His name. It is not a question of church discipline, to which it has been often and monstrously perverted, but of conduct towards the evil in the field (“the world”), where they are on principle to be let alone, mingling with the children of the kingdom till the end of this age (not of the next or millennial age, where a totally different state of things is found, and a different principle governs). In the end of THIS age the Son of man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity. That is to say, the form and character of the kingdom will change, judgment shall be executed on the wicked then alive (instead of grace bearing with them as now), and the righteous shall shine forth then, instead of groaning within themselves, as now. Judgment shall return unto righteousness in that day, and this publicly, manifestly, under the Son of Man. Hence in Daniel, where we have the normal aspect of the kingdom, there is the execution of judgment as its introductory act here below: as indeed it is the chief, though not exclusive, feature of the millennial reign, and everywhere so presented in the word of God.
The reader may now judge how far scripture is the source or sanction of Dr. B.'s fifth proposition:
Christ's proper kingdom is already in being; commencing formally on His ascension to the right hand of God, and continuing unchanged both in character and form, till the judgment (p. 124).
Satan may still reign the prince of this world; creation may still groan, subject to vanity; all that live godly in Christ Jesus may still suffer persecution; the Jews may still cry, “Not this man but Barabbas”; the Gentiles may never so much boast, and never so little stand in God's goodness: yet is it, according to Dr. B., Christ's proper kingdom! Satan may be bound, and creation delivered into the liberty of glory; the saints that suffered first may reign with Christ; the Jews may say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord, and the Gentiles may rejoice with them: nevertheless, according to Dr. B., the kingdom continues “unchanged both in character and form.” Now there is tribulation, then there will be none; now there are wars, then it will be learnt no more; now the gospel is being preached to all as a testimony, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile, then (at least in Israel) “they shall teach no more every man his neighbor and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for they shall all know me.” No matter, according to Dr. B.,
the extent is nothing. The principle is the only thing of consequence, and who does not see that that is the same in both cases (p. 368)?
It is “Christ's proper kingdom,” and it continues unchanged, both in character and form, till the final judgment!! Such is Dr. B.'s principle, and these are some of its consequences.
But we must glance at the evidences:
(1) Acts 2:29-36, compared with Zech. 6:12, 13; Rev. 5:6; Rev. 3:7, 8-13; Isa. 9:7.
(2) Acts 3:13-15, 19-21.
(3) Acts 4:26-28.
(4) Acts 5:29-31.
(5) Ps. 110:1, compared with Heb. 10:12, 13; and 1 Cor. 15:24-26.
These passages are employed by Dr. B. to show that the apostles take up precisely his “position against the premillennialists regarding the kingdom of Christ” (p. 128). These are bold words. How are they made good?
1. Peter's arguments prove that Christ was the risen Messiah; that His death, and resurrection, and session at the right hand of God, were predicted, as well as His right to the throne of David. This we accept as cordially as Dr. B. Not a particle of this was believed by the incredulous Jews, with whom he associates his premillennialist brethren. But he further maintains that the Pentecostal mission of the Spirit was Christ's first exercise of royal authority from the throne of Israel.
That CHRIST IS NOW ON DAVID'S THRONE, is as clearly affirmed by Peter in this sermon as words could do it (p. 130).
We, on the other hand, maintain not only that there is not one word to this effect, but that Christ's ascension is expressly distinguished from his Davidical title. Three separate Psalms are cited or referred to in proof of three distinct glories of Christ: Ps. 16 as indicating Christ's resurrection; Ps. 132 God's oath touching David's throne; and Ps. 110 His session on Jehovah's throne in heaven, which, as the apostle argues, was no more true of David than the resurrection of Ps. 16. This, then, affords not proof, but disproof: the Father's throne above (where Christ is sitting — Rev. 3:21) is not the throne of David or of Israel, as men most singularly make out of Peter's words. So, as to Zech. 6:12, 13, (though it is quite lawful for us to appropriate very much that is blessed in it,) it supposes a time yet future, when “he shall be a priest upon his throne”: the regular and formal fulfillment of the prophecy, and indeed of the kingdom; not the mystery of His present place on the Father's throne, Rev. 3:21. The possession of David's key applied figuratively in Rev. 3:7 is an extraordinary witness to call, seeing that it pertained not to the king, but to his subject and servant. David's throne is quite another thought. As to understanding Isa. 9:7 of “the administration of Christ in the church,” we can only say that, as interpretation, whether one looks at the text or its context, it is a sense which is destitute, to our mind, of the smallest probability. The passage supposes unprecedented vengeance executed, and the government carried out on principles of righteousness.
2. “Prince of life” we deny in toto to be the same as sitting on the throne of David. It seems to us a singular instance of a preoccupied mind that such a title should be cited in proof of a force so distant from its own proper meaning. Again, Dr. B. is quite wrong in asserting that “premillennialists tell us that Christ's second coming must precede the conversion of the Jews.” Some, no doubt, have so thought, but by no means all. We ourselves agree with Dr. B. that the reverse appears here, as, indeed, we may add, from our Lord's own words, “Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh,” etc. Their heart must be touched so to say, and so they shall say before they see the Lord. But Dr. B. has no warrant for adding, that on their conversion, “and events then hastening on apace,” He would send again to the earth your predicted Messiah. This interpretation is, we presume, to gain more time, and so far postpone the coming of Christ. Further, Dr. B. says, in reference to “till the times of restitution,” “the sense plainly is, that whatever the things predicted be, they are to be accomplished ere Christ comes; and that certainly will not be before the millennium.” But this is to miss the point. If the grand theme of all the prophets had been the great white throne (Rev. 20) and the subsequent eternal state, there might be force in what he says; for in that case Christ's coming would be connected with the end of the millennium. But since all the prophets dwell, not on the final scene, but on the millennial times of blessing and righteousness, it follows that Christ's coming is bound up with those times, not with their end or what follows; that is, the passage tells decisively for premillenarianism and against Dr. B., notwithstanding good Joseph Perry's convictions.
3. The apostolic use of Ps. 2 in Acts 4 is the next argument.
They apply the Psalm, beyond all contradiction, to the present sovereignty and rule of Jesus in the heavens (p. 140).
But it is clearly used, not to prove or illustrate the nature of Christ's kingdom, but solely as predictive of the world's opposition to God and His anointed servant. Unquestionably, much of the Psalm was not accomplished; it cannot thence be assumed that Christ was actually reigning in Zion; and other scriptures show that He is not yet.
4. Still less plausible is the use made of Acts 5:29-31. What the Jews did not believe was that Jesus of Nazareth was the predicted Savior-Prince, and that salvation could only be through His cross. The word here translated “Prince” does not express regal dignity, but a “leader” or “captain,” as in Heb. 2 and 12. Further, it is His title in relation here to Israel (presented to their responsibility then, and by and by to be accepted through the grace of God); not a word is hinted about Christ's actual relation to the Church, which is our author's thesis.
5. Neither does Ps. 110:1 help Dr. B., nor do the comments on it in Acts 2; Heb. 10; and 1 Cor. 15. Sitting at Jehovah's right hand is rather in contrast with the exercise of His Davidical throne, as we have seen in Acts. 2. Heb. 10 uses the fact of His seat there to show the work perfect and finished, instead of being always a-doing, as with the Jewish priest. It would rather prove that Christ was not ruling in the midst of His enemies. He is expecting till His enemies be made His footstool. When he reigns in the sense of Ps. 90 the enemy will have been made His footstool. In Heb. 10 He has completed His offering for His friends; henceforth He waits for another thing, viz., vengeance upon His enemies; and this “the kingdom,” in the full and literal sense of the term, is to witness. “Then cometh the end, when he shall, have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the father . . . For he must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet.”
Dr. B. urges, as to this, the discrepancies of pre-millennialists; but, after all, what do they amount to? A mere difference in the application of a particular verse or clause in 1 Cor. 15. Some hold that the kingdom delivered up means the kingdom as now going on in mystery; others, and we believe more correctly, the proper and future kingdom of Christ. On this Dr. B. triumphs without reason. He conceives that you have only to combine the separate statements (that “the kingdom” is in being with the one, and that it is the full Davidical reign of Christ with the other) to overthrow both classes of antagonists, and establish his own system. But it is plain, as Mr. Birks well observes, (Outlines, p. 203) that the same mode of argument may be used with equal success to establish any one of the conflicting theories by premises derived from the others. If we assume, with Dr. B., that the Davidical reign is clearly intended, and with Dr. McNeile, that that reign is future, the result is premillennialism as commonly held. Again, if we agree with Dr. B. that the reign here mentioned is begun, and with Dr. McN. that the Davidical reign is future, premillennialism follows equally.
Nothing, then, can be more illusive than this ad captandum style of reasoning, which would extract, from the admissions of two different sets of opponents, their common refutation.
Part 1, Chapter 6
The First Resurrection and the Second Death
Our purpose is, as briefly as may be consistent with perspicuity, to examine the arguments put forth by Dr. Brown in support of his sixth and seventh propositions, which are as follows:
When Christ comes, the whole Church of God will be “made alive” at once — the dead by resurrection, and the living, immediately thereafter, by transformation; their mortality being swallowed up of life (p. 164).
All the wicked will rise from the dead, or be “made alive,” at the coming of Christ (p. 178).
First of all, he opens with justly reprobating the painfully repulsive notion held by a few writers, that there is to be a succession of living generations upon the earth throughout all eternity. In denouncing this monstrous idea we are happy to agree with Dr. B., and so, we are persuaded, do the mass of godly and intelligent premillennialists. The fallacy depends on taking “for ever,” etc., absolutely in all cases, instead of interpreting such phrases relatively to the context. Possibly our author may be right in conjecturing that its advocates were hurried into it through the gap which premillennialism leaves touching the ultimate destiny of the righteous who live on earth during the thousand years. For our part, we frankly own that, as far as we see, scripture is reserved about this, as about many other points. If the Bible furnishes specific information about it, let the passages be produced, and we are as willing to bow to them as our opponents. The general principle of God's word is clear, necessary, and unchanging, that corruption cannot inherit incorruption; that when the everlasting state comes (the new heavens and earth in the fullest sense), the former things are passed away; that He who sits on the throne says, “Behold, I make all things new.” The men with whom God's tabernacle is said then to be (Rev. 21:3), we believe to be the saved men that had lived in the millennial earth; and if all the things around them are renovated, a fortiori so are they. “And God shall wipe all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain.” This had been partially true in the millennium, but it is perfectly true now. We are not told when their bodies were changed into this new condition, nor is any account given how they were translated into the eternal world where righteousness dwells. We know the fact; and if this was enough for God to reveal, it ought to satisfy Dr. B., as it does ourselves. If postmillennialism ventures to fill up the picture and to describe the when and the how these millennial saints are changed and translated, it will be found that the system runs before and against the scriptures. If premillennialism holds its peace, it is because the mouth of the Lord has not spoken upon the details; and in such a case, who are the wiser, the humbler and the truer men? Surely those who prefer the silence of the Lord to the loudest and most confident utterance of men. We accept, then, with Dr. B., the scriptural principle and the general fact of the everlasting condition of the saints who had lived during the millennium: with him, also, we reject the revolting Adamism which some dead and living premillennialists have expected to exist throughout eternity; but we repudiate, as less revolting, no doubt, but as equally unscriptural, Dr. B.'s scheme, which pretends to determine the time and manner of the change which affects the millennial saints. If it be urged that he includes those saints in the whole Church of God made alive when Christ comes, the answer is, that this is simply to affirm what we emphatically deny; and the burden of proof falls, of course, upon him. Dr. B. has not proved it, and we venture to say that he cannot. His theory is a mere begging of the question.
He cites, indeed, for one simultaneous and glorious resurrection, 1 Cor. 15:20-23; John 6:39, 40; John 17:9, 24 (i.e., the passages produced in his ch. 4 to show the completeness of the Church at Christ's coming, which no one doubts). The true enquiry is, whether scripture does not leave room for the blessing of other men on earth after the proper Church-work is done. Let Dr. B. ponder John 11:51, 52, for instance. Is it not plain that we are there taught the efficacy of Christ's death for the Jewish nation, and not for this only, but that also He should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad? That is, we have the Lord's death announced formally for Israel and for Christians, as for two distinct objects. The Apocalypse, like Old Testament scriptures, exhibits the blessing, which results from it to the millennial nations, yea, to the universe itself, as the latter point is stated doctrinally in Ephesians and Colossians. Dr. B. ought to have applied the scriptures cited to those actually contemplated in the respective passages, without going farther and excluding what is revealed elsewhere. The Lord and His apostle, in Dr. B.'s quotations, address and intend the class of heavenly sufferers only. Whether there be others redeemed and saved in another state of things (i.e., the millennium) cannot be settled one way or another by these scriptures, because they refer exclusively to premillennial times. In point of fact, 1 Cor. 15:20-23, and John 6:39, 40, could not apply to the millennial saints, because those texts speak of raising the dead, and these saints are never said to die, and therefore come under the “change,” not resurrection. And John 17 seems to us an unhappy chapter for a postmillenarian to quote, because it is through the heavenly and glorified saints, that the world is to know that the Father sent the Son. That is, there are others undoubtedly so influenced by this glorious unity as to recognize the Lord — a strange proof that themselves are already included in this unity. It is really a very strong proof of what Dr. B. objects to. In his scheme there is no world which could thus and then learn the Father's mission of the Son, when the risen or changed saints appear with Christ in glory.
Upon the closing and supplementary remarks of ch. 7, which aim at overthrowing Dr. H. Bonar's use of Isa. 25:8, we need not enter; partly because we differ somewhat from the argument, and chiefly because we have already rested the coexistence of earthly and heavenly blessing and glory during the millennium upon other proofs.
As for the Socinians and Dutch Remonstrants (p. 181, who employed Luke 14, 1 Cor. 15 and 1 Thess. 4, to deny any resurrection for the wicked), it may be “interesting” to those who eke out the feebleness of their cause and their reasoning by puny appeals in terrorem; but we doubt how far it will “strengthen” Dr. B.'s remarks. He concedes that this group of passages does imply that believers rise ALONE; that is, on a principle peculiar to themselves, and in a company amongst whom the wicked are not found.
Besides, it is utterly false that the same answer suffices for his premillennialist brethren now, as for the Socinianizing party: because the last denied and the former hold strenuously, and more distinctly than the soi-disant orthodox divines, a resurrection of the unjust.
But Phil. 3:11 receives from Dr. B., and claims from us, a fuller notice.
It was a resurrection peculiar to believers — a resurrection exclusively theirs — exclusive, however, not in the time of it, but in its nature, its accompaniments, and its issues (p. 183).
Moreover, he acknowledges that the preferable reading is (not the vulgar ἐξανάστασιν τῶν νεκρῶν, but what, since Bengel, and in spite of Griesbach, “has been established”) ἐξανάστασιν τῶν ἐκ νεκρῶν. *8 This, we venture to affirm, is the strongest possible statement in Greek of an eclectic resurrection. “The out-resurrection from the dead” may convey some idea of its force to the unlearned reader. It is even more emphatic, as Bengel observes, than the word used of our Lord's rising from the dead. The main question, however, is on the latter part of the phrase. Is ἐκ νεκρῶν ever predicated of the resurrection of the wicked dead, of those who, as we believe, rise last? NEVER. Ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν is, of course, true of Christ, and of the righteous, no less than of the wicked; for all that it means is the rising again of dead persons. This, then, is in not the smallest degree favourable to Dr. B., as he inconsiderately infers. On the other hand, the phrase ἐκ νεκρῶν is restricted to Christ and His saints; because this resurrection (whether of Him or of them) was from among the dead, who were left for the time undisturbed by it in their graves — a prior, as well as a peculiar, resurrection. Nor is there the least difficulty in discerning why St. Paul chose the more general expression in 1 Cor. 15 though he there confines himself (as Dr. B. believes with us, in opposition to Mr. Birks, Barnes, etc.) to the resurrection of Christ and of them who are Christ's. The reason is because he is asserting the abstract doctrine of resurrection which some of the Corinthians, though holding the perpetuity of the soul, had denied. But the apostle insists on the resurrection of dead persons, — of the body. He shows that to question this is to destroy alike the foundation in Christ and the hopes of the Christian — the grand motives to, and power of, present holy suffering. Can Dr. B. refuse this explanation of his objection? If not, the argument founded on the distinctness of the Greek formulas is thoroughly sound and conclusive. Neither is there ambiguity, in the phrase ἐκ νεκρῶν· it means “out of,” or “from amongst the dead,” not “from the place or state of the dead.” Mr. Inglis's criticism on Heb. 11:19 (preface, pp. vi., vii.), founded on ο(θεν, “whence,” as if it necessarily meant the dead state, is quite inept; because, the expression being figurative (ἐν παραβολ;), “out of dead persons” yields a sense just as good as its rival. Like the Latin unde, this Greek adverb means not only “whence” but from whom or which, and this, not in mere loose and barbarized dialects, but in the purest Attic authors. Mr. I.'s remarks ignore this (being founded on the mistaken idea that ;θεν can only mean whence, and only be applied to the dead state), and therefore, if ingenious, must forfeit claim to accuracy.
*In a note to p. 183, Dr. B. says that though this "was originally an emphatic form, it came gradually to be employed even where no emphasis was intended. Winer says it 'almost uniformly' did so; and he makes this remark in connection with the passage before us." Now we cannot say what this German scholar may have remarked in former editions, but we can affirm that, having examined his latest (sixth) edition of the "Grammatik," we believe that no reference is made to the passage, much less is there an assertion so unworthy of a really learned man as is imputed to him. If W. ever committed himself to that opinion, it seems to have vanished from his most mature statements. The section 19, to which Dr. B. alludes (now at least) without reason, discusses the omission of the article under certain limitations — a subject of which Winer is by no means master. It may be remarked here, that the late Mr. Gipps founded an argument of apparent weight and acuteness on the common text against a literal resurrection of saints before the rest are raised for judgment. The absence of ἐκ was the gist of his reasoning. But the fact is that the sentence is not correct Greek, and hardly sense, as it stands in Text. Rec.; whereas the oldest and best authorities, for τῶν, read τὴν ἐκ. Had Mr. G. known this, he would have felt that his main objection was gone — nay, that the clause told strongly against him. "If," says he, "Phil. 3: "had been meant to express the rising from the dead, the preposition ἐξ in composition with ἀνάστασις would have been repeated " (p. 85, note). It is repeated according to the latest critics, Scholz, Lachmann, and Tischendorf, none of whom sympathizes with pre-millennialism. The ancient MSS. A, B, (C is here defective), D, E read τὴν ἐκ. F, G, give τῶν ἐκ which is evidently a slip for τὴν ἐκ, and this again was, probably, the parent of τῶν without ἐκ in J, K and the cursive manuscripts which follow them. The best versions and fathers confirm the reading from the dead. The currency which the common reading once had says little for the accuracy of copyists, editors, and commentators.
Dan. 12:2, *9 if it treat of a literal bodily resurrection, is decidedly opposed to Dr. B., because it makes it immediately succeed the great conflicts in Palestine, which most certainly are before, not after the millennium. The Gog and Magog insurrection (in Rev. 20) is too distinct to need discussion. We do not doubt that it is borrowed from the resurrection of just and unjust, which it supposes to be a known truth; but it is a figure to express the resuscitation of Israel, just as in Ezek. 37, Hosea 6, 13, and many other Old Testament scriptures. In John 5:28, 29, we have the Lord's testimony to two resurrections, a life-resurrection and a judgment-resurrection, both comprehended in an hour that is coming. Dr. B. deduces simultaneousness, we distinctness, of the two, be the interval short or long. That the word does not of necessity imply shortness, the context just before proves unanswerably. But, answers Dr. B., the unbroken continuousness of the period is essential; and, in that case, a long continuity of resurrection in both kinds would be involved (pp. 191-194). We reply that ο(ρα (“hour”) has nothing to do with the continuity of facts occurring in it, but with the unity of the epoch, so as to make one time or season of it. Thus it is used for a year; yet spring and summer, autumn and winter, seed-time and harvest, very opposite and not continuous facts, occur in it. If, in the case before us, the hour derived its character from the resurrection, the whole argument is unfounded; for there are two resurrections opposed in character, and no continuity is derived from them. If it does not derive its character from the resurrection, then the fact of its having two resurrections in it, a thousand years apart, does not destroy its continuity. Two periods were in the first “hour” (v. 25), characterized by Christ's presence and His absence. There was an epoch when souls should rise at the voice of the Son of God; there was another (v. 28) when bodies should rise. This hour derives its unity, not continuity, from something else. What gave that unity is another question, to which, we believe, the true answer is the presence of the Lord in glory, in that power in which He rose from the dead. They were not to marvel if He quickened souls, for at a future epoch He would manifest His power in raising all that are in the graves, and this in resurrections as contrasted as “life” and “judgment.”
*It is attempted by the help of Augustine (De Civ. Dei. XX. xxiii. 2), Calvin, and others, to maintain a strict parallel between this text and John 5:28, 29. But it is not true that "many" is the equivalent to "all." The chief witness called by most is the alleged interchange of these expressions in Rom. 5:18, 19. But we deny the fact even there; for in the latter verse οἱ πόλλοι is employed in relation to ὁ εἷς (the mass connected with the one), and in the former there is no such relation expressed; and the idea is the universal bearing of one offence and of one righteousness respectively, not the actual effect which follows in the next verse, where, accordingly, the phrase is altered. Moreover, "many" is not the same thing as "the many:" they are very particularly and frequently distinguished in Daniel . Compare, for the former, Dan. 11:34, 44; Dan. 12:2, 4, 10; and, for the latter, Dan. 9:27; Dan. 11:33, 39; Dan. 12:3. Marckius' reply to Cocceius, which identifies them, is therefore unfounded, and even Dr. B. "now greatly doubts it." And it is evident that he has little confidence in the explanation of Munster and Clarius, who suppose that the change of the living righteous is hinted at in the word "many." The truth is that, on no view, pre-millennial or post-millennial, can our text be applied to a literal resurrection consistently with other scriptures or with the context. We have no doubt, therefore, that it refers to God's revival of Israel, both nationally and spiritually, and with the open judgment of the wicked among them, after the destruction of the last king of the North ("the Assyrian," so often predicted in the prophets). Dan. 11 had already spoken of the Jews in the Land up to their closing troubles and deliverance for the elect. Dan. 12:2 shows us the reappearance on the scene of "many" long slumbering among the Gentiles. They had been "asleep" when movements of the deepest interest had been going on in the land and people of the Jews. Now they "awake;" but, as among the Jews in Palestine, not a few were apostate and cut off by God, and only such were delivered out of their last time of unparalleled tribulation as were "written in the book;" so of these returned Israelites, some are found destined to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. For they are not all Israel which are of Israel. We doubt not that, though employed figuratively, as often in the Psalms and Prophets, the language pre-supposes the known truth of a bodily resurrection, and this of just and unjust. It is possible that John 5 may allude to the passage, but that would not prove the literality of Dan. 12:2. It is much more certain that itself alludes to Isa. 26:19, which Dr. B. correctly refers to the figurative resurrection of Israel (pp. 234, 235). The language is at least equally strong in both, and the resemblance striking and undeniable,. "Thy dead shall live, my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing (the prophet addressing them), ye that dwell in dust," etc. Ezek. 37 is, if possible, stronger than Dan. 12 "Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel." Beyond a doubt, not a physical but a resurrection is here meant, just as in Daniel. It is the only interpretation which meets all the conditions of the text and context, and it is entirely free from the inseparable difficulties which encumber the use made of it by many on both sides.
This distinction, it is notorious, reappears in Rev. 20; only that in the prophecy we have, as might be expected, the contrast of time, as well as of character. A chronological period of a thousand years, or more, separates the two resurrections, but their identification with John 5 is palpable. Rev. 20:4, 6, describes the life-resurrection — “they lived and reigned with Christ. On such the second death hath no power.” Rev. 20:12 to the end, describes the judgment-resurrection — “The dead were judged out of those things,” etc., “They were judged every man according to his works.”
As to the argument for universality, based on the phrase, “the dead, small and great,” it will not stand a moment's investigation; because the wicked are the only dead left. In immediate juxtaposition with the account in v. 4 of the various classes who share in the first resurrection, it is said, “the rest of the dead lived not.” But now, when the thousand years are over, when the last fruitless rebellion of the nations, led on by Satan and dealt with summarily by divine judgment, has added a countless throng to the mass of the dead, all are summoned up from their graves to stand before the throne. Here there is neither need nor room for describing them as “the rest of the dead,” because of the interval which separates them from the first resurrection. Nay, more; “the rest of the dead,” in v. 12, would have been a misleading and improper phrase, because it might naturally have been restricted to the same body of whom v. 5 had spoken: whereas in fact it includes ALL the dead, except those already disposed of in the first resurrection; not those only who were dead when the millennial reign began, but such as had died during its course, and the vast multitude whom fire from God devoured at its close. Nothing can be plainer. A blessed resurrection is first described of those who reign with Christ, and with this is expressly conjoined the statement that the rest of the dead lived not till a certain long period terminated. During this period we know, from Isa. 65, 66, that, at least, the wicked die; and at the end of it, we know, from Rev. 20:7-9, that the living wicked are destroyed without remedy. Most appropriately, therefore, on our view, scripture speaks of those called up afterwards for the judgment-resurrection as “the dead, small and great,” — the largest and most precise possible terms, so as to embrace all that remain, who are necessarily all wicked. The righteous had been long since raised. After that, no righteous are ever intimated as dying. No matter how comprehensive, then, may be the phraseology employed, it can only apply to the wicked, because they only, at that epoch, are “the dead.” The minute specification of the sea, death, and hades, is most solemn. No hiding-place could longer detain the wretched victims of sin. The deepest gulfs of the sea and unseen worlds deliver up their prisoners to stand before the Judge. And as to the production of “the book of life,” and “the books,” it is quite simple. Here is a figure (for, indeed, the description of the second death is just as symbolical as that of the first resurrection), — a figure taken from human tribunals and from two sides of an account. The books prove that their works were evil. The book of life discloses that their names were not written therein; for not a hint is given of even one who was. Both agree that they should be cast into the lake of fire.
Not content with his general remarks upon Rev. 20, Dr. B. devotes his entire ch. 9 to certain presumptions and nine internal evidences against the literality of the first resurrection. His à priori probabilities are of no weight:
1. It is true that the duration of the interval between the two resurrections is only mentioned six times in one passage of the Apocalypse; but surely this was abundant testimony to the number of years which should separate them, one clear revelation being as certain as one hundred. Besides, we have already demonstrated that the term “resurrection from (or, from among) the dead,” which is restricted to the resurrection of Christ and His saints, implies in both cases a prior resurrection. What can be plainer than these words, for example, “They which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that age (αἰῶνος), and the resurrection from the dead (τῆς ἀν. τῆς ἐκ νεκρῶν), neither marry nor are given in marriage; neither can they die any more; for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.” We do not wonder that Dr. B. has found it convenient to evade the discussion of this striking testimony, and only refers to its existence in the notes to pp. 181 and 186. But the reader will see that, among the dead, none but the worthy, the children of God, are to obtain that age — that special and long-expected age, when God shall fulfil His blessed promises in all their precision, as well as all their breadth and compass. For such, as far as concerns the dead, are reserved “that age and the resurrection from the dead.”
“The rest of the dead” are not to live till that age has run its course, and the resurrection FROM the dead is no longer possible. “And I saw the dead, small and great . . . and the dead were judged.” The wicked dead are excluded from that age no less than from the resurrection from the dead. The truth is that an indiscriminate resurrection (p. 260) is totally unknown to scripture, and the reasoning goes much farther than the millennium. All scripture which speaks of resurrection shows a distinct act, if there be only a minute between. Those who are Christ's are never confounded with the rest, whatever the interval (which is naturally made known in a prophecy, that is peculiarly rich in times and seasons, days and years).
2. We utterly reject the assertion that Rev. 20:4-6 is an ambiguous revelation. People may have made mistakes about the extent of its subjects; but the thing itself has been clearly held even by men as eccentric as Mr. Burgh. And Dr. B. forgets that all premillennialists differ from his opinion of the subjects of the final resurrection, and most of them from his view of its character and results.
3. His last presumption, viz., that any other description of the resurrection of the saints is catholic, while this is limited, is a mere but decided blunder. Dr. B. omits the first clause of Rev. 20:4 (“And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them”). Having thus decapitated the verse, having deprived it of a clause which, in our judgment, was purposely written in the most general form, so as to take in the saints of the Old and New Testaments, no wonder that he finds in the rest only disjecta membra. But then the mutilation is his own deed, as will be seen more fully by and by. At the same time we must do our author the justice to say that he discards the old objections, grounded on “souls” (not bodies) being named, on the want of particular mention of the earth, as the theater of the millennial reign, and on the word resurrection, as if it did not denote the restoring of life to the dead.
His nine arguments admit of distinct and conclusive refutation:
I. Dr. B. reasons that “this is the first resurrection” “seems to be figurative, because contrasted with the second death.” Why, it is hard even to imagine. The first death is the wages of sin in this world, the second death is the full and final wages hereafter. Dr. B. has overlooked the fact that both are explanations, and not the symbols to be explained. If the two deaths are literal, though they may differ, the two resurrections may differ, but are equally literal.
II. We are almost ashamed to speak of the objection to the clause “on such the second death hath no power,” taking for granted that the first resurrection is literal. “Is it likely,” says Dr. B., “that the Spirit of God means nothing more here than such a truism?” Such hypercriticism would make fearful carnage of the living word of God. It is the habitual way, especially in the psalms and prophets, of causing the reader to pause and ponder well their comforts or their warnings. Dr. B. will scarcely deny the parallelistic structure which pervades the scripture, and not least the Apocalypse. Nor is anything more common than to mark doubly, what was meant to impress the soul, i.e., both positively and negatively, as here. “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power.” The second death is so awful a reality as to make God's gracious assurance of exemption from it anything but a needless repetition.
Indeed, (says Mr. Birks, p. 116) the words are a distinct proof that the resurrection is literal. For the second death is never named except with reference to a first death which has gone before it. The church of Smyrna is the only one which receives the command, “Be thou faithful unto death”; and hence it receives the special promise, “he that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.” It is not to saints as living but as having suffered death, or about to suffer it, that exemption from the second death is promised. This character does not apply to millennial believers, who are exempt from the first death during its continuance, but applies fully to the martyrs, and indeed to all believers who have died in the faith before the Lord comes.
III. There are but two alternatives in this prophecy, says Dr. B., — the first resurrection, or the second death. Into which are we to put the millennial myriads? Into neither, as far as the millennial saints are concerned, who, not dying, will not rise, but be changed doubtless. The rest, dying before, or destroyed in the Gog and Magog insurrection, will be cast into the lake of fire. On Dr. B.'s view, the blessing is reduced to the character of the millennium as one of prevailing spiritual life: but thus, as another remarks, all the emphasis is lost, since believers in any age are blessed and holy, and are equally exempted from the power of the second death.
IV. The limitation of the reign to 1000 years is no difficulty. Rev. 22 shows that the book recognizes the reigning for ever and ever, while Rev. 20 takes up the reigning for a special purpose which has an end.
V. The next difficulty, viz., that the rest of the dead do not rise immediately on the expiry of the thousand years, but after the little season beyond, is weaker still. It is nowhere tied to that moment; it could not be before — that is all. On the other hand, there is a difference in the way Satan's period is spoken of — μετὰ ταῦτα δ. αὐ. λ. μ. χ. This formula does connect the loosing of Satan with the close of the thousand years, but it is nowhere used of the resurrection of the rest of the dead. The truth, therefore, is against Dr. B. and his colleague in the British Quarterly.
VI, VII. These are merely the arguments reasoned by Mr. Gipps, on the opening of the book of life, and on the sea, death, and hades delivering up their dead, only in connection with the great white throne, not with the first resurrection. But we have already replied enough on these heads to show that they are appropriate where they are, rather than elsewhere, on the literal scheme. Besides, a book is not like a seal which can be opened but once; and here, say what Dr. B. will, it is connected solely with those not found in it. The other images are not of blessedness, but of trouble, sorrow, etc., and therefore are fitly joined with the wicked.
VIII. The next objection to the literal sense is that it is exclusively a martyr scene. But this is simply to repeat the mistake of the third presumption. Dr. B. objects to Mr. Elliott's way of stating the case, that he makes St. John to specify particularly, as conspicuous among those seen seated on thrones, the martyrs and confessors; whereas, according to his own interpretation, they only are seen. The fact is, that Mr. E. has understated the matter. For the beheaded saints, and those who refused the beast's overtures, are two classes added to those who were already seen enthroned. The apostle saw certain thrones filled, and judgment committed to those who sat there. Besides, he sees souls of slaughtered saints; and, moreover, there were such as had rejected all connection with the beast; and these two classes, who for the time seemed to have lost all, are reunited to their bodies, and reign with Christ no less than the rest. Dr. B. speaks of the verb ἐκάθισαν (“sat”) as a virtual impersonal. This is not doubted; but it in no way connects the clause with what follows, which is his desire. If it had been put in the sentence after the other clauses, there might be ground for such a supposition. As it is, there is none. The first clause leaves room for all the heavenly saints, save the added Apocalyptic sufferers and faithful, which the next clauses distinguish and subjoin. Christ and these heavenly saints quitted heaven together, in Rev. 19; Christ and they reign together over the earth, in Rev. 20; and all those who suffered from, but who really overcame, the beast, are there too, not as Israel reigned over, but reigning with Christ as those who had gone before them. On the figurative view, what can be more absurd than a revival of martyr-spirit, when it is least needed, when all is unprecedently happy and prosperous for the Church?
IX. The last objection is, that our view can offer no consistent explanation of the “judgment” that “was given unto” the enthroned saints. We must be forgiven for pronouncing such a remark somewhat perverse. It is not expressly connected with the slain martyrs, though no doubt they had it as well as the rest; and this, therefore, dissolves the narrow limits which Dr. B. seeks to borrow from Rev. 6:10. We do not deny that there may be a link; but we affirm that the Lord God's judging and avenging the blood of His slain ones is a very distinct thing from judgment being given to others seated on thrones, nay, to themselves there. Dr. B.'s object is to bind together, in the judgment given, both the slain and their slayers, so that if the saints be personally present their persecutors must be also in the same personal way; and if the latter be spiritually understood, so the former. But, as we have seen, this is not the force of judgment being given to
men. In his sense, God had already avenged the blood of saints and prophets in Babylon; and the beast and the false prophet, with their instruments, had met their terrible doom from the Lord, before the enthroned saints had judgment given to them, or began to reign with Christ.
Are we mistaken in affirming that our ingenious opponent has wasted his time, his research, his labor, in vainly assaulting the impregnable fortress of a first resurrection? Is it not as true for all saints who suffer with Christ, as the second death is sure for all sinners who despise Him?
Part 1, Chapter 7
The Judgment and the Eternal State
There are few subjects as to which the thoughts of men more decidedly clash with the revealed mind of God than the Judgment; there is none, perhaps, in which the children of God are more endangered by the unbelief so natural to the heart at all times, and by the confusion which has prevailed so long. The enemy has sought to avail himself of all sorts of things, good or bad, in order to darken spiritual intelligence and blind the eye alike to “that blessed hope” and to the judgment which hangs day by day over this doomed earth. Thus he has taken advantage of the modern impetus given to Bible circulation and missionary efforts, admirable as they are in their objects, and still more as they might be, if directed according to the word by the wisdom which comes down from heaven, but capable of the sad illusion that men are to bring about the times of refreshing for the world in the absence of its rejected Lord. To such the idea of a sudden, unprecedented, divine interruption, not crowning their successes, but calling to account for unfaithfulness, for self-seeking, for despising the scripture, for grieving and quenching the Holy Ghost, is painful and unwelcome, and so much the more when Christians are drawn into the snare of the common hopes, interests, and efforts of the age. It convicts them of ignorance of scripture, and of opposing, as far as they can, the mind and counsels of God. It detects the pride which endeavors to patch up the broken vessel rather than confess our fault and submit to the sentence of God. It recalls to zealous repentance from the bustling plans and enterprises which tend to cover the weakness, and ruin, and guilt of man. Above all, it demands an immediate stop to every movement which is outside and against God's word, and positive separation, in all its forms, from a world which is recognized as ripening for vengeance. Let none say that this is to damp the activities of the grace which seeks the good of all men, specially of the household of faith. The removal of obstructions, the cessation from known evil, the refusal of the world's harness — in a word, obedience is ever peremptorily due to God, and never can lead to relaxation of Christian love and labors, though it may throw off the slough of the serpent that has mixed itself up with them.
But we must turn to Dr. Brown, who assumes that the judgment is “one undivided scene,” not rule over nations, nor vengeance upon public bodies, but a judgment of individual persons. He urges that the two things are so different that they cannot be put into one unmixed conception. Now, is it not evident that such statements as these betoken a mind unsubject to the word of God, which never speaks of an unbroken scene, nor of an unmixed conception? The question is not whether there is a judgment of individuals, of the secrets of the heart, but whether the Bible reveals but one single judgment act at the end of all, an act which embraces every creature, saint or sinner, indiscriminately, and then for the first time manifests their eternal destiny.
But it is plain at a glance that such a scheme fails, not because there is no truth in it, but because it is the narrowest section of the truth. It interprets the entire judgment of God by that which is a single though a most solemn and momentous part. The true question is, does not scripture make known both temporal and eternal judgment, executed by Christ the Lord? Does it not disclose vengeance on living men, as well as a holy assize over the dead? Does it not require us to believe that there will be what we may distinguish as His war-judgment, previous to His judging as a King, and this again before He calls up the dead for the resurrection of judgment? (Rev. 19, 20). This is the plain, simple meaning of the last great prophetic strain which treats of the orderly sequence of these events, against which it is in vain to appeal, as Dr. B. does, to texts here and there, which merely speak of judgment when Christ comes: for all, premillennialist and postmillennialist, equally bow to this.
But we are pointed to Matt. 25 as an insuperable difficulty in our way. In order to explain what we believe to be its true bearing, it will be necessary to take the prophecy as a whole. First of all, it is clear that the first and greater part of Matt. 24 addresses the disciples, as they were associated in feeling, faith, and hopes with Jerusalem and the special portion of Israel in their land. Hence they are warned against false Messiahs, they are guarded against confounding the earlier sorrows with the great tribulation that is to precede the nation's deliverance; but the gospel is the gospel of the kingdom, the prophetic admonition to flee is for “them which be in Judea,” the token on earth is the idol set up in the sanctuary and the Jewish Sabbath is supposed to be in force. Furthermore, there is not a thought of going to be with the Lord in the air; not a hint of the Father's house, but a very specific showing them that the Son of man is to appear in the most vivid and sudden way, “as the lightning,” for their deliverance. They are not therefore to go into the desert, nor to believe that He is arrived and in some secret chambers; for when He does appear, it will be with power and great glory; and their enemies shall see and mourn. It is Christ's coming to the earth for the deliverance of the godly Jewish remnant who will be at the close of the age awaiting Him. The disciples were their forerunners in many obvious and important respects. But it is plain that the close of Matt. 24 and the parables of the virgins and of the talents in Matt. 25, drop all particular connection with the Jews and Jerusalem, and evidently are verified in the calling and occupation of Christians as such, during the absence of Christ in heaven. Equally clear, is it that Matt. 25:31 to the end concerns distinctively the Gentiles.
It is not a mere infliction of chastisement, it is not an outpouring of vengeance on a particular nation, or an assemblage of hostile people; it is the calm session of judgment before the King of all the earth, and before Him shall be gathered all nations. But it is in positive contrast, as to its subjects, with Rev. 20:11, 12, *10 because there all that stand before the throne are the dead, here all are the living; there, as we have shown, they are exclusively the wicked, here they are both good and bad; there the judged, being the dead, were irrespective of country and race, here they are the Gentiles as distinct from the Jews. The ground of the judgment, which hangs like a millstone round the neck of the traditionalist, confirms the true view. For the king does not on this occasion enter on the details of general conduct. There is no judging of the guilty Jew according to the law, and of the guilty Gentile outside the law, according to his actual condition, as in Rom. 2. But the gathered nations are dealt with according to their treatment of the King's brethren, sent out to announce the kingdom before it was, as it will then be, established in power: for God will take care to send forth previously an adequate and universal testimony; and this will act as a test among the nations. Accordingly the King owns as done to Himself the least kindness shown to His messengers, and punishes their dishonour as leveled at His own person. But manifestly such a test best applies to a brief and eventful crisis, when the gospel of the kingdom shall be proclaimed far and wide, immediately before the appearance of the King who judges thereon by a criterion utterly inapplicable to the times when the glad tidings were not so preached, much less the kingdom. Again, the true interpretation accounts for the King's brethren as a class distinct from “the sheep,” or godly Gentiles. They are His converted Jewish brethren, who witness the kingdom of all nations before the end comes. This distinction is lost and useless in the common view; for important as such a thing is in a judgment of the quick, all differences of Jew and Gentile disappear in the resurrection, which, it will be observed, is here unnoticed, and we believe incompatible with the language employed. Scripture never speaks of nations after resurrection, as Dr. B.'s exposition supposes. Nor is there real force in Mr Birks' objections. For:
1. The judgment of the living nations has not been given in the preceding parables, but we have had the Jews and the Christians: now we have the Gentile as such;
2. Isa. 66 in no way denies such a gathering of all nations as Matt. 25 describes;
3. The sentence being final is no obstacle, for the King is there to decide everlastingly;
4. As to the notion of a climax, it is to us an evident mistake. The prophecy to be complete naturally shows us the ways of the King with the nations after sketching His ways with His Jewish remnant (Matt. 24:1-44), and with the Christian parenthesis (Matt. 24:45-25:30).
*At the time of the judgment in Matthew the fire is said simply to be prepared for the devil and his angels; whereas before the great white throne judgment the devil is cast into the lake of fire, where the Beast and False Prophet had been long previously.
Accordingly we have no doubt that it is quite fallacious to confound this very special dealing of the Lord with all the Gentiles summoned before His millennial throne, and the description of His judgment of the dead found elsewhere. But this overthrown, the chief buttress of Dr. B.'s proposition eighth is undermined. We believe, as well as he, that when Christ comes He will put honour on such as have confessed Him and shame on those who have denied Him; we believe that both reward and punishment will be “in that day”; but it does not thence follow that all are dealt with simultaneously, as Dr. B. takes for granted. Hence Matt. 7:21-23; Matt. 10:32, 34; Matt. 13:30, 43; Matt. 16:24-27; Matt. 25:10; John 5:28, 29; Acts 17:31; Rom. 2:5-16; 1 Cor. 3:12-15; 1 Cor. 4:5; 2 Cor. 5:9-11; 2 Thess. 1:6-10; 1 Tim. 5:24, 25; 2 Tim. 4:1; 2 Peter 3:7-12; 1 John 2:28; 4:17; Rev. 3:5; Rev. 20:11-15; Rev. 21:7, 8; Rev. 22:12, 15, are wholly unavailing. Some of these texts refer only to the quick, and others to the dead alone; none treats good and bad, quick and dead, as judged in one indiscriminate judgment. Indeed John 5 shows that, in the most momentous sense, the believer shall not come into judgment and that a life-resurrection awaits him, as a judgment-resurrection remains for the evil doer.
It is useless, therefore, for Dr. B. to prove, as he does clearly, that man is appointed to death and judgment: we believe it as strongly as himself. No more does it serve his purpose to urge that we must all be manifested before the tribunal of Christ, and receive according to the good or bad done in the body; for we too insist on it as a clear and necessary truth. Both look for "the hour," and "that day": both connect judgment with the coming of Christ: both maintain that "then he shall reward every man according to his works." But not a text hints, nor an argument proves, that "the righteous and the wicked will be judged together." Dr. B.'s case entirely breaks down. His claim would have been strong, indeed, if Matt. 25:31, and seq., could be legitimately identified, in time, character, and subjects, with Rev. 20:11, and seq. But there is a plain and certain contrast between them, not sameness. In Matthew, nations are in question, in the Revelation the dead; in the one the scene is the earth, in the other earth and heaven are fled away; in the former both the righteous and the accursed are seen, in the latter none but the lost; in the gospel the living Gentiles are tested by a very special preaching of the kingdom, which is to go forth before the end of the age, and they are sentenced according to their behavior towards the messengers of the king, while in the Apocalypse it is a solemn scrutiny of those things which were written in the books, according to the works of the dead — a ground of judgment not limited to a peculiar testimony and epoch, but embracing all ages and dispensations, before the flood and after it, — under the law, or without the law, — whether they had, or whether they had not, heard the gospel. The difference, therefore, is complete, and so is the failure of Dr. B.'s scheme of a universal and simultaneous judgment. It remains to notice his ninth and last proposition:
At Christ's second appearing, "the heavens and the earth that are now," being dissolved by fire, shall give place to "new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness," without any mixture of sin — good unalloyed by the least evil. The passages cited are 2 Peter 3:7-13; Rev. 20:11; Rev. 21:1. By putting this passage, then, in Revelation alongside of the passage in Peter, we obtain the following argument, which I believe it to be impossible to answer: The conflagration and passing away of the heavens will be "as a thief in the night, in or at the day of the Lord," — the time of His second advent (2 Peter 3). But the millennium precedes the "fleeing or passing away of the earth and heaven" (Rev. 20, 21). Therefore the millennium precedes the second advent" (B. p. 289). But there is an obvious and fatal fallacy here. For we deny that the day of the Lord is equivalent to the time of His second advent. There are most momentous changes linked with the Lord's coming and previous to His day. Thus the dead saints are raised, the living are changed, and both caught up to be with the Lord in the air at His coming. How long this precedes the day of the Lord, it is not our present object to enquire; but we altogether reject Dr. B.'s assumption that they are the same thing, or even at the same time. Without that identification, which the author takes for granted instead of proving, the syllogism comes to nothing. The truth is, that "the day of the Lord" may be readily seen, by any who examine the Old Testament prophets, to be a long period characterized (when it is fulfilled, not in early types, but in the grand events of the last days) by the direct intervention of Jehovah's presence, power, and glory here below. Peter furnishes the connecting tie between Isa. 65, 66 and the Revelation, and embraces within the compass of that great day, not only the millennium, but the season that succeeds till the heavens and earth that now are give place to "all things made new." The millennium then does not precede the day of the Lord, but is included within its magnificent range. The coming of the Lord gathers His saints to Him before that day, and a fortiori before the millennium, as we have already sufficiently shown in commenting on 2 Thess. 2:1. Thus the argument, which Dr. B. supposed it impossible to answer, is as loose and incoherent as the sand. And here we close our reply to his assault upon premillennialism.
Part 2, Chapter 1
The Millennium — How Brought About
When God was converting souls as He never did for extent in real quickening power, either before or since, the apostolic preacher told his hearers to repent and be converted, that their sins might be blotted out, so that seasons of refreshing might come from the face of the Lord, and He might send Christ Jesus that was fore-appointed to them, whom heaven must receive till the times of restoring all things, of which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets since time began (Acts 3). This is plain and conclusive.
It is impossible more definitely to connect the sending of Jesus from heaven, not with the destruction, but with the restoration of all things — the subject of the bright visions of the prophets, in contradistinction to the work of the gospel. The ungrieved power of the Spirit was then operating largely and profoundly; but this had for its effect on Peter's mind to urge repentance on Israel, that so might come from Jehovah's face that which really brings about the millennium. There is no thought of a "continued effusion of the Spirit," still less of a professing world, as the adequate answer. It is that which is elsewhere styled "the regeneration" (Matt. 19), when the Son of man shall sit (not on the Father's throne as now, Rev. 3, but) on the throne of His glory; and His once suffering apostles shall sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. If no such state of things consists with this age, or with eternity, when can it be save in the millennium? Manifestly, therefore, that good age which succeeds "the present evil age," and which precedes eternity when national distinctions shall have for ever passed away, supposes the Son of Man to come again and to reign over the world.
Thus the nobleman, according to the parable, will have returned, having received the kingdom; and the kingdom He delivers up to Him who is God and Father at "the end," not of this age, but of the age to come — i.e., the millennium, when He shall have put down all rule and authority and power; for He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. This is not what occupies Christ now. He is calling out those who were enemies, and gaining them as His friends, yea, His body and bride, to reign with Him when the world-kingdom of the Lord and of His Christ is come (Rev. 11). He is not in this age dealing righteously but in long suffering with His enemies; in that age He shall put them under His feet, not in title only, but in fact. And when all things shall be subdued unto Him (which will be the work and issue of the Millennium, not of this age), then shall the Son also Himself be subject to Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all (1 Cor. 15:28). This is disclosed in Rev. 21:1-8; not in what goes before or after.
The common postmillennial system of Christendom ignores and opposes all this clear, positive teaching of Scripture. It is in effect a denial of the Bible millennium altogether. Dr. B.'s view, even if true, would make it simply an extension of what is going on now throughout the world. He excludes Christ, he includes Satan, he maintains the mixture of tares with wheat in his scheme. Thus it is not a new age but the last stage of this present evil age, conceived to be an exceptional period which shall surpass in brightness all the world has yet beheld. It is a visionary millennium of man without a shred of divine evidence, nay, in hopeless antagonism to the word of God. The root of it is unbelief as to the central place of Christ in the ways of God, and the substitution for Him of salvation or the saved. Hence, habitually all is viewed from present experience, and tends to magnify man as he is or hopes to be — not the Lord. Instead of calling the Christian to self-judgment, because of our miserable fall from primitive power, purity, and love, this scheme directly fosters the proudest and wholly baseless hope of doing that by the gospel which God receives for Christ sent from heaven in judgment of the world and especially of Christendom. "When Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." It is perfectly true that the earth in the millennium is to be the scene of universal blessing; it is utterly false that this is ever once attributed in Scripture to a preached gospel. The delusion would not stand an hour's examination of Scripture, if it did not flatter man* to the dishonour of Christ — the common source of all error even among children of God. And what (can the reader believe it?) is the Scripture, the one Scripture adduced to support the scheme? "All power," etc., Matt. 28:18-20. The late Cardinal Wiseman, like many a Romish controversialist before him, cited the same passage with quite as much reason to support the fabric of Papal infallibility. It need hardly be said that there is not a syllable which supports either the claims of the Pope, invested with all power in heaven and on earth, or the hopes of missionary societies. The Lord pledges His presence with His servants in their making disciples of all the Gentiles; but far from hinting at the conversion of the world in the age to come as the effect of their work. He expressly speaks of being with them all the days until the completion of the age. He himself would come in power and glory for that age, using His angels to clear out of His kingdom all offences and those that practice lawlessness; and then should the righteous shine in their heavenly sphere, as He had taught them already according to a previous chapter of this gospel, which explicitly shows us the separating judgment that will distinguish the end of this age, and thus prepare the way for the peculiar features of the age to come, that follows before the eternal state.
*Weigh the following words: — "Some looked to the revival of miracles as one great means of the rapid conversions which are to signalize the latter day; but in vain. As we do not need them, so the soul in a healthy state does not desire. them. The Church is in its manhood, and miracles are for its infancy" (Brown p. 302). I do not cite, this because of agreeing with those who would revive miracles for converting souls in the latter day, but to illustrate the blind self-conceit of the Gentile, spite of Rom. 11. Was the apostolic age, as compared with ours, the infancy and the manhood of the Church?
Part 2, Chapter 2
Nature of the Millennium
The remarks already made on the parable of the tares preclude the need of much argument here. Only, it is an exaggeration and mistake if people have taught such that the millennium is a perfect state, or that there can be such till eternity. Isa. 65 is clear that sin and death are still possible within its course; and Rev. 20:7-10 demonstrates, that after its expiration there will be a vast muster of the distant nations, Gog and Magog, under the guidance of Satan, once more deceiving men. These have been all born within the thousand years, and may have rendered a feigned obedience throughout; but not being renewed, they fall under Satan's snares as soon as he is loosed and goes out to deceive them. The reign of the Lord in visible glory over the earth will not change the heart nor deliver from temptation when the enemy appears.
But this has nothing in common with the wheat field, among which tares were sown. Tares do not mean men as merely evil by nature, but the result of Satan's special sowing in Christendom — heretics and other corrupt persons mingled with the confessors of Christ. In that field the servants are forbidden to take in hand the extermination of the tares from among the wheat. Care for the true, not judgment of the false, is their business. Others — the angels — will deal with the children of the wicked one in the time of harvest (i.e., in the completion of the age). Patient grace becomes the servants, not earthly judgment, which in their hands might work, as indeed it always has wrought, mischief to the children of the kingdom.
At the present there reigns grace; in the Millennium righteousness will reign; in eternity righteousness will dwell. The thousand years will not be without evil, but the earth will be happy and perfectly governed, till Satan, during the short space that succeeds, is allowed to marshal the distant nations against the camp of the saints and the beloved city (earthly Jerusalem); but those nations who fall under Satan's last deceit are never called "tares." They were no produce of Satan's seed, for they existed in an unregenerate state before he was let loose. It is not the fact that any intelligent premillennialist describes the millennium "just as other people do" (p. 310); for postmillennialism by extending such a parable as that of the tares to that day, simply destroys the millennium. The clearance of tares from the kingdom of the Son of man will not hinder the birth of men throughout the thousand years, multitudes of whom will be unrenewed, and thus exposed to the enemy at the close. The popular system is infidelity as to the millennium; it denies the introduction of a new age after this age, and the coexistence and display of the kingdom of God in both its parts — heavenly and earthly. The end of the age is not the end of the world, but the completion of the present course of time, when the Lord will not have His Servants exercise judgment by rooting the evil out of the field. In the end, judgment will be applied to purge out all scandals for the reign of Christ and those who are glorified along with Him. The making disciples of all nations cannot contradict the Lord's word, that the gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations. It is the grossest begging of the question to say there is no millennium to come after this. Preaching for a witness suits the actual time, but not the millennium. Jehovah shall be king over all the earth; in that day there shall be one Jehovah and His name one.
Part 2, Chapter 3
The Millennium — Display of the Kingdom in Judgment
The two visions in Dan. 2-7, to which our attention is challenged, are as strong evidence as need be asked to the falsehood of the postmillennial theory of the advent.
First, as to Dan. 2, it is manifest that the stone cut out without hands — symbolizing the kingdom of God introduced by Christ — falls with destructive effect on the image in its final stage (i.e., the feet of iron and clay); and that only after this execution of judgment does the stone become a great mountain and fill the earth. The stone smiting the symbol of this world's power is, according to the mysticists, the Kingdom of Grace (p. 315). As Kingdoms, simply — as a mere succession of civil monarchies — the vision has nothing to do with them, and the kingdom of Christ has no quarrel with them; for civil government, as such, whatever be the form of it, is a Divine ordinance. The mission of the Church is not to supplant, but to impregnate and pervade it with a religious character, and to render it subservient to the glory of God" (pp. 319-420). Is this a fair intelligent interpretation of God's kingdom breaking in pieces and consuming the great Imperial powers of this world? Is it a reasonable explanation that the blow of the stone which breaks and disperses utterly the iron and clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, means the Church impregnating and pervading civil government with a religious character? Is it possible that a man should be so blinded by a false system as to put Matt. 13:31-33 along with Nebuchadnezzar's dream, as if they were akin? What! a woman hiding leaven in three measures of meal till the whole was leavened, analogous to a stone crushing the image of imperial power, and then expanding into a great mountain, that fills the whole earth!
The truth is, that neither Nebuchadnezzar's dream nor Daniel's explanation, alludes to the kingdom of grace. When Christ came in grace, the Roman empire smote Him, not He it. Afterwards that empire became nominally Christian, and established Christianity, instead of being destroyed by it. All this is entirely outside the statements of the chapter, for the feet and toes were not even formed till afterward. What the prophet gives is the wholly distinct picture, first, of an aggressive act which destroys the Gentile power; and secondly, of the growth and supremacy of the kingdom, when that judgment is executed. This, and not grace, is the first act of the stone, which is, therefore, altogether unfulfilled. Necessarily, then, the Kingdom as here portrayed, belongs to the future. The image, down to the toes, was already formed before the stone fell on them, and destroyed the entire statue, after which it expands and fills all the earth. It is as kingdoms rebellious against the God who ordained them that the vision has everything to do with; and the stone has nothing to say to them pregnating and pervading with a religious character, but to supplanting and sweeping powers off the face of the earth, that the kingdom of God in Christ may become paramount. Christianity is not the point here, nor Christendom, as in Matt. 13, but the judgment of Gentile imperial power by God's kingdom in Christ, which thereon spreads over the earth as the waters cover the sea. It is not a mere difference of prosperity or extent, but of character as contrasted as judgment with grace — of administration as different as Jesus displayed in power and glory is from that same Jesus hid in God. The weapons are wholly new, the change of dispensation complete.
Dan. 7 is substantially similar. The kingdom of the Son of Man over all people, nations, and languages, is after the fourth beast is destroyed in consequence of the blasphemies of the little horn. Dr. B. misquotes v. 25, which means that the times and laws (not the saints) are given into the hands of the little horn. But this is the error of most divines. What has this to do with "the kingdom of grace," so called? Is it not divine judgment in the strictest sense — not the eternal judgment of the dead before the great white throne of Rev. 20, but that of Rev. 19? It is an absurd begging of the question, and even opposition to the plainest Scripture, to ask "who does not see that this has nothing to do with the second personal advent of Christ" (p. 329)? Dr. B. is quite right in joining Ps. 2 with this scene; but does he really believe that Christ's breaking the nations with a rod of iron, and dashing them in pieces like a potter's vessel, is the kingdom of grace, and not the execution of judgment on the quick? Does he want us to believe that grace and judgment, even to consigning the beast and the false prophet to the lake of fire, are the same thing, and not irreconcilably opposite? Now the Lord works by the Holy Ghost through the Gospel on souls; then He will destroy nations. Is this no change of constitution, form, or dispensation, but merely its latent energies set free, and its internal resources developed, for the benediction of a miserable world? Can (de)lusion be more complete or plain? Destruction of earthly power, according to this teaching, is the full blow of heavenly grace.
The whole is there from the first, not a new element is added. Expansion and development, growth and maturity are all the difference (p. 332). Postmillennialism has its "development," no less than Popery.
It is not correct that Dan. 7:26, any more than 2 Thess. 2:8, intimates the gradual nature of the destruction to fall on the Lord's enemies. It means that the effect of the judgment will be thorough, not a slow process, nor repeated acts of vengeance. And to insinuate that an outpouring of wrath from above on the gathered hosts of the west is "carnal warfare" is to my mind bolder than becomes a man with God's word.
Ben Ezra (i.e., Lacunza) seems to think almost all interpreters of Scripture regard the prophecy of the little stone as fully accomplished in Christ's incarnation and cross, and the mountain in the Christian Church (vol. I, pp. 146-147). But this is not so. Probably most Latins follow Jerome, who was himself led away by Origen's allegorizing; and beyond doubt a more decidedly non-natural explanation can hardly be conceived. But Hippolytus applies the fall of the stone to Christ's judgment at his second advent; and so does even Theodoret (in Dan. c. ii.). The latter reasons elaborately against the supposition that the fifth empire is in progress.
But if they say that the former presence of the Lord is signified by these words, let them show the empire of the Romans destroyed immediately after the appearing of our Savior; for quite contrariwise, one may find it in full vigour, not subverted, at the birth of the Savior. . . If, therefore, that former event, the Lord's nativity, did not destroy the Roman empire, it remains that we should understand His second appearing. There appears to be some confusion in what follows from the good Bishop of Cyrus; for it is evident that the expansion of the stone into a mountain that filled the whole earth was after the execution of judgment on the Roman empire in its final divided state. Crushing, and destroying, too, not saving, is the character of the stone's action from the first, as here depicted; and that is not grace, but judgment. To call judgment "carnal" is a sin as well as an error.
Rom. 8:19-25 clearly leads us to the same conclusion. It is a question neither of this age nor of eternity, but of the intervening millennium. Preaching, profession, or even the real faith of saints, will not deliver the creature from that vanity to which it has been made subject since the fall. The outpouring of the Pentecostal Spirit left it as a whole groaning and travailing in pain together as before. Even the Christians who have the first fruits of the Spirit groan as they wait, not for more of the same kind to meet their need, but for the redemption of the body, when the longing of the creature shall be gratified with the revelation of the sons of God; thereon follows its own deliverance from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. We, a new creation in Christ, stand in the liberty of grace now; then the creature itself, the still captive earth, shall enjoy the liberty of glory. How will this be brought about? If the deliverance of the creature depends on the manifestation of God's sons, the answer is certain. It is not in this age; for, all through, our life is hid with Christ in God. It cannot be in eternity; for this will not be till 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. It is between the two, as we have said already. "When Christ our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear in glory." Then and thus shall the millennium be brought about.
"Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? . . . Know ye not that we shall judge angels?" (1 Cor. 6). Assuredly this, too, can only refer to the millennium, not to the present time, nor to eternity. Not to the present; because we are called to suffer now, not to reign. Not to eternity; because there will be no world to judge then. "The Kingdom," i.e., the special kingdom, whether of Christ or of those who, having suffered with Him, shall also reign together with Him, will have terminated; though in another sense all saints, millennial or ante-millennial, shall for ever reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.
Again, God has made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure, which He hath purposed in Himself for the administration of the fullness of the time. And what is this purpose of His? To gather together (or head up) in one all things in Christ, both those in heaven and those in earth; in Him in whom we have also obtained an inheritance (Eph. 1:9-11). This is millennial, and as distinctly marked off from the present time as from eternity. The eternal state will be no such display of Christ's headship, with His associated bride over all things, but the delivery to the Father of that displayed supremacy, that God — Father, Son, and Holy Ghost — may be all in all. And as to the present, what can be in more evident contrast, whether in good or evil? Judaism, Heathenism, Mohametanism, Popery, sectarianism, worldliness, ritualism, rationalism, rampant in Christendom: is all this God's purpose? Is this the heading up of all things in Christ? Even if we look only at that which is good, it is a good of quite another complexion and aim; for God is now gathering out a people for His name, forming His elect from Jews and Gentiles into one body, not gathering all the universe under the headship of Christ. Clearly, therefore, as it falls in with the characteristics neither of this age nor of eternity, the Scripture cited must refer to the blessed millennial days, when Jehovah-Jesus shall be not only king over all the earth, but head of all things heavenly and earthly, the Church being united and reigning over all with Him.
Observe, too, that the Epistle to the Hebrews speaks both of the time and of the sphere of the millennium as "to come," and manifestly is the mark of distinction both from the present and from eternity. For the inspired writer designates the miraculous displays which were signs to unbelievers in the earthly days of the Gospel, as "powers of the age to come," i.e., partial testimonies of that energy which will characterize the future age, when Jehovah shall not more truly forgive all iniquities than heal all diseases, and the creature shall be set free and joyful (Ps. 96-97), instead of groaning in bondage as now. And as this is a defined future age (μέλλων αἰῶν) so the theater of it is designated in Heb. 2:5, the world, or the habitable earth to come (ἡἀἰκουμένη ἡ μέλλουσα), a description which, as it is expressly not the present, so it is inapplicable to eternity. It is not heaven but the earth, and the earth not dissolved but placed under the rule of the glorified Son of Man, when all things shall be seen to be put under Him.
Another remark, too, it may be well to make, that of the three Scriptures which speak of universal blessedness and glory for the earth, none connects it with the preached Gospel, all with divine judgment. Thus in Num. 14:21 is the first mention of this purpose of the Lord, after Israel had betrayed the apostasy of their hearts, when the Lord pardoned according to the intercession of Moses, but pronounced judgment on all that provoked Him by their unbelief. A remnant was saved then, and so it will be at the end of this age. Isa. 11 is the second, where the picture of millennial blessedness; and in this the earth is full of the knowledge of Jehovah, is prefaced by the Lord smiting the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips slaying the wicked. The judicial act (by Christ) the Apostle Paul (2 Thess. 2:8) explains to be the manifestation of Christ's presence, which does not convert sinners but destroys the man of sin, in order to His millennial reign. The third and last case is Hab. 2:14, where it is evident that the filling of the earth with the knowledge of Jehovah's glory is in no way the fruit of people labouring for love or vanity, but of God's mighty intervention for His own glory, when the proud head of nations shall be brought to nought.
Thus all is uniform in Scripture, and as no passage attributes the great change for the world to that which is now entrusted to man, so all Scripture show that the saints will be taken to heaven, that men on earth will be judged, and that the days of heaven on earth will follow to the praise of the Lord alone.
Part 2, Chapter 4
Millennial Revival of Jewish Peculiarities
It is thought strange that any Christians should agree with Jews in their views of Old Testament prophecies, and look for a rebuilt temple, a re-established priesthood, restored sacrifices, and an Israelitish supremacy. But Dr. Brown misstates both Scripture and ecclesiastical history in his zeal against such convictions.
What our risen Lord corrected (Acts 1) was not the expectation of the restoration of the kingdom to Israel, but the expectation of it "at this time." Rather does He confirm the apostles in it, while intimating that it was not theirs to know times and seasons which the Father put in His own power. That element was not expelled from their minds wholly or in part, but shown to be reserved in the Father's hands. Another work was about to proceed, not Israelitish supremacy yet, but a witness to the dead and risen Jesus in the power of the Spirit both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Their error was not so much in the thing itself as in the time, just as on the last journey He added a parable because He was near Jerusalem, and they thought the king would immediately appear. The parable, then, like the answer before the ascension, corrects their haste, but maintains instead of combating their expectancy of the kingdom. "He said, therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return." Then we have the immediate work, not the kingdom received, and his return; but the servants entrusted with the money began then to trade with it meanwhile till he came. And lastly he comes back, having received the kingdom. They were only premature, not wholly wrong, and the Lord did not set aside, but only postponed the expectation derived from the prophets, which He never denied, though He did reveal what would intervene between His glory on high and His return. The popular view of Christendom, as usual, is ignorance, even of the New Testament, which it employs to set aside the hopes of the Old Testament. Again, it is quite incorrect that any question of restoring the kingdom to Israel agitated the saints in Galatia or at Colosse. It was a wholly contrary principle, and decidedly akin to the ordinary view of Christendom, viz., bringing Christians now under the law or Jewish ordinances. To hold fast Jewish expectations for Israel to be restored at Christ's second advent is a main means of preserving Christianity distinct and uncontaminated by Judaism; and thus the apostle ever fought against those who would Judaize now. The heresies of Cerinthus or others who grossly Judaized in early days were the result of carrying out these errors to the full. None of them held Christianity pure and simple for the church now, the restored kingdom for Israel by and by, but jumbled all together to the degradation of our own position and hopes, and the defrauding of Israel; and Christendom, in general, is fallen into the same error in principle, though less offensively in form, and with better views (thank God) of Christ and His work. Even the orthodox premillennialists of the second and third centuries missed heavenly truth, as they failed to see the future restoration of Israel to their land, and the promises then to be accomplished in them nationally. The overwhelming majority of Christians (or at least of professing Christians) rejects not only premillennialism but the restoration of Israel to their land, as to which Dr. B., strange to say, agrees with us against the mass alike of ancients and moderns.
There is no ground to expect new revelations, but the fulfillment of old prophecies is another matter. According to these predictions, the world to come will be blessed under Messiah and the new covenant. Christians will then be on high, and the gospel, as it is or ought to be now preached, will have done its work here below. Where lies the difficulty? It is hard to see. That all nations shall flow to the religious center of the millennial age, the mountain of Jehovah's house in Jerusalem, that the Canaanites shall no more be in His house, that no uncircumcised stranger shall enter into His sanctuary, are all true and consistent. So in Mal. 1:11, Jehovah's name shall be great among the Gentiles, etc. If they contradict each other, to take them figuratively would not really reconcile them; but there is no discrepancy whatever. Objections of this sort are hardly better than cavil, which, even if we could not solve them at all, cannot and ought not to bring to nought the overwhelming force of the positive evidence.
Part 2, Chapters 5 and 6
Millennial Coexistence of Earthly and Heavenly Things
The great defect of Dr. Brown's reasoning here, as elsewhere, is the assumption that things are to abide essentially as they are now till the eternal state closes the present. This is unequivocally to ignore Scripture, which speaks of the age to come in contradistinction to that which now is, as of course before eternity. It is in vain to take advantage of those who ignorantly mix up the heavenly and the earthly, and to break forth into the exaggerated cry — "What a mongrel state! What an abhorred mixture of things totally inconsistent with each other!" The millennium differs from all that has been. The transfiguration was but a partial and passing sample. Jos. Perry's desertion of his friends for the opposite view here will avail little against Scripture. Take John 17:22-23, and compare with it Eph. 1:10-12, and Rev. 21:9-27. Are not the glorified saints, made perfect in one, to be a proof to the world that the Father sent the Son, and loved the saints as He loved Christ? How deny it when they appear in the same glory? In what condition will "the world" be? Is not this the display of the glorified to men in flesh? And when can this be save in the millennium? Will there be "the world" in the eternal state to know anything of the sort?
The effort to make the Millennium a mere extension of present blessing, more converts, etc., with "not one(!)" element in it that has not been already realized, needs no refutation to those who accept what has been before us. The question is not one of salvation but of God's ways in the government of the world. The end of the age is when the Son of Man takes (not, gives up) the kingdom, and, having received it, returns. He will then judge the habitable earth, Acts 17), as He will judge the dead before He gives up the kingdom.
Eph. 2:14-19, and John 4:21-23 apply solely to Christians now since redemption, and neither to believers before Christ, nor to those of the Millennium. Isa. 2:2-3, Micah 4, and Zech. 14 are equally explicit as to a wholly different order, accompanied by marks which are certainly not seen under Christianity. When the prophets are fulfilled, Christ will be judging among the peoples, not as now gathering out a people for His name by the gospel; and nations shall learn war no more; and Israel shall be restored to their land, and the Gentiles shall be thoroughly humbled. You cannot safely Christianize Judaism any more than Judaize Christianity. Distinguish this age from that which is to come, as Scripture does, and those objections vanish; confound them, and you have the main source of Christendom's ruin, and the chief mischief of Dr. Brown's work, because it denies the distinction, place, and responsibility, both of the Christian now, and of the Jew by-and-by.
One evident consequence is, that those who deny the revival of Jewish pre-eminence in the millennium find themselves hopelessly dumb in presence of such scriptures as the closing chapters of Ezekiel; and the efforts after the figurative makes the late Duke of Manchester the ally, so far, of Dr. Brown, blending thus in one vague company the upholders and the deniers of Israel's national hope. Such is the effect of error. The strongest evidence has been already adduced to prove that the condition which the prophet depicts is the most striking contrast with the Christian state. If it was only the absence of Pentecost, when the feasts shall be once more celebrated by restored Israel, how distinctive of their future, as compared with their past (or with our present) of which that feast is the standing type!
Part 2, Chapter 7
Millennial Binding of Satan
This popular scheme not only eliminates the presence of the Lord from the coming age, but explains away the exclusion of Satan. It is asked, If the expectation of an entire cessation of Satanic influence be indeed Scriptural, how came it to pass that no mention is made of it — not so much as a hint given of it in all Scripture, but in this solitary passage (Rev. 21:3, 7), in a book, the import of whose symbols has divided the Church to this day. I answer, first, that the unbelief seems to me deplorable which would reject a truth if it be but clearly revealed in this book of Scripture; and there are as plain revelations here as in any other part of the Bible, as is manifest from the hold which numerous portions take of the simplest believers throughout Christendom. But, secondly, it is a mistake that no hint is given elsewhere of the same truth.
Isa. 24:26 declares the humiliation in the day of Jehovah, which awaits the powers that govern men, both unseen and seen. He shall punish the host of the high ones on high, and the kings of the earth on the earth (for this is the true sense, which the authorized version obscures and enfeebles). The next verse intimates that it is not their final judgment, but a setting aside from their mischievous influence "in that day," after which they shall be dealt with (and as we know from the Revelation, not for a limited time, but for eternity). "And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited." Thus all are in due season and place. The Jewish prophet reveals what was bound up with the deliverance of earth and Israel with the nations. The final Christian prophecy lets us into the link of the future age with eternity. Even Dr. B. confesses as perfectly possible that the general idea expressed by Isaiah is symbolically developed by St. John. It is a superficial thought that this is no part of the putting aside of Satan's power, or a shift to which he who believes it is reduced.
Isa. 27:1 may be compared, "In that day the LORD, with his sore, and great, and strong sword, shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea." Granted that the language is figurative; but what do the figures mean but the destruction of Satan's power among men in a way quite unprecedented? Only, of course, the latest revelation must be heard, explaining the figures supplied in the earlier communication.
It is only the New Testament, which, revealing the Trinity, also develops the truth as to the world, the flesh, and the devil. In the Old Testament the full character of them is comparatively in the dark. Nevertheless enough is revealed from the first to indicate their presence and action, though not yet detected as they were when Christ manifested them in the power of His Spirit. The Old Testament shows him (save in the earliest temptation, as the Serpent) rather as an adversary, an accuser in nature, etc. (1 Chron. 21; Job 1, 2; Ps. 109; Zech. 3). The New Testament shows this enemy as the Prince of the power of the air, and lord of this world, and everywhere supposes their approaching downfall. "Art thou come to destroy us?" says the man with an unclean spirit (Mark 1). "Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?" say the two demoniacs from the country of the Gergesenes (Matt. 8). "And they besought him (says Luke 8:31) that he would not command them to go out into the deep" (τὴν ἄβυσσου, the bottomless pit). The time was not yet come; but the demons had the presentiment before them. The word of God had sentenced them long ago. Christianity, as such, had yet to be brought in; and in appearance Satan acquired greater power than ever by the death of Him who in that death really broke his power in God's sight, however slowly and by stages the results of the victory may be manifested among men, and against the powers of evil. But Rom. 16 declared that the God of peace would bruise Satan under the feet of the saints shortly. That this does not take in each stage of his defeat, but only the final act, is more than any man should say. The casting out of demons by the disciples was to our Lord the keynote of the last triumphal song (Luke 10:17-19). But Eph. 6:12 is explicit that, whatever the victory before God which faith even now knows in the cross (Heb. 2:14), the Christian has still to struggle against principalities, against powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual [hosts] of wickedness in the heavenlies. Other allusions in the Epistles are familiar. And most appropriately, in the last book of the New Testament, which presents the windup of time and the eternal scene, the Spirit indicates the successive applications of power to the overthrow of the devil. First, he and his angels are cast down from heaven to earth — not by spiritual energy of faith in the heart, but by angelic ministration (Rev. 12). Next, he is effectually shut out, even from the earth, in the abyss, or bottomless pit, by angelic power, just before the millennium (Rev. 20:1-3). Lastly, though allowed for a short space to emerge after the thousand years, and to deceive the nations then living in the four corners of the earth, it is but the eve of his final and everlasting perdition; for he is thereon cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where there is but torment unceasingly, and whence no being ever escapes (Rev. 20:10).
How do people meet this distinct testimony of God? On the plea that, as the fall of Satan in Rev. 12 meant paganism losing its influence in the Roman empire under Constantine, so the binding of Satan in the abyss for a thousand years meant the cause of Christ carrying it everywhere, and the Church never permitting the devil to gain an inch of ground over the world for that time (Brown, pp. 379-386). The grand mistake which vitiates the popular theory is that the work of grace is made everything, and thus the Scriptures that speak of the divine government of the world in the millennium are confounded with those that relate to the salvation of souls — the coming age, with this age. It is not meant that God will cease to save man by grace on earth during the millennium; but the distinctive character and prime object of that age will be, not the gathering God's children into one by the Spirit sent down from heaven, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, but divine power displayed in the Son of man's putting down Satan, and reigning over the earth till all be subjected to Him, after which He surrenders the kingdom, that God may be all in all throughout eternity.
The principles Dr. B. here lays down are mistaken, and his reasoning of no force. He argues from 1 John 3:8-16, Heb. 2:14-15, and Rom. 16:20, that Satan's presence and action are inseparately connected with man in his fallen state — consequently, as Hengstenberg puts it, that death, sin, and Satan reign during the thousand years! Certainly the apostles, as well as the prophet Isaiah (11, 32, 35, 36) have taken pains to teach us the very reverse — the prophet dwelling on earthly things, the apostles chiefly on the heavenly side.
I do not deny analogies to the past and present in the Apocalyptic visions; but the moment you insist on the punctual fulfillment of such a prophecy as Rev. 12 in the Christianizing the empire under Constantine, the failure becomes manifest. It was not the spiritual victory of the saints, but Michael and his angels, that ejected the dragon and his angels from heaven. The brethren overcame him thus, while he was not cast down, and this is the warfare the Christian has to wage (Eph. 6). But a quite different war casts him out of heaven, not saints by faith, but angelic, by virtue of divine power, exercised judicially. When Rev. 12:8-9 is accomplished, the Christian warfare will have no more place here than Satan and his angels will have place on high. A total change will have occurred, and another testimony will be in progress on earth, Christians having been caught up on high. It would have been a strange issue of Constantine's victory that the woman (who in this scheme means the Church) should thereon flee into the wilderness to escape the enemy's rage. We could better understand triumph than flight, and that the high place, rather than the wilderness, should protect the people of God, as the fruit of such a victory, if here intended. It was a singular crisis to bring persecution on the woman when the Gospel had triumphed over Satan in his pagan tools. Dr. B. speaks of error flying before the truth; but his text shows us the woman flying from the face of the serpent. Is this the interpretation of Rev. 12 which is to inspire confidence in his view of Rev. 20?
Part 2: Chapter 8
Millennial Features and the "Little Season" that Follows
Dr. B. concedes somewhat more than the mass of postmillennialists; for he allows that the millennium will be characterized not only by the universal diffusion of revealed truth, by unlimited subjection to Christ, by universal peace, by much spiritual power and glory, by the ascendancy of truth and righteousness in human affairs, by great temporal prosperity, but by the territorial restoration of the natural Israel then converted. So far there is nothing to contest, though there is much to desire, especially as to Christ Himself. The main divergence is the answer to the question how the millennium is to be brought in. The common notion is that it will be by means at present in operation, indefinitely increased, but not, as we believe, by the appearing and personal reign of Christ, judging the quick first, and finally the dead. The difference is immense in itself and in its results. A mistake here, though not fatal to faith in Christ, confuses all truth as to the ways of God, flatters Christendom instead of warning it, and lowers Christ as unduly as it exalts the Church while it is on earth. The moral effects are thus as disastrous for the soul as the error in interpretation darkens the mind to almost every part of the Bible. Nothing more directly tends to put new wine into old skins, to the ruin of both.
It is evident also that Dr. B.'s adherence to his former convictions, in the matter of Israel's restoration nationally to their land, fits ill with his adoption of Whitby's (or the common) hypothesis. For national conversion and restoration to a particular land does not savor of the gospel any more than temporal prosperity and universal peace or mere profession of the truth. And in fact the Apostle Paul contrasts, in Rom. 11, the future destiny of Israel with their lot now, while the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles. "As touching the gospel, they [the Jews] are enemies for your sakes [i.e., the Gentiles now grafted in], but, as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes." When the fullness of the Gentiles is come in, their partial blindness will cease, and so all Israel shall be saved, not by their believing the gospel now preached and thus merging in Christianity, but by the coming of the Deliverer out of Zion, who shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. And if their casting away was the reconciling of the world [as now under the gospel], what shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead? There the Lord, "reversing all His former methods," will not merely deal with a chosen people, calling out the Church to the faith of His cross and heavenly glory, in spite of Satan seemingly more than ever paramount, but He, with His glorified saints, will come and expel the enemy, and not without judgments establish His ancient and now repentant people, filling the glad earth, which as yet groans, with the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea. All Scripture, of Old and New Testament alike, looks on to this mighty change, while it attests the faithfulness of God in the meantime, whatever the sorrow and shame through the allowed power of Satan till that day. But manifestly the distinction from the Gentile of the Jew, blessed as a nation in their own land, is precisely what cannot be under the gospel, which shows it now blotted out entirely, for God is making Jew and Gentile who believe one new man, and building them together for His habitation through the Spirit (Eph. 2). The millennium will behold wholly different conditions.
It is easy to see that almost all his proofs point to another system, not the gospel. Thus Isa. 11 supposes a divine smiting of the wicked or lawless one; and this Paul binds indissolubly with the appearing of Christ's presence, not a mere providential event in His absence (2 Thess. 2:8). So Isa. 25:7 is surrounded by divine judgment, and the resurrection of the saints (cp. 1 Cor. 15) as the circumstances and means of "that day's" deliverance. Again, Ps. 2 supposes the execution of judgment by our Lord, and (according to Rev. 2:26-27) by the glorified saints with Him. Isa. 2 is in contrast with the gospel, which goes out to all nations, not all nations flocking to Jerusalem, v. 4 being the very reverse of what the Lord declares shall be in this age till the end come (Matt. 24:7-14). So blinding is this scheme, that the gospel is regarded as "the rod of Christ's strength!" Now, if any intelligent Christian will only examine Ps. 110, he cannot but see that the first verse, Christ's session at Jehovah's right hand, is while the gospel goes forth; whereas, in Ps. 110:2, the sending forth of Christ's rod out of Zion is when the time comes to rule in the midst of His enemies, not converting them into His friends and forming them for heaven. Being a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek, He will of course be of that order then, as He is now: indeed then He will exercise it fully, and be displayed as such. But then only, and not now, He will strike through kings, because it will be the day of His wrath; whereas now it is the day of His grace, when the gospel is being preached to every creature. It is extraordinary that a sensible man should cite Isa. 64 and Zech. 14 for a similar purpose, seeing that both open with the execution of unprecedented judgments when the Lord shall come with His saints and plead with all flesh by fire and sword, and cleave Mount Olivet as the standing witness that the returning King of Israel is Jehovah the Creator. The blessing here is after this: but is the gospel?
Dr. B. thinks there will be declension in the millennium. Though there be no distinct proof, analogy is certainly in favour of the thought, which appears to be confirmed by the typical teaching in Numbers. But there is no real support of the notion that this "little season" may extend through one, two, or three centuries. However, this is so purely speculation as not to deserve further notice. But the last gathering to war of Gog and Magog has nothing in common with Luke 18 and 17:20-30, 1 Thess. 5:2-3, and 2 Peter 3:3-4. Good and evil are entirely apart in Rev. 20, whereas in the other passages they are mingled as now till judgment falls. Nor is there any coming of Christ in their case; but "that day" spans over the millennium and the space beyond, so as to embrace all judgment of quick and dead within the kingdom. There is no coming for the great white throne, because the Lord had come to reign more than a thousand years before. All the dead who had not shared in the first resurrection go and stand before Him to be judged according to their works, and are accordingly consigned to the lake of fire. On the other hand, the righteous enjoy the new heavens and new earth for ever, reigning in life by one, Jesus Christ, spite of the surrender of the kingdom to God as we are told in 1 Cor. 15:24.
Objections: 2 Thess. 2:1-8.
An effort is made to parry this witness, which the late M. Faber, followed by Dr. B., regard, as in their judgment, "the only apparent evidence for the premillennial advent." The statement of the case is very inexact. It is not true that what excited and unsettled the Thessalonians was the time of Christ's second personal advent, but the false representation that the day of the Lord was come ένἐστηκεν. Nor is the express subject of discourse the second personal "coming" of our Lord, but a disproof of the error about the "day" which had alarmed them.
The apostle beseeches them, by a motive drawn from their bright hope of Christ's presence and their gathering to Him, not to be shaken by the rumor about the day of the Lord. Then he proceeds to show the impossibility of that day arriving before the well-known apostasy was developed, and the manifestation of the man of sin, which evils are to be judged in the day of the Lord. The παρουσία and the ἡμέρα of the Lord are not only not identified as by Dr. B., but they are in contradistinction; for the former is used as a comfort to the Thessalonians, as well as a disproof of the rumor that the terrible day of the Lord was then present. The Thessalonians were persuaded by some (and the authority of a letter of the apostle was falsely alleged in support of it), that the day of the Lord was (not at hand or imminent, but) arrived, as pointed out in an early part of this book. They, teachers and taught, must have meant some such figurative sense as Dr. B. contends for; and there is no doubt that the Old Testament not infrequently uses the phrase in this way, as for Babylon, Egypt, etc., an earnest, it would seem, of its full force at the end of the age.
Now the apostle meets the error by showing them in 2 Thess. 1 that the day is not figurative but a real personal revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with His mighty angels, taking vengeance in flaming fire on them that know not God, and on them that obey not the gospel. It is not His party triumphing by the gospel, nor a political overthrow of their adversaries, but a solemn retribution — to the troubled saints "rest with us," and to the troublers tribulation. Then he assumes their remembrance of his first epistle, in which he had taught them both about the presence of the Lord to translate the saints to Himself on high, and about the day of the Lord with its sudden blow on the careless world. Hence he beseeches them by that joyful hope, not to be troubled by the pretended revelation that the day of the Lord was there; for this (not the presence of the Lord) could not be till the ripening of the predicted horrors which that day is to avenge. When the Lord does appear, the saints appear with Him, instead of being then caught up to Him. Hence the apostle discriminates, and as he was inspired to connect our gathering together to the Lord with His presence, so he links the judgment of the man of sin with the manifestation of His presence. Compare 2 Thess. 2:1 with v. 8. The result is, then, that while all agree that the presence of the Lord in v. 1 is personal, v. 8, far from being some previous and preparatory figure, is a subsequent state of His advent, and means, not merely His presence in order to gather to Himself above those who look for Him, but the appearing or epiphany of His presence, when He destroys the lawless enemy or Antichrist of the last days of this age. Nowhere does Daniel attribute his destruction to the church, nor does any Scripture attribute it to the truth, as Dr. B. alleges without the smallest reason.
Matt. 24:29-31. The assertion is, that the direct and primary sense of the prophecy is Christ's coming in judgment against Jerusalem; and that this is decided by v. 34. I ask Dr. B. to compare with this Luke 21, where he will see that the Lord, as there represented, brings in the times of the Gentiles not yet run out after the destruction by the Romans, and His own advent after those times, and not till then says, This generation shall not pass away till all be fulfilled. Will any man stand to such a sense of the prophecy, and to claim for it our Lord's decision? Joel 2 refers to the same great event, but, though accomplished in part, it is not fulfilled yet any more than Mal. 4.
Rev. 19:11-21 (pp. 442-446). Dr. B. thinks the "detail" is the very thing which proves! it not to be the personal coming of Christ, and contrasts the passage with Matt. 16:27; Heb. 9:28; 2 Thess. 1; Col. 3; Titus 2; and even Rev. 1. Can reasoning be less solid? Doctrinal use or allusion in a few words proves that a prophetic book cannot mean the greatest event of prophecy, because this gives details, the other texts not! Where could detail be revealed with such propriety as in Rev., and surely in the visions rather than in the mere preface of the book? It is in vain, I would add, to found an argument on ηροσώπου (Rev. 20:11), as if it involved the idea of Christ's presence then. The word which would warrant such an inference would be παρουσία. "From whose face" applies wherever Christ may be, whether He come again to the earth, or the earth and the heaven flee away from before Him as is expressly said in this very clause. It remains then that postmillennialism is a dream, and that Christ's appearing is blotted out from Rev. 19 where God reveals it, and put in where the nature of the case (Rev. 20:11) excludes it. Can there be more palpable insubjection to scripture or love of a tradition that makes void the word of God? Matt. 25:31-36, with which the close of Rev. 20 is identified, is exclusively a judgment of the living nations when He comes again; Rev. 20:11-15 is the final judgment of the dead who did not rise to reign with Christ. Can contrast be more definite and certain?
Rev. 5:10. Dr. B. understands the future reign on (or over) the earth as relating to the ultimate triumphs of Christ's cause upon earth during the present state (the vicious thought that everywhere pervades his book), more than to the glorified condition of the saints (pp. 446-447). Is refutation called for? The passage proves that not even the redeemed in heaven are yet (at the point of the Apocalypse referred to) reigning over the earth. They are to reign with Christ, as all scripture shows; and this, as the book elsewhere proves, is the result of His coming when they are risen, and He has received the kingdom. A triumph of the church on earth during the present state is contrary to scripture. The apostasy, not a reign of Christendom, and then the man of sin revealed, precede His presence in judgment or the day of the Lord.
Matt. 19:28. No wonder Dr. B. does not object to vague and incorrect statements of the case which confound the millennium with the eternal state of which Rev. 21:5 treats. But a little consideration suffices to demonstrate that the fulfillment of the Lord's assurance to the apostles is in "the kingdom," in the millennial age, and neither before nor after it. For "the regeneration" is expressly said to be when the Son of man shall sit on His throne of glory. Now assuredly this is when He comes, not before the second advent, nor when heaven and earth flee away before His face as He sits on a wholly different throne, the great white throne for judging the dead (not the twelve tribes of Israel). There are none said to be assessors with Christ in that eternal judgment of the dead. Not even Dr. B. contends that "the regeneration" is a picture applicable during the present state, when Christ is not come but seated on His Father's throne (Rev. 3:21): will he argue that during the eternal state there can be an apostolic royal judgment of the twelve tribes of Israel? If it be neither, the millennium is the sole alternative that remains; and if it be so, in what condition but a glorified one can the apostles thus judge Israel? Or are the judges and the judged to be both explained away?
Heb. 4:9, the Sabbath-keeping of glory is the last objection Dr. B. discusses at length. I have no care to interpose on behalf of the seventh millenary as the sabbatism of the apostle; but the notion of Calvin, which Dr. B. endorses, that it is a question of the present rest, which is the portion of believers in Jesus, seems to me clean contrary to the scope of the chapter. We are called to fear and to labor now; we are in the wilderness still, and are only on our way to the rest of God. We who have believed enter, but we are not yet entered into the rest. We have already entered into rest in Jesus, as to which we do not fear, nor do we labor. But we do fear settling down when we ought to be marching on, lest, a promise being left of entering into God's rest (i.e. in glory), any of us should seem to have come short of it. It is not time yet for the believer to rest from his works, but to use diligence to enter into that blessed rest, which is not arrived but remains, for the people of God. Postmillennialism, here as everywhere hinders intelligence of the scriptures.
My task is closed. I believe I have answered fairly and conclusively, if scripture be really our standard, the arguments of Dr. Brown. How far the answer is satisfactory to him or to those who share the popular view of a postmillennial advent of Christ must rest with their consciences now. The day hastens which will declare the truth to all who have not already ascertained it with certainty from the word of God. May He bless by the power of His spirit His own revelation to the praise of the name of Jesus.
3 a. Christ's Second Coming: Will it be Premillennial? By the Rev. David Brown, D.D., St. James's Free Church, Glasgow. Fourth Edition. Edinburgh: Johnstone and Hunter, 1856.
b. Outlines of Unfulfilled Prophecy; being an enquiry into the Scripture testimony respecting the “good things to come. By the Rev. T. R. Birks, M. A, rector of Kelshall. Seeleys, 1854.
c. Simples Essais sur des sujets prophetiques. Par W. Trotter, Tomes I. II. Paris: Grassart, 1855-56.
4 We speak solely of the application of the term to the body of Christ. For the New Testament employs __ in reference to at least two other subjects: one, the assembly at Ephesus, Acts 19:32, 39, 40; the other, the congregation of Israel in the wilderness, Acts 7:38, which is in our version, rendered “church in the wilderness.” “Congregation” would evidently be better, as “church” here is calculated to mislead; for there is no question of a body baptized by the Holy Ghost. A similar remark, perhaps, applies also to Heb. 12:23.
5 The following observations from Bishop Pearson may be helpful to some, though a few thoughts and words are open to exception.
Again, being [seeing] though Christ was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, and whosoever from the beginning pleased God, were saved by His blood: yet because there was a vast difference between the several dispensations of the law and gospel, because, our Savior speaks expressly of building Himself a church when the Jewish synagogue was about to fail, because Catholicism, which is here attributed unto the church, must be understood in opposition to the legal singularity of the Jewish nation, because the ancient fathers were generally wont to distinguish between the synagogue and the church, therefore I think it necessary to restrain this motion to Christianity. Thirdly, therefore, I observe that the only way to attain unto this knowledge of the true notion of the church, is to search into the New Testament, and from the places there which mention it, to conclude what is the nature of it. To which purpose it will be necessary to take notice that our Savior, first speaking of it, mentioneth it as that which then was not, but afterwards was to be; as when He speaks unto the great apostle, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church”; but when He ascended into heaven, and the Holy Ghost came down, when Peter had converted 3,000 souls, which were added to the 120 disciples, then was there a church (and that built upon Peter (but cp. 1 Cor.3:11), according to our Savior's promise); for after that we read, “The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” A church, then, our Savior promised, should be built, and by a promise made before his death; after His ascension, and upon the preaching of St. Peter, we find a church built or constituted, and that of a nature capable of a daily increase. We cannot then take a better occasion to search into the true notion of the church of Christ (God), than by looking into the origination and increase thereof, without which it is impossible to have a right conception of it. Exposition of the Creed, Art. ix., Vol. I., pp. 505, 506.
6 We believe that the first part of Rev. 21 describes the eternal state, as the sequel to the course of events and changes presented in the preceding context, and that Rev. 21:9, et seq., is a retrogressive vision in order to enter into the relation of the heavenly bride to the earth and its nations, with their kings, during the millennium. There is a striking parallel to this arrangement in the retrospective view, Rev.17, of Babylon, in relation to the kings and peoples of the earth, after her fall had been given in Rev. 14, 16 -REVIEWER.
7 We do not charge Dr. B., as some appear to have done, with making the fall of the stone to be a judgment upon a mere abstraction. On the contrary, it seems to us to be a thoroughly practical evil. Again, he has no right to limit the sphere of judgment to the Papacy. All the kingdoms of the Roman empire are judged with the little horn.
8 In a note to p. 183, Dr. B. says that though this was originally an emphatic form, it came gradually to be employed even where no emphasis was intended. Winer says it “almost uniformly” did so; and he makes this remark in connection with the passage before us.
Now we cannot say what this German scholar may have remarked in former editions, but we can affirm that, having examined his latest (sixth) edition of the Grammatik, we believe that no reference is made to the passage, much less is there an assertion so unworthy of a really learned man as is imputed to him. If W. ever committed himself to that opinion, it seems to have vanished from his most mature statements. The section 19, to which Dr. B. alludes (now at least) without reason, discusses the omission of the article under certain limitations — a subject of which Winer is by no means master. — It may be remarked here, that the late Mr. Gipps founded an argument of apparent weight and acuteness on the common text against a literal resurrection of saints before the rest are raised for judgment. The absence of _ was the gist of his reasoning. But the fact is that the sentence is not correct Greek, and hardly sense, as it stands in Text. Rec.; whereas the oldest and best authorities, for , read _ _ . Had Mr. G. known this, he would have felt that his main objection was gone — nay, that the clause told strongly against him. “If,” says he, “Phil. 3:11 had been meant to express the rising from the dead, the preposition _ in composition with __ would have been repeated” (p. 85, note). It is repeated according to the latest critics, Scholz, Lachmann, and Tischendorf, none of whom sympathizes with premillennialism. The ancient MSS. A, B, (C is here defective), D, E read _ _. F, G, give _ which is evidently a slip for _ _., and this again was, probably, the parent of without _ in J, K and the cursive manuscripts which follow them. The best versions and fathers confirm the reading from the dead. The currency which the common reading once had says little for the accuracy of copyists, editors, and commentators.
9 It is attempted by the help of Augustine (De Civ. Dei. XX. xxiii. 2), Calvin, and others, to maintain a strict parallel between this text and John 5:28, 29. But it is not true that “many” is equivalent to “all.” The chief witness called by most is the alleged interchange of these expressions in Rom. 5:18, 19. But we deny the fact even there; for in the latter verse _ is employed in relation to _ _ (the mass connected with the one), and in the former there is no such relation expressed; and the idea is the universal bearing of one offence and of one righteousness respectively, not the actual effect which follows in the next verse, where, accordingly, the phrase is altered. Moreover, “many” is not the same thing as “the many”: they are very particularly and frequently distinguished in Daniel. Compare, for the former, Dan. 11:34,44; 12:2,4,10; and, for the latter, Dan. 9:27; 11:33,39; 12:3. Marckius' reply to Cocceius, which identifies them, is therefore unfounded, and even Dr. B. “now greatly doubts it.” And it is evident that he has little confidence in the explanation of Munster and Clarius, who suppose that the change of the living righteous is hinted at in the word “many.” The truth is that, on no view, premillennial or postmillennial, can our text be applied to a literal resurrection consistently with other scriptures or with the context. We have no doubt, therefore, that it refers to God's revival of Israel, both nationally and spiritually, and with the open judgment of the wicked among them, after the destruction of the last king of the North (“the Assyrian,” so often predicted in the prophets). Dan. 11 had already spoken of the Jews in the Land up to their closing troubles and deliverance for the elect. Dan. 12:2 shows us the reappearance on the scene of “many” long slumbering among the Gentiles. They had been “asleep” when movements of the deepest interest had been going on in the land and people of the Jews. Now they “awake”; but, as among the Jews in Palestine, not a few were apostate and cut off by God, and only such were delivered out of their last time of unparalleled tribulation as were “written in the book”; so of these returned Israelites, some are found destined to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. For they are not all Israel which are of Israel. We doubt not that, though employed figuratively, as often in the Psalms and Prophets, the language presupposes the known truth of a bodily resurrection, and this of just and unjust. It is possible that John 5 may allude to the passage, but that would not prove the literality of Dan. 12:2. It is much more certain that itself alludes to Isa. 26:19, which Dr. B. correctly refers to the figurative resurrection of Israel (pp. 234, 235). The language is at least equally strong in both, and the resemblance striking and undeniable. “Thy dead shall live, my dead body shall they arise. Awake, and sing (the prophet addressing them), ye that dwell in dust,” etc. Ezek. 37 is, if possible, stronger than Dan. 12. “Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.” Beyond a doubt, not a physical but a figurative resurrection is here meant, just as in Daniel. It is the only interpretation which meets all the conditions of the text and context, and it is entirely free from the inseparable difficulties which encumber the use made of it by many on both sides.
10 At the time of the judgment in Matthew the fire is said simply to be prepared for the devil and his angels; whereas before the great white throne judgment the devil is cast into the lake of fire, where the Beast and False Prophet had been long previously.