A Review of the Late Bishop of Lincoln's Two Lectures, 1875.
The Bible Treasury, New Series, vol. 1, p. 252.
Having examined fully Bp. Hall's Revelation Unrevealed, let me now test Dr. Chr. Wordsworth's Two Lectures. But it is important to remark that the term "Millennium" tends to narrow unduly the scriptural evidence. Rev. 20 is undoubtedly the ground for defining the time. This, however important in its place (and it is just the place for it), is quite subordinate. The doctrine of a displayed kingdom, which the Lord Jesus is to establish in power and glory over all the earth and all the nations, with Israel and hence Jerusalem as His center here below, is revealed in the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets; it reappears in the Gospels, and is dogmatically laid down in the Epistles, which assure us who now believe of "some better thing." For we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies with (in is the correct word) Christ (Eph. 1:3) already exalted there at God's right hand. But this only helps those who search the scriptures, to the quite distinct truth of the first dominion, the kingdom, coming to the daughter of Zion, as Micah says with a crowd of others, when the Judge of Israel is no longer rejected by her as now, but owned as Lord in His eternal majesty. The proofs will be given abundantly from the Bible throughout. How long this kingdom will last is defined in Rev. 20:4; but the general truth has the amplest evidence.
The doctrine imputed to those who assuredly believe in the Millennium, p. 2, is stated incorrectly. "The first resurrection" includes the general mass of the risen saints, as given in the opening clause of Rev. 20:4:
And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to them. These were the armies which were in heaven and followed the Faithful and True when He comes forth to execute judgment (Rev. 19:11-16), clad in white pure fine linen or byssus, expressly explained in v. 8 as the righteousnesses of saints (cf. Rev. 17:14). They were already risen and glorified like their Master. Not so the two classes that follow which were till now in the disembodied state. Therefore we read at this point, "and the souls of those beheaded on account of the testimony of Jesus and on account of the word of God": a description exactly answering to the early martyrs of the Apocalyptic prophecy (Rev. 6:9), who cried for vindication, and to whom it was said, "that they should rest yet for a time (i.e. in the separate condition) till both their fellow-servants and their brethren, who were about to be killed as they, should be fulfilled" (v. 11). Here accordingly, and connected especially with these sufferers, we find the later martyrs of the prophecy, "and those who [with a different construction to mark the distinct classes] did not homage to the beast nor to his image, and received not the mark on their forehead and hand," of whom we read in Rev. 13, 14, 15.
As to all this the late Bp. was as unenlightened as Bps. Andrewes and Hall, or the ancient expositors who misled them. Neither Andreas nor Arethas, nor Primasius nor Bede, any more than Origen or Eusebius, Augustine or Jerome, understood the scope of the Revelation or the prophetic word in general. Nor did the Reformers any better, Luther, etc., Calvin, etc.; nor the Anglicans, nor the Presbyterians of Great Britain. The early ecclesiastical writers, whose remains we have, betray rapid and grave departure from the truth. In no subject do they manifest it more than touching the heavenly associations of the Christian and the church. They claim the Jewish hope after a mystical sort. Hence they deny that restoration of Israel to their land under the Messiah and the new covenant, which remains for the Jew in God's mercy, quite distinct from the far more glorious things reserved for us who anticipate them.
Again, risen saints do not reign "on earth," as the old Chiliasts taught (Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, Tertullian and Lactantius, etc.), but over it: an error which exposed them, both to much mistake on their own part, and to attacks of men like Dionysius of Alexandria and others who followed in his wake. Further, what deplorable ignorance to speak of Satan gathering the nations to battle, "in order to war with Christ and His church?" What is written in Rev. 20:9 is the very different statement that "they went up on the breadth of the earth, and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city." That is, the postmillennial insurrection from all quarters of the earth under Satan is to be directed against the saints, who will flock to the land that surrounds Jerusalem, and form an immense "camp" round "the beloved city"; for then indeed is Zion Hephzibah and the land Beulah. The church is not in question. It is an earthly scene. From Rev. 12 Satan has no place in heaven.
Further, Rev. 20 does not reveal "the universal judgment," but expressly the judgment of the wicked dead, small and great, raised for this purpose, set before the great White Throne, and consigned to the lake of fire which is the second death, in contrast with the righteous who shared the first resurrection and reign with Christ, more than a thousand years before that judgment. Here, Dr. W., with the theologians ancient and modern, is directly at issue with the uniform doctrine of scripture, which never teaches such a (general) judgment, but denies it for those who believe. What can be plainer than our Lord's own words in John 5:24? No doubt the A. V. disguises this fundamental truth of the gospel: for it confounds κρίσις with κατάκριμα, and hence insinuates that the believer may come into κρίσιν or "judgment," though to be saved from "condemnation". But this is to misinterpret scripture according to tradition, not to receive it from God as he revealed the truth. Even the R. V. leaves such an error without a plea.
The entire context makes the truth so plain that there is no excuse for unbelief. For the Lord shows that, founded on His person, the Son of God and Son of man, are two functions. As Son of God He gives life; as Son of man all judgment is given to Him. The veil of flesh gave occasion for man to disbelieve and dishonour Him. It is therefore as Son of man He will judge those who do not believe in Him, the Son of God. He who hears Christ's word and believes Him that sent Him has life eternal and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. For it is now an hour when the dead hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live. But the unbeliever who dishonours the Son by denying His glory, and consequently does not receive life in Him cannot escape the judgment which the Father has given to Him, that all should honour the Son even as they honour the Father. This the believer does now, and therefore has life instead of coming into judgment. He hears His word and receives God's testimony to Him Who is the true God and eternal life. Judgment is to secure the honour of the Son in those who despise and reject Him now; whereas the believer, having life eternal, lives to honour Him henceforth and for ever. They were not to wonder at this; for an hour is coming (in distinction from that which "now is") in which all that are in the tombs (it is the body therefore) shall hear His voice and shall go forth: those that produced good, unto a resurrection of life; those that did evil, unto a resurrection of judgment. Thus, if we, hear Christ's word, we know that there is no universal judgment, but, as certainly as divine truth can make it, two contrasted resurrections: the one of life for the body on behalf of those who, having life eternal in their souls, produced good things; the other of judgment, because, having refused the Son of God now Who is life, they did only evil things of their own corrupt nature. Their judgment is indeed just, as the salvation of the believer is of grace which fails not.
With the doctrine in the Gospel of John the Revelation entirely harmonizes. For in Rev. 20 we have quite clearly a resurrection of life for those who were blessed and holy, and just as plainly a resurrection for the wicked over whom the second death has power. And the Son of man is He Who, as He gave life to the saints, will judge the wicked who had no part in the first resurrection, as they existed only to dishonour Him and do those evil works which come up in that solemn and everlasting judgment.
We shall all be placed before the judgment-seat of God; and each of us shall give an account concerning himself to God (Rom. 14). We must all be manifested before the judgment-seat of Christ, that each may receive the things [done] by the body, according to what he did, whether good or evil (2 Cor. 5:10). Not a word in either scripture teaches that it will be at the same epoch, a mistake drawn from not seeing that the judgment of all the nations is of living men on the earth when the Son of man shall appear in His glory (Matt. 25:31). But these inspired declarations on the one hand carefully avoid weakening the blessed assurance that the believer is by grace exempted from judgment, which Christ bore for him on the cross that he might not bear it; while on the other there will be a complete manifestation of ourselves and of all done in the body, which takes the awful form of judgment for him who rejected Christ and His cross. Each shall give account of himself to God; but the unbeliever must suffer for his sins, because he despised the Son of God and His propitiation which alone annuls them before God.
It is really a question of honouring the Son and hearing His word, and of faith in His work as well as His person. He who receives the truth in its simplicity and fullness as God revealed it avoids the traditional error of a promiscuous or Universal Judgment; which is real heterodoxy as to the gospel, mixes up believers and unbelievers in a way abhorrent to the truth, and plunges souls into doubts and anxieties so that they are often constrained in unbelief to ask, Am I His, or am I not? Dr. W. raised the question as to Rev. 20, with too much confidence in himself and in other men; but it goes far deeper, and the true answer proves how little that able, learned, and pious man, entered into the truth of the gospel itself. But we may see a good deal more before having done with his pamphlet, of which we here notice not quite a page.
Nobody among the many writers on prophecy who have passed before me, ancient or modern, regards the Apocalypse as absolutely continuous chronologically. On the other hand no writer of worth denies that there is continuity in the main. This is quite independent of the view taken of Rev. 20, though of course it falls under the general plan. Assumption or theory cannot decide such a question but internal evidence. There are here, as in other books of the kind, landmarks given by the inspiring Spirit which no one can slight without loss. Inattention to its structure has made vain the attempt of many, of old as at this day, to elucidate its bearing as a whole yet more than in detail.
The co-ordinate hypothesis (p. 3), for instance, is evidently and utterly inapplicable to the two marked series which ran through the prophecy in what may be called its first part, Rev. 6-11. Within themselves the Seals and the Trumpets, as well as the Vials or Bowls in the second part of the book which begins with Rev. 12, bear the seal of consecutiveness on their face. What can be more absurd than to doubt, in a carefully numbered sequence, that the first is before the second, the second before the third, and so on, not in revelation only but in accomplishment? Some have been hardy enough to even question this relative order which is so natural and manifest; but their reasons are as baseless as their scheme refutes itself. The only semblance of difficulty perhaps is in the Seals; but even there, how untenable is the denial! It is the Bishop's assumption (page 4), with many another premillennial as well as postmillennial.
Upon the Epistles to the seven Churches in Asia he first of all argues; but what is said there proves nothing but limited acquaintance with the subject, and an illogical character of mind. They [the Ancient Expositors] did not imagine that the Epistles to the Asiatic churches, in the second and third chapters of the Apocalypse, are to be limited to those seven churches; but, in their opinion, they are to be applied by a figurative expansion to the Christian churches of every age and country (pp. 3, 4). This is transparently another question, distinct from the proper visions of things to come, in the book. But even here the order is not insignificant. Can anything be less reasonable than to displace their relative position or to deny that, prophetically applied, Ephesus is the first and Laodicea the last? Their "figurative expansion" perfectly consists with their order, whether historical or prophetic.
It was mere fancy to say that the period of seven Seals in the sixth chapter [it is really in the opening of Rev. 8] extends from Christ's Advent to the end of the time. What has "silence in heaven for about half-an-hour" to do with eternity? Take it literally or allegorically, the seventh Seal can mean nothing of the sort. Probably it was the sixth Seal which ran in the good bishop's head, as with the "Ancient Expositors" whom he follows, though it is well to say plainly that no exposition of the book is known for several centuries. From none of the more distinguished Fathers have we an extant commentary; any which exist in Greek or Latin are of exceedingly little value.
Those who did write and remain seem to have led Dr. W. into the strange interpretation that the First Seal applies to Christ's Advent, and the Seventh to the end of time. Every part of that scheme is erroneous. The true scriptural figure of our Lord's work at His first Advent is "the sower going forth to sow"; three fourths of the seed failing, and even of the fourth which bore fruit, but a third arriving at perfection. How could a result so checkered and short answer to the archer on a white horse and a crown given him, who went forth "conquering and to conquer?" No room is left in such a symbol for "the apostasy" and "the man of sin," which the apostle declares must be before the day when the Lord appears in glory. Again, there is a manifest analogy between the four horses of the earlier Seals. What more irreverent than to regard the Lord as one of God's inflictions on the guilty world? or the first of them His victory in the gospel, followed by heterogeneous matters?
The Seals run connectedly as the dealings of God with man after "the things that are" (Rev. 1:19), or the church state (Rev. 2, 3). Then the Lamb opens the book that reveals the measures God takes with the rebellious to put Christ in possession of His promised inheritance (Rev. 5). On this view all is plain enough and consistent; whereas the extant early comments are as unintelligent as those of such as can only read now through their discolored spectacles. Tradition is hardly better than the poor stuff of rationalists. The world, not the church, is the object of the judgment set forth by the four horses (Rev. 6:1-8). How preposterous to look for the gospel in the white horse or any other! Never is spiritual work set forth by a war-horse of any color, however apt a figure for aggressive power in good or evil.
Hence, as is well-known some who are the antipodes of the late Bp. of Lincoln strive to see in the first Seal Christ's second Advent in judgment! Abstractly this is less extraordinary than applying it to the gospel of grace. For in that day (Rev. 19) He will come forth from the opened heavens, the Faithful and True, on a white horse, with (not a mere chaplet, but) many diadems upon His head, clothed with a garment dipped in blood, and followed by the armies in heaven on white horses. How different from the first Seal! Instead of a bow, even out of His mouth goes a sharp two-edged sword to smite the nations, as He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. The points in contrast make the desired identification impossible.
What then, is the force? The first Seal really imports a time of conquest by prestige. The bow is enough. There is no carnage. It will be more truly than for Julius Caesar, "I came, I saw, I conquered." The second or red horse is characteristically a time that follows of bloodshed, and probably of civil war: peace taken from the earth, "and that they should slay one another," and hence a great sword is given; but in no way the sharp two-edged sword that proceeds out of His mouth in symbol, Who speaks and it is done. The third is the black of scarcity, which presses on the necessaries rather than on the luxuries of life. The fourth is the pale horse of Death, and Hades following, when God's "sore plagues" accumulate over the fourth part of the earth. But a salient part of the truth revealed is their sequence in this order and no other; which is upset by making the first Seal last, or coincident with the last.
As usual in the septenaries of the Revelation, the first four have a common bond, which the remaining three do not share, though they too are connected, each following in due order as the Seals were broken successively. When the Lamb opened the fifth Seal, the prophet saw, not another horse and its rider, but the souls of martyrs for God's word and their testimony "underneath the altar," i.e. as if offered in sacrifice for the truth; approved of God now, but awaiting, for the time of public vindication, the completion of a further band of brethren who should be killed as they were.
Then is the sixth Seal, when not only a great earthquake ensues, but the governmental powers, sun, moon, and stars, are convulsed, and the stablest institutions are smitten, and small and great of men are filled with dread of the Lamb's wrath. They say in their alarm that His great day is come. God does not say so, but reveals that such is the thought and language of their fear: two very different things which many ancients and moderns confound in their shortsightedness. For how could the seventh Seal follow, if the sixth were really the end of man's day, and the great day actually come? It is not so: an immensely important and awful sequel of apostate lawlessness plays its subsequent part, as the Revelation shows plainly, whether people understand or not; for all do not hear who have ears.
When the seventh Seal was opened (Rev. 8:1), there took place in heaven silence for about half-an-hour; and the seven angels that stood before God have seven Trumpets given them, while the high priest (viewed angelically, for under this series we have angels throughout) intercedes in answer to the prayers of all saints, but herewith the loud tokens of deepening judgment, which falls on the third part of the earth, as in the Trumpet series on the western or Roman earth. These accordingly do go down to the close, and the mystery of God is then finished, not before. The seventh Trumpet really announces the world-kingdom of our Lord and His Christ as come, while the seventh Seal only ushers in the seven Trumpets after a brief pause. The seven Vials or Bowls on the other hand are made to indicate a special character of judgment before the end comes, in keeping with what we may call the second volume of the Apocalypse. Hence there is necessarily a slight retrogression in their case.
But there is another feature of moment not only to notice but to understand. In each of these three septenaries occurs at the same point a parenthesis, not in the regular course of Seals, Trumpets, and Vials, but apart yet connected with each series. It is uniformly inserted before the seventh takes its course. Thus Rev. 7 is the parenthesis before the seventh Seal is opened; as Rev. 10, 11:14 before the seventh Trumpet is blown; and Rev. 16:13-16 before the seventh Vial or Bowl is poured out. It is therefore unfounded to suppose any lack of symmetry or of order in the book.
Heavenly glory was already revealed for the elders in Rev. 4, 5. But Rev. 7, however glorious, does not describe this. There are two scenes in that anticipative parenthesis. One deals with the twelve tribes of Israel, out of whom God lets us not forget that a measured number is sealed for security from the storm of judgment anticipated even after the sixth Seal. The other gives us to see the blessed ways of grace which will have a countless crowd out of every nation and tribe, and peoples and tongues, who come "out of the great tribulation" which is before the age ends. These are to be before the throne of God, and to serve Him in His temple with the Lamb as their Shepherd. It is a pretty strong draught on credulity to confound either with the crowned and enthroned elders who really set forth in symbol the heavenly redeemed (Rev. 4). Why not too distinguish the sealed Israelites from the palm-bearing Gentiles (Rev. 7), who are both to enjoy the blessedness of the kingdom, when the Father's will shall be done on earth as now in heaven, and all be administered above and below by the Lord Jesus to the glory of God?
Far is one from saying that there are no difficulties, for such as we are, in contemplating so boundless a scene. Certainly the prejudices, natural even more to Christendom as it is, hinder spiritual intelligence of the inspired word. But let believers own that the fault is in themselves, never in the scriptures which reflect alike the grace and the truth of God, Who, knowing all perfectly, has deigned to reveal to us the things to come. Let us recognize that what is written is the communication of the Lord; "if any be ignorant, let him be ignorant." There is His word for us. It did not come out from a party; nor did it come to a party only, but to all the children of God (1 Cor. 14:36-38). Let us not through unbelief be defrauded, nor defraud others, of so interesting and important a part of His gift and of our heritage.
It is unfounded then that the period of the Seals, in Rev. 6, "extends from Christ's Advent to the end of time" (p. 4); it is at least equally so that "after the opening of the Seventh Seal St. John commences again at the initial point from which he had first proceeded." Both series are expressly and in the plainest terms declared to be "the things which shall be" (Rev. 1:19), and "which must be (4:1), hereafter," or (more definitely) after "the things which are," the state comprised by the seven churches in Rev. 2, 3. The vision in Rev. 4, 5 is exclusively future, and must be accomplished before the Seals and the Trumpets can begin. The crowned and enthroned elders, etc., are in their due positions on high before a Seal is opened; and the Seals are all opened before the first Trumpet is blown. There is only a brief but solemn silence in heaven "about half-an-hour" between the first series and the second. What can exceed the monstrous interpretation of the ancient commentators, such as Victorinus and Tychonius, that this means the saints' eternal rest! Yet this wild idea, which has not a shade even of plausible appearance to commend it, has prevailed from early days to our own. It is the less reasonable, as the same writers profess to see eternity in the palm-bearing Gentiles before the seventh Seal was opened. This too we have already noticed as a blunder, but at least intelligible if not intelligent: whereas their notion of the half hour's silence, on any feasible principle, is neither. It is a marvel of credulity without reason and against scripture.
Nor is it true that, after the sounding of the seventh Trumpet, a return is made to "the first origin of the church" (ib.). For there is not a trace of "her history" beyond Rev. 2, 3. After that the symbol of the saints glorified is seen as the four-and-twenty elders in heaven (Rev. 4), till this yields to that of the bride, the Lamb's wife, when the due moment comes to present the bridals of the Lamb (Rev. 19). What the Bp. with a crowd of predecessors calls the church (in Rev. 12) is really the symbol of Israel about to appear on the scene, mother of a Son, Male of might, Who is to shepherd all the nations with a rod of iron. Who this great personage is ought not to be inscrutable but most obvious. It is Christ, come of Israel according to flesh (as all know, and both Testaments witness), Head and Bridegroom of the church, not her Son, as perverse misinterpretation alleges. No! The Revelation clearly distinguishes the woman of Rev. 12 from her of Rev. 19, 21, 22. The church is the bride in this book (as the great world-church is the harlot); while the mother is Israel, seen in God's purpose of glorious power as she is destined to in fact, but in sorrow before that time come. For also the dragon is invested with the form of the Roman empire to oppose and devour, so that she must again flee into the wilderness till the day dawn. There are undoubtedly in John's Revelation, as in Paul's Epistles; "some things hard to be understood, which the uninstructed and unestablished wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their destruction"; but the grand outlines here as elsewhere are distinct, and convict the mass of commentators of inattention to scripture.
The truth is, as we may state in brief, that "the beast" had only been named in its antagonism to the Two Witnesses in Rev. 11 and the general stream of prophecy to the close. Then in Rev. 12 (sic) connected with "the ark of God's covenant seen in His temple" (which verse is its proper beginning) we have retrogression to give first the complete history of that portentous power with God's ways in good and against evil. These bring in the Seven Vials, and the descriptive chapters that follow on the corrupt woman and city Babylon and her fall, before the heavenly marriage with the appearing of the Lord Jesus and the Millennial reign. Is it possible to conceive a clearer or more certain view of the order of events in Rev. 19, 20 and up to Rev. 21:1-8? There a necessarily retrogressive vision is given about the holy bride and her relation to the kings and nations; just as Rev. 17, 18 were a retrogressive description of the great whore to explain what her corrupting relations were to the kings and nations, which at length drew down divine judgment.
In other words, no person that understands the Book of Revelation questions either the parentheses that occur at distinct and unmistakable points, nor the clear retrogression at Rev. 12 for wise and necessary reason. So it is with the descriptive returns of Rev. 17, 18 and of Rev. 21:9-22:5, which are introduced in a way precisely analogous, as if to intimate to the reader of any discernment that they answer to each other in contrast. Otherwise the book is strictly consecutive, as indeed the inspiring Holy Spirit has made indelibly plain to all who heed the strongly defined proofs of its internal order. Bp. Wordsworth is, like his guides of antiquity, altogether hazy and haphazard. He slights, as they did, the landmarks which God has given us through the prophet. Neither he nor they perceived the principles of its structure, but they caught at appearances here and there which have no bearing on the relative bearing of its parts. Thus, as all began with guess work, no considerate Christian can wonder that all has resulted in confusion.
But it is surprising that a pious and learned man, as I gladly believe Dr. W. to have been, should so misstate the views in the most ancient remains on the Millennial prophecy. Why cite Bede (8th cent.) and Haymo (9th)? He knew perfectly well that Justin Martyr, as well as the pseudo-Barnabas, Irenaeus (an Asiatic godly bishop of Lyon in Gaul A.D. 177) who wrote in Greek and Tertullian who wrote in Latin, Hippolytus bp. of Portus Rom., Methodius bp. of Tyre, and Victorinus, all the three martyrs, and Lactantius the rhetorician father, believed and taught a literal reign of Christ and the risen saints over the earth. Origen, learned but heterodox, was the only one (those excepted who denied the genuineness of the book) of the pre-Constantinian writers who differed in principle as an extreme allegorist, though he did not live to comment on the Revelation. From Constantine's time indeed writers began to imagine, as it was not to be wondered at perhaps, a present millennium, though not all in the same sense. But it is unnecessary to speak of later Fathers, as I attach not the smallest authority to any of them, however early.
However this may be, the notion of the millennium advocated by the late bp. of Lincoln, no matter who held it, is in every respect absurd. What contempt of the Apocalyptic order to say that John "reascends once more" (p. 5)! What ignorance of Rev. 20 to fancy that it declares what Christ had done for the church since His incarnation? How He had bound Satan! though the N.T. is express throughout to the contrary. See 1 Cor. 5:5; 2 Cor. 2:11, 2 Cor. 11:3, 2 Cor. 12:7; Eph. 4:27, Eph. 6:12; 1 Thess. 3:18; 2 Thess. 2:2; 1 Tim. 1:20, 1 Tim. 3:6-7, 1 Tim. 4:1, 1 Tim. 5:15; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8; 1 John 4:1, 6; Rev. 2:9, 13, 24, Rev. 3:9, to say nothing of Rev. 9:11, 20, Rev. 12:17, Rev. 13:4, Rev. 16:13-14, Rev. 19:20. Christ's preservation of His servants in every age no believer contests. But the vision speaks of their reigning; whereas the N. T. reproves such a present thought as the practical folly of the Corinthians, and insists on the contrary that they must suffer now, until "that day." Undoubtedly Christ has done His infinite work, and carries on His intercession and care in every suited and blessed way for us on high, till He appears the second time unto salvation. But this, or His calling to heavenly glory all that are true to Him, or His ordaining strength out of the mouth of babes and sucklings, what has it all to do with a saintly resurrection to reign with Him?
It is a miserable bathos to conclude, that "St. John shows in the twentieth chapter of the Apocalypse that the failings, which had been described in such vivid colors in the preceding Visions of this book — under the Seals, the Trumpets, and the Vials, — were due to themselves; and that all God's acts toward man are done in equity and love" (pp. 5, 6). A Jew might have said far more; a heathen almost as much. St. John showed this in Rev. 20! The only thing really shown is how utterly, with the one exception of Rev. 17, 18, Dr. Chris. W. misunderstood the book as a whole, and this chapter in particular: else he never could have conceived an inference so pitiful and even imbecile. And this is the real moral to be drawn: that a man, be he ever so respected and able otherwise, should seek to comprehend a book before he writes. Think of his adding, "This twentieth chapter, then, according to this view, is a summary of the Apocalypse"!!! Beyond doubt, "it is in perfect harmony with the whole." It is the moral picture and bright issue of what he calls "this sublime drama." And when so regarded, it gives no countenance to Dr. W.'s Anti-millenarian notions.
In the next section II. (6-14) the Bishop proposes "to consider the reasons pleaded in behalf of Millenarian opinions," but really offers his own reasons against them. He is like others under the delusion that the doctrine rests on one single passage of scripture, Rev. 20. If it were so, God's word once spoken is amply sufficient for faith, as a thousand times would not suffice for unbelief. But that kingdom is revealed in many scriptures of both Old T. and New; and, once received, it is seen to fill a very large part of the Bible indirectly as well as directly in the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets, in the Gospels, the Epistles, and the Revelation. Not to have seen this implies sad prejudice and lack of intelligence (in divine matters).
John 14:2 and Luke 20:36, as well as John 12:32, Acts 1:11, Acts 3:21, John 5:28-29, John 6:39, John 12:48, 1 Cor. 15:52, 1 Thess. 4:15, 2 Thess. 1:7, Matt. 16:27, Matt. 25:31-32, Luke 9:26, 2 Tim. 4:1, and Dan. 12:2 are the texts culled to prove that a Millennium is repugnant to scripture. On the contrary every one of these falls in with the doctrine; some even demonstrate its truth, besides the bulk of distinct testimony which is left out.
Thus the Christian's hope of Christ's coming to present us in the Father's house above is as consistent with the Millennium as is our risen equality with angels. Other scriptures prove the blessing of Israel and the nations on the earth at that very time under Christ's reign, as Matt. 19:28, Rev. 21:24-26, and in the O.T. Isa. 11:10-13, Isa. 24:21-23, and Zech. 14:5-9.
Theologians in general quite overlook Eph. 1:10, God's purpose in Christ for an administration of the fullness of the times; which is to head or sum up all things in Him, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth — in Him in Whom we too were made to have lot or inheritance; for we are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. Here we learn in the dogmatic teaching of the great apostle, and not only in parable or prophecy, that God will put the entire universe heavenly and earthly under Christ; and that we shall share it with the Heir of all things in that day of glory. This is neither the present time of gathering the heirs, nor the eternal state, when it will be no longer a question of His government; but having put down all enemies He gives up the kingdom to Him Who is God and Father, that God may be all in all (1 Cor. 15:28). Hence, as a groundwork for it, we hear in the companion Epistle to the Colossians that all the fullness was pleased in Him to dwell, and through Him to reconcile all things to itself, having made peace by the blood of His cross — by Him the things on the earth and the things in the heavens (Col. 1:19-20). For it is to be on the basis, not of His creative rights only, or of His incarnation, but of the reconciling work in His death.
To leave out of our faith and hope the counsels of God is to have no intelligent communion with the future display of Christ's glory. It is also to ignore the mystery of Christ and the church; and this is just where believers are for the most part, since they betook themselves to the weak and beggarly elements against which the apostle strove so strenuously and solemnly in early days. He knew, and took care that we should hear, that after his departure grievous wolves should enter in among the Christian confessors, and among their own selves should men arise speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after them. And so it came to pass that Christendom lost largely the sense of God's grace and almost wholly the understanding of His glory as purposed for Christ "in that day." Through the influence of such as Origen and Eusebius, or of the more sober and orthodox Augustine and Jerome, the hopes of Israel were denied; and consequently the church, ignorant of her heavenly glory with Christ, was held to have succeeded to the earthly inheritance. This is what the apostle dreaded for the Gentile, as we may see in Rom. 11, lest he should be wise in his own conceit, and, instead of fearing, become boastful to his ruin and eventual cutting off.
Why the Bp. referred to John 12:32 is strange; for it refers to the attractive power of Him crucified, and has no bearing on the question. But Acts 3:21, especially 19-21, refutes his own view; for it proves that the Lord Jesus is to be sent from heaven for the restoration of all things according to the testimony of the holy prophets since time began. This is the Millennium, not the White Throne judgment; and Acts 1:11 agrees with it, for He will come to restore the kingdom to Israel as well as for other glorious designs of God. Among these, and of the deepest moment, is His raising bodies, as He is now quickening souls (see John 5:25-29). But it is an error of the first magnitude to think of one simultaneous resurrection. Our Lord here speaks of two, in open contrast of character, "of life," and "of judgment," or as elsewhere called "of just and unjust." These Rev. 20 declares, as might be expected from the great Christian prophecy, severed by more than 1,000 years for a momentous purpose, the special reign of Christ and His own over (not "on") the earth, where they once were holy sufferers, and distinct from reigning in life throughout eternity, wherein even the millennial saints that never suffered will in due time share.
"The Last Day" is the general expression in John 6, 11, 12 for that time which begins by our Lord raising the believers and ends with judging the faithless, answering to the two resurrections, and opposed to the Jewish hope of present exaltation under a living and reigning Messiah as things are. There is no difficulty in the "hour" of John 5:28 covering 1,000 years and more, since the "hour" of v. 25 covers admittedly a still longer space. It is therefore unfounded and indeed plain contradiction of scripture to say "there will be no Millennial interval between the Resurrection of the saints and the Universal Judgment." It is an absurdity to talk of both taking place on one and the same day, unless the last day be understood as already explained (an epoch spanning the millennium): why imagine an ordinary day?
For not only do 1 Cor. 15:52 and 1 Thess. 4:16 fall within its capacious limits, but 2 Thess. 1:7, Heb. 9:27, Matt. 16:27, Luke 9:26, 2 Tim. 4:1, Matt. 25:31-32, Isa. 2, 4, 11, 12, 24, 25, 26. 27, Jer. 30-33, Ezek. 12, etc., and Dan. 12:2, varied as they are in scope and character. But why need particulars be cited, when prophecy as a whole bears on it? It is the day when the Lord takes in hand His execution of God's purpose in good and evil from raising the saints to judging the wicked, as distinguished from the first man where all ends in failure and ruin through sin.
As to all this the Bp.'s views, through heeding human tradition, were vague and confused, defective and even false. With Christendom generally he was a Ptolemaist, not a Copernican; he made the church his center, not Christ; and thus, bending all scripture to his own relations, he left no room for the various glories of Christ for earth as well as in heaven, and for His reign over Israel and all nations, and indeed for His displayed supremacy over all creation, which we shall share with Him. Hence, too, his ignorance of the judgment the Lord will execute on the habitable earth (ç æ ) in righteousness at His appearing, as well as earthly rejoicing and the multitude of the isles glad at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth, when idolatry will with shame vanish for ever and the desert blossom as the rose.
No doubt the ancient Chiliasts were in error who only saw the earth restored and the glorified reigning with Christ on it; but so were the theologians who transferred all thoughts to heaven and the souls in bliss eventual if not present with Christ, among moderns even to losing sight of, if not denying, the resurrection. But even Gen. 14 might have taught these shortsighted men on both sides a better lesson of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, as will be made manifest by our Lord in His day when the enemies are delivered into His hand, and the friends are refreshed after the victory is won over all the opposing might. The great foe will then be restrained by power, as he never has been, the pledge of his final and everlasting punishment. The true or at least antitypical Melchizedek shall sit and rule, a priest on His throne (Zech. 6:13), no longer hidden, but every eye shall see Him, not only after that "order" as He is now, but then also in the exercise of His royal priesthood, blessing man from God and blessing God the Most High from man, when hateful rivals, mere nonentities with demons behind, are gone for ever. Oh, what a blank where all this, and much more accompanying it and hanging on it, to Christ's glory, are unperceived and unbelieved, though clearly revealed in God's word!
Dr. W. urges (p. 9) that the saints reign with Christ, not that He reigns with them. This no sound Christian disputes; but he uses it to deny Christ's reign and ours with Him over the earth. It is not wise to plead either Eph. 2:6 or Rev. 1:6 to get rid of that future glory we are to share. He tells us in a note that the best MSS. of Rev. 5:10 have the present tense. But the fact is that the most ancient extant () has the future, and so has the Porphyrian uncial of cent. 9, with some 30 cursives, and the best Latin copies, Coptic, etc.; whereas the Alex. and the Basilian uncial (of cent. 8) support the present with less than 30 cursives, etc. Of these the Alex. might have greater weight, but that it alone reads the present in Rev. 20:6; all else give the future. The title of king given to the believer in no way means that he is now reigning, which the apostle reproves in First Corinthians as inconsistent with an actual call to suffer with Christ. Assuredly John 10:28 implies simply that no hostile power can pluck out of His hand as Phil. 3:21 shows that at His coming He will prove Himself Savior of our bodies as He is now of our souls.
What he failed to see is that scripture is abundant and plain in assuring that, distinct from the present and before eternity, Christ will come in glory to reign over Israel and all nations according to the consentient testimony of the Prophets, confirmed by His own words in the Gospels, and the Holy Spirit's witness in the Epistles, and by the Book of Revelation. He thought such an expectation leads necessarily into low and irreverent notions concerning our Lord. Entirely do we sympathize with the hope for the glorified of our proper blessing in the heavenly places; but to slight the prospects of a blessed earth for Israel and the nations is not faith but prejudice (p. 10). O.T. and N. we have seen to be an ample and irrefutable witness to it. If sin entered there, the Son of God came there to put it away by the sacrifice of Himself. Satan achieved the greatest success there; Satan will be thence expelled, first for a long while, then for ever. God there displayed His grace in Christ; in Christ God will there display His glory.
So far from there being any inconsistency the kingdom of God when manifested has its heavenly things no less than its earthly; and all things shall not only be put but seen under Christ the Heir of all, heavenly and earthly headed up in Him, as they were all reconciled to God by His work on the cross. The low view is the curtailing of Christ's glory, nor is it true reverence to explain away plain scripture. Others yielding to unbelief think that for a Divine Person to take flesh and die on the cross is incredible degradation. Why should it seem to disgrace Christ risen and glorified to reign over the earth for 1,000 years, besides the perfect and unbroken rest of eternity? It will accomplish unfulfilled scripture and display a righteous kingdom over men as Christ only can. The Deity of Christ stands distinct and intact, and indeed will derive further and rich evidence thereby.
It is all a mistake (p. 11), though made by early Fathers and those who have since followed guides so erring, that the earth is to be peopled by the risen saints. Not so; they will have heavenly glory and reign with Christ over the earth, not on it, as we see in the symbolic New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:9 ff. and 22). Israel will then be on earth a saintly people, not in name only but in reality; and the nations shall seek (as they have not yet done) unto the Rod of Jesse; and His resting place shall be glory. And all the creation that still groans shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty (not of grace, as is the new creation even now, but) of the glory of the children of God. Therefore we that have the first-fruits of the Spirit, though we too groan within ourselves, do all the more wait for the adoption, the redemption of our body; as the earnest expectation of the creature also waits for our revealing, the signal of its deliverance. What difficulty is there in believing that the unconverted among the nations, though controlled by the power of the great King, surrounded with abundance of all good, and freed from the Tempter, will relapse under his wiles when he is let loose for a little season, and be consumed with fire? It is only the "monstrous" mistake of the Bp. that the risen saints are concerned. The earthly saints, Jews or Gentiles, are threatened by Satan, not his allies.
It is false that the present mixed state (p. 12) will continue when Christ reigns. For the darnel and wheat grow together unto the end of the age (à), not of the world ( åæ ). The error excludes the judgment of the quick, and of the habitable earth (Acts 17), as well as of the world- kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ (Rev. 11:15). All the parables cited, good and bad fish, good and bad guests, wise and foolish virgins, find their separation at the end of this age; and the Millennium is no gulf (p. 13) but a blessed bridge between the age's end and the eternal state.
So the Thessalonian saints (p. 13), like others, were waiting for Christ's coming, which is followed by the Millennium. It is His appearing that destroys the man of sin before the kingdom is set up in power and glory. When Christ our life shall be manifested, then shall we also with Him be manifested in glory (Col. 3:4); we are caught up before, and follow Him out of heaven for that day of judgment of the earth (Rev. 17:14, Rev. 19:14). 2 Peter 3 warns those who mock His promised coming with His day, which fills a thousand years and does not close till the universe melts with fire; and Rev. 1:9, Rev. 11:18, agrees with this.
The creeds of Christendom do not contradict (p. 16) the Millennium. The Athanasian confesses the foundations of the faith; the so-called Apostles' Creed is rather infantine like the Nicene. They do not assert the Millennium. Utterly false is it that, if true, it would falsify Christ's promises to His church; for on the contrary in the millennial day the world will see that the glory, which the Father gave Him, He gave them, perfected as they will then be into one, that the world may know the Father sent the Son and loved those glorified saints as He loved Christ (John 17:22-23). I am sorry to say that such language betrays infatuation, but am glad to agree that it is no question of the early Patristic writers, but of scripture (p. 15). No importance is attached to the Rabbis either (p. 15).
And as to Cerinthus or the like, one abhors their heterodoxy yet more than Montanist enthusiasm (p. 17). What matters the opinion of a worldly-minded semi-Arian like Eusebius about Papias? Neither (pp. 18, 19) is an authority, any more than the Romanist expositor who falsely attributes the decline of faith in the Apocalypse to millenarian teaching. None love, understand, or enjoy that blessed book so much as those who believe what it teaches of that kingdom (p. 20). The Epistle to the Hebrews and the Apocalypse clashed with men's will, and hence were unjustly questioned by men of shallow faith, like Caius the early Roman presbyter (p. 20). Origen, learned and clever indeed, was but a sorry defender of the faith. Did not the Bp. know that he was unreliable and wild, even to the ungodliness of universalism? Surely also Dionysius of Alexandria (p. 23), an able man without doubt, cannot be acquitted of strange doctrine on Christ's person in opposing the Sabellians. Nor was Jerome (pp. 24, 25) a model of orthodoxy any more than of temper, though an erudite and laborious translator. Augustine of Hippo was one of greater weight; but we have to bear in mind that the Millennial views he opposed (pp. 26, 27) were not sound, those which were rejected by the Reformers and the Puritans (pp. 28-31). Only it is certain that some of the best instructed and most pious men in the Anglican body found no such incompatibility in its formularies with their faith in Christ's millennial reign as the Bp. argues, who himself narrows "the last day" unscripturally (p. 22). The prayer in page 33 is on the contrary consistent. "The end of the world" is the mistake repeated from the A. V. of Matt. 13:39, 49. We all value the Apocalypse at least as much as the Bp. (pp. 33, 36) and do not share in daily use the slight which the Book of Common Prayer puts on that divine book, while it honours the Apocrypha for its lessons in Oct. and Nov. and more.
The second Lecture calls for fewer words. How strange the doctrine that Christ through His death bound Satan! — that this is the true interpretation of Rev. 20:1-3 (pp. 37-44)! and that the first resurrection of vv. 4-6 is not bodily but spiritual by baptism! Hence they live with Christ and are made unto God Kings and Priests in Him (p. 52), and even now judge the world and angels by the precepts of the Law, etc. represented by the 24 elders, as the four cherubim typify the Gospels! This Bp. Wordsworth will have to be the authorized interpretation of the church, attested for more than a thousand years by such as Origen, Dionysius, Jerome, Augustine, etc.
On the face of the prophecy this scheme ignores its plain structure. For Rev. 19 beyond a doubt supposes Babylon on earth fallen for ever, and in contrast the marriage supper of the Lamb in heaven, followed by heaven opened, and the Lord with His armies, His saints, emerging to execute judgment on the Beast and the kings of the earth, and their armies. Thereon, not before, ensues the binding of Satan for a thousand years (not days), and the long predicted reign of the saints over the earth for the same long period. Yet during it the Beast reigns also, not only the ten horns but his the one great authority to whom the dragon gives his power! What? … during the reign of Christ and His saints! Such is Dr. W.'s scheme. Hear on the contrary the scriptural expectation.
And it shall come to pass that Jehovah shall punish the host of the high ones on high, and the kings of the earth on the earth (Isa. 24:21). In that day Jehovah with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea (Isa. 27:1). Only the N.T. is fuller and more precise, giving stages in Rev. 12:2, Rev. 20:1-3, and v. 10, of which the present vision is intermediate. The same N.T. leaves no shadow of doubt that, though the work is wrought by which Satan will be crushed for ever, he is still active in deceiving the nations, as well as in tempting, hindering, and accusing the saints: Acts 5:3, Acts 19:13-16, Rom. 16:20, 1 Cor. 5:5, 2 Cor. 2:11, 2 Cor. 4:4, 2 Cor. 7:5, 2 Cor. 11:14, 2 Cor. 12:7, Eph. 2:2, Eph. 4:27, Eph. 6:11-12, 16, 1 Thess. 2:18, 1 Thess. 3:5, 2 Thess. 2:2, 9, 1 Tim. 1:20, 1 Tim. 3:7, 1 Tim. 4:1, 1 Tim. 5:15, 2 Tim. 2:26, James 4:7, 1 Peter 5:8, 1 John 2:13-14, 1 John 3:8, 10, 1 John 4:4, 6, 1 John 5:18-19, Rev. 2:9, 13, 24, Rev. 3:9, Rev. 9:11, Rev. 12:7-17, Rev. 13:1-2, Rev. 16:13-14. These scriptures abundantly prove that the promised binding is still future, and that Bp. W.'s notion is hopelessly at war with revealed truth. Nothing could be farther from his intention; which the more illustrates the peril of deserting the plain word of God in deference to the thoughts of men, however venerable or numerous. The binding of Satan is reserved for the presence and day of the Lord.
"The first resurrection" only, and brightly, confirms this. The O.T. saints and those of the N. T. the church were already in heaven; for how else could the Lamb's wife have made herself ready for the marriage? These saints had been symbolized by the 24 elders (Rev. 4, and in 5 also by the four cherubim): which is as sure from the context as the application to the 24 books of O.T. scripture and to the four Gospels is a chimera. Here that symbol changes to "the bride," and "the guests" at the Lamb's marriage supper; and this again to "the armies" that follow the Lord out of heaven, when He assumes the character of Warrior. Then in Rev. 20 we have the change from "white horses" to "thrones" when the reign is to begin. In Dan. 7 the thrones were set. Here they are filled. "And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them." These were the saints already glorified, who had followed the Lord out of heaven (Rev. 18:14, Rev.19:14).
"And I [I saw] the souls of those that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God." These were the martyrs whose souls were seen under the altar in Rev. 6:9, who were slain in the earlier persecutions of the book after the elders were seen complete in heaven, and who were also told that they should rest yet a little while till their fellow servants also and their brethren that should be killed even as they were should be fulfilled. But now as these were fulfilled under the later persecutions of the Beast, these two classes are raised together. Hence we read, "and such as (or whosoever) worshipped not the beast nor his image, and received not his mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years." "Souls" is therefore strictly correct, as in Rev. 6:9, so here in v. 4. They had died and were seen in the disembodied state; but now "they lived," which has no reasonable sense but in a resurrection from the dead, as it must be also to "reign with Christ a thousand years." And this is the uniform apostolic doctrine of the N.T. "If so be that we suffer with [Him] that we may be also glorified with [Him]" (Rom. 8). "If we died with Him, we shall also live with Him" (2 Tim. 2). "Through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14).
Granted that "a thousand years' reign" must not be confounded with "reigning in life," as all saints shall throughout eternity. But the principle of the difference is as clear as it is scriptural. The millennial reign is for those that suffer with Christ, which embraces all that are His in O. and N.T. times till He comes for them and presents them on high. It is not restricted to saints who suffer for Him. All saints who from the beginning suffered with Christ share that reign. But those who suffered in the Apocalyptic troubles were only called of God while the glorified are seen on high. As they did not survive to welcome His appearing for the reign, they are thus raised at the last moment, not to be reigned over, but to reign with Christ like those already seen seated on the thrones. Those thus honoured are then fulfilled:
The rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years should be completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: over these the second death hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of the Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. Such is the simple and unforced interpretation of the vision, as worthy of the Lord and of the prophet, as that of the Lecture is mean, and harsh, as incongruous with the Apocalypse generally as with this particular context. The plain and just meaning furthers the action of the Book and is consistent with all revealed truth, not to say requisite for God's glory, and the Lamb at that juncture. "Know ye not that the Saints (not the martyrs only) shall judge the world? … Know ye not that we shall judge angels?" Those converted during the millennium escape all suffering with Christ; for there is no enemy there to sift or tempt, Satan being forcibly kept away. Hence they will have no such reigning before the world, then for the first time, as the millennium affords for Christ's holy sufferers. Yet like all saints, they "shall reign in life by the one, Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:17).
It would have been easy to have criticized the lecture in detail from first to last; as it would have been difficult in that case to have avoided sharp notice of singularly wild sentiments, if one dealt with the statements as they deserved. It is preferred therefore to let the distinct enunciation of the truth itself dispel the error, which leaves a lamentable blank in the future of the universe, where God has revealed, in both Testaments, the grandest scheme for the glory of Christ and the saints of the heavenly places to the joy of all creation, especially of Israel and all the nations, before the judgment of the dead and the eternity which follows. How blind are all who, listening to tradition, fancy that the state of things which began with the cross, wherein Satan is still the prince and god of this age, is the reign of the saints with Christ predicted by John! No, that reign is the restitution of all things (Acts 3), the revealing of the sons of God, when the whole creation ceases to groan, the idols utterly pass away, all families of the earth are blessed in Christ, He and His heavenly ones shine in heavenly glory, and Jehovah alone is exalted in that day. The gospel and the church are given their special development in the N.T. But the visions of glory promised to Israel and of blessing for all the nations of which the O.T. speaks must surely be "in that day."