The proof of a Millennium, or of a blessed Age to come, from Scripture. A view of the Apocalypse, and of the Prophecies of Daniel, in reference to this Kingdom of Christ and of his Saints.
WE have given fair presumptions, if not proofs, in the precedent Chapter, That the Sons of the first Resurrection will be the persons that shall inhabit the New Earth, or the World to come. But to make that proof compleat and unexceptionable, I told you it would be necessary to make a larger compass in our discourse, and to examine what is meant by That Reign with Christ a thousand years, which is promis’d to the Sons of the first Resurrection; by St. John in the Apocalypse; and in other places of Scripture is usually call’d the Kingdom of Christ, and the reign of the Saints. And by Ecclesiastical Authors, in imitation of St. John, it is commonly styled the Millennium. We shall indifferently use any of these words or phrases; and examine, First, the truth of the Notion and Opinion; whether in Scripture there be such an happy state promised to the Saints, under the conduct of Christ. And then we will proceed to examine the nature, characters, place and time of it. And I am in hopes when these things are duly discuss’d and stated, you will be satisfied that we have found out the true Inhabitants of the New Heavens and New Earth: and the true mystery of that state which is call’d the Millennium, or the Reign of Christ and of his Saints.
We begin with St. John; whose words, in the twentieth chapter of the Apocalypse, are express, both as to the first Resurrection, and as to the reign of those Saints, that rise, with Christ, for a thousand years. Satan in the mean time being bound, or disabled from doing mischief and seducing mankind, The words of the Prophetver. 1, 2, 4, 5, 6. are these: And I saw an Angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottom-less pit, and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the Dragon, that old
[paragraph continues] Serpent, which is the Devil and Satan; and bound him a thousand years. And I saw Thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the Souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their fore-heads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first Resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first Resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God, and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. These words do fully express a Resurrection, and a reign with Christ a thousand years. As for that particular space of time, of a thousand years, it is not much material to our present purpose: but the Resurrection here spoken of, and the reign with Christ, make the substance of the controversie, and in effect prove all that we enquire after at present. This Resurrection, you see, is call’d the First Resurrection, by way of distinction from the second and general Resurrection; which is also taken notice of, and plac’d a thousand years after the first. And both this first Resurrection and the reign of Christ, seem to be appropriated to the Martyrs in this place. For the Prophet says, The Souls of those that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, &c. They lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. From which words, if you please, we will raise this Doctrine: That, Those that have suffered for the sake of Christ and a good Conscience, shall be raised from the dead a thousand years before the general Resurrection, and reign with Christ, in an happy state. This Proposition seems to be plainly included in the words of St. John, and to be the intended sence of this Vision; but you must have patience a little as to your enquiry into particulars, till, in the progress of our discourse, we have brought all the parts of this conclusion into a fuller light.
In the mean time, there is but one way, that I know of, to evade the force of these words, and of the conclusion drawn from them; and that is, by supposing that the First Resurrection here mentioned, is not to be understood in a literal sense, but is Allegorical and mystical; signifying only a Resurrection from sin to a Spiritual Life. As we are said to be dead in sin, and to be risen with Christ, by Faith and Regeneration. This is a manner of Speech which St. Paul does sometimes use: as Ephes. 2. 6. and 5. 14. and Col. 3. 1. But how can this be applyed to the present case? Were the Martyrs dead in sin? ’Tis they that are here rais’d from the dead. Or, after they were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, naturally dead and laid in their graves, were they then regenerate by Faith? There is no congruity in allegories so applyed. Besides, why should they be said to be regenerate a thousand years before the day of Judgment: Or, to reign with Christ, after this Spiritual Resurrection, such a limited time, a thousand years? why not to Eternity? For in this allegorical sence of rising and reigning, they will reign with him for everlasting. Then, after a thousand years must all the wicked be regenerate, and rise into a Spiritual Life? ’Tis said here,ver. 5. The rest of the Dead lived not again, until the thousand years were finished. That implyes, that at the end of these thousand years, the rest of the dead did live again; which, according to the Allegory must be, that, after a thousand years, all the wicked will be
regenerate, and rais’d into a Spiritual Life. These absurdities arise upon an allegorical exposition of this Resurrection, if apply’d to single Persons.
But Dr. Hammond, a Learned and worthy Divine, (but one that loves to contract and cramp the sence of Prophecies) making this first Resurrection allegorical, applies it not to single Persons, but to the state of the Church in general; The Christian Church, he says, shall have a Resurrection for a thousand years: that is, shall rise out of Persecution, be in a prosperous condition, and an undisturb’d profession of the true Religion, for so long a time. But this agrees with the Prophecy as little as the former; If it be a state of the Church in general, and of the Church then in being, why is this Resurrection apply’d to the Martyrs? why are they said to rise? seeing the state they liv’d in, was a troublesome state of the Church, and it would be no happiness to have that reviv’d again. Then as to the Time of this Resurrection of the Church, where will you fix it? The Prophet Daniel places this Reign of Christ, at, or after the dissolution of the fourth Monarchy: and St. John places it a thousand years before the last Day of Judgment: How will you adjust the Allegorical Resurrection of the Church to these limits? Or if, in point of time, you was free, as to Prophecy; yet how would you adjust it to History? Where will you take these thousand years of happiness and prosperity to the Church? These Authors suppose them past, and therefore must begin them either from the first times of the Gospel, or from the time of Constantine. Under the first Ages of the Gospel, were, you know, the great Persecutions by the Heathen Emperours: Could those be call’d the Reign of Christ and of his Saints? Was Sathan then bound? or was this Epocha but a thousand years before the Day of Judgment? And if you begin this Resurrection of the Church from the days of Constantine, when the Empire became Christian, how will you reckon a thousand years from that time, for the continuance of the Church in peace and purity? for the reign of Christ and of his Saints must necessarily imply both those Characters.Ver. 5. Besides, who are the rest of the Dead, that liv’d after the expiration of those thousand years, if they begun at Constantine? And why is not the second Resurrection and the Day of Judgment yet come? Lastly, you ought to be tender of interpreting the first Resurrection in an Allegorical sence, lest you expose the second Resurrection to be made an Allegory also.
To conclude, the words of the Text are plain and express for a literal Resurrection, as to the first, as well as the second; and there is no Allegorical interpretation that I know of, that will hold through all the particulars of the Text, consistently with it self and with History. And when we shall have prov’d this future Kingdom of Christ from other places of the Apocalypse, and of Holy Writ, you will the more easily admit the literal sence of this place: Which, you know, according to the receiv’d rule of Interpreters, is never to be quitted or forsaken, without necessity. But when I speak of confirming this Doctrine from other passages of Scripture, I do not mean as to that definite time of a thousand years, for that is no where else mention’d in the Apocalypse or in Scripture, that I know of; and seems to be mention’d here, in this close of all things, to mind us of that type that was propos’d in the beginning of all things, Of Six days and a Sabbath. Whereof each Day comprehends a thousand years, and the Sabbath,
which is the Millennial state, hath its thousand. According to the known Prophecy of Elias,Book 3, ch. 5. which, as I told you before, was not onely receiv’d amongst the Jews, but also own’d by very many of the Christian Fathers.
To proceed therefore to other parts of St. John's Prophecies, that set forth this Kingdom of Christ. The Vision of the Seven Trumpets is one of the most remarkable in the Apocalypse; and the seventh Trumpet, which, plainly reaches to the end of the World, and the Resurrection of the Dead, opens the Scene to the Millennium. Hear the sound of it.Chap. 11. 15, 16, 17, 18. The seventh Angel sounded, and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever. And the four and twenty Elders, which sat before God on their Seats, fell upon their faces, and worshiped God: Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power and hast reigned. And the Nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the Dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the Prophets, and to the Saints, and them that fear thy Name, small and great, and shouldest destroy them that destroy the Earth, &c. This is manifestly the kingdom of Christ: and with this is joyn’d the Resurrection of the Dead, and the rewarding of the suffering Prophets and Saints; as in the twentieth Chapter. This is that mystery of God that was to he finish’d in the days of the voice of the seventh Angel: as is said in the 20th. Chap. ver. 7. As he hath declared to his servants the Prophets. Namely, the mystery of this kingdom, which was foretold by the Prophets of the Old Testament: and more especially by Daniel, as we shall see hereafter.
The new Jerusalem, (as it is set down, Apoc. 21. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.) is another instance or image of this kingdom of Christ. And the Palm-bearing Company, Chap. 7. 9, &c. are some of the Martyrs that shall enjoy it. They are plainly describ’d there as Christian Martyrs; (ver. 14.) And their reward, or the state of happiness they are to enjoy, (ver. 15, 16, 17.) is the same with that of the In-habitants of the new Jerusalem: Ch. 21. 2, 3, 4, &c. as, upon comparing those two places, will easily appear. Furthermore, at the opening of the Seals, Chap. 5. which is another principal Vision, and reaches to the end of the World, there is a prospect given us of this kingdom of Christ, and of that reward of his Saints. For when they sing the new Song to the Lamb, (ver. 9, 10.) they say, Thou art worthy to take the Book, and to open the Seals thereof: For thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God, by thy bloud. And hast made us unto our God Kings and Priests: and we shall reign on the Earth. This must be the same state, and the same thousand-years-Reign mention’d in the 20th Chapter. Where ’tis said, (ver. 6.) the partakers of it shall be Priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
Another completory Vision, that extends it self to the end of the World, is that of the seven Vials, Ch. 15, & 16. And as at the opening of the Seals, so at the pouring out of the Vials, a triumphal Song is sung, and ’tis call’d the Song of Moses and of the Lamb.ch. 15. 3. ’Tis plainly a Song of thanksgiving for a Deliverance: but I do not look upon this deliverance as already wrought, before the pouring
out of Vials, though it be plac’d before them: as often the grand design and issue of a Vision is plac’d at the beginning. It is wrought by the Vials themselves, and by their effusion, and therefore upon the pouring out of the last Vial, The voice came out of the Temple of Heaven, from the Throne, saying,ch. 16. 17. Consummatum est: It is done. Now the Deliverance is wrought, now the work is at an end: or, The mystery of God is finish’d, as the phrase was before, concerning the 7th Trumpet: Ch. 10. 7. You see therefore this terminates upon the same time, and consequently upon the same state, of the Millennium. And that they are the same Persons that triumph here, and reign there, Ch. 20. You may see by the same Characters given to both of them.ch. 15. 2. Here, those that triumph, are said to have gotten the victory over the Beast, and over his Image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name. And there,ch. 20. 4. Those that reign with Christ, are said to be those that had not worshipped the Beast, neither his Image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands. These are the same Persons therefore, triumphing over the same Enemies, and enjoying the same reward.
And you shall seldom find any Doxology or Hallelujah in the Apocalypse, but ’tis in prospect of the kingdom of Christ, and the Millennial state. That is still the burthen of the Sacred Song: The complement of every grand Vision, and the life and strength of the whole Systeme of Prophecies in that Book. Even those Halleluja's that are sung at the destruction of Babylon, in the 19th. Chapter,ch. 19. 6, 7. are rais’d upon the view of the succeeding state, the Reign of Christ. For the Text says, And I heard as it were a voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunders, saying, Hallelujah. FOR THE LORD GOD OMNIPOTENT REIGNETH. Let us be glad and rejoyce and give honour to him: FOR THE MARRIAGE OF THE LAMB IS COME, AND HIS WIFE HATH MADE HER SELF READY. This appears plainly to be the New Jerusalem, if you consult the 21. ch. ver. 2. And I John saw the Holy City, New Jerusalem, coining down from God out of Heaven, PREPARED AS A BRIDE ADORNED FOR HER HUSBAND. ’Tis, no doubt, the same Bride and Bridegroom, in both places; the same marriage or preparations for marriage; which are compleated in the Millennial bliss, in the kingdom of Christ and of his Saints.
I must still beg your patience a little longer, in pursuing this argument throughout the Apocalypse. As towards the latter end of St. John's Revelation this Kingdom of Christ shines out in a more full glory, so there are the dawnings of it in the very beginning and entrance into his Prophecies. As at the beginning of a Poem, we have commonly in a few words the design of the Work, in like manner St. John makes this Preface to his Prophecies,ch. 1. 5, 6. From Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the first begotten of the dead, and the Prince of the Kings of the Earth: unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own bloud: And hath made us Kings and Priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever, Amen. Behold, he cometh in the clouds, &c. In this Prologue the grand argument is pointed at, and that happy Catastrophe and last Scene which is to crown the Work: The Reign of Christ and of his Saints at his second coming. He hath made us Kings and Priests unto God: This is always the
[paragraph continues] Characteristick of those that are to enjoy the Millennial happiness; as you may see at the opening of the Seals, chap. 5. 10. and in the Sons of the First Resurrection, ch. 20. 6. And this being joyned to the coming of our Saviour, puts it still more out of doubt. That expression also, of being washt from our sins in his bloud, is repeated again both at the opening of the Seals, ch. 5. 9. and in the Palm-bearing Company, ch. 7. 14. both which places we have cited before as referring to the Millennial State.
Give me leave to add further, that as in this general Preface, so also in the Introductory visions of the Seven Churches, there are, covertly or expresly, in the conclusion of each, glances upon the Millennium. As in the first to Ephesus, the Prophet concludes,ch. 2. 7. He that hath an ear, let him hear, what the Spirit says to the Churches: TO HIM THAT OVERCOMETH WILL I GIVE TO EAT OF THE TREE OF LIFE, WHICH IS IN THE MIDST OF THE PARADISE OF GOD. This is the Millennial happiness which is promised to the Conquerour; as we noted before concerning that phrase. In like manner in the second to Smyrna, He concludes:ch. 2. 11. He that overcometh, shall not be hurt of the second death. This implyes, he shall be partaker of the first Resurrection, for that's the thing understood; as you may see plainly by their being joyn’d in the 20th ch. ver. 6. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first Resurrection: on such the second death hath no power: but they shall be Priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. In the 3d to Pergamus,ch. 2. 17. the promise is, to eat of the hidden Manna, to have a white stone, and a new name written in it. But seeing the Prophet adds, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it, we will not presume to interpret that new state, whatsoever it is. In Thyatira, the reward is,ch. 2. 26, 27. To have power over the nations, and to have the Morning Star. Which is to reign with Christ, who is the morning Star, in his Millennial Empire: both these phrases being us’d in that sence in the close of this Book. In Sardis the promise is,ch. 3. 5. To be clothed in white raiment, and not to be blotted out of the Book of Life. And you see afterwards the Palm-bearing Companych. 7. 9, 14. are clothed in white robes; and those that are admitted into the New Jerusalem, are such as are written in the Lamb's book of life, ch. 21. 27. Then as to Philadelphia,ch. 3. 12. the reward promised there does openly mark the Millennial state, by the City of God, New Jerusalem which cometh down out of heaven from God: compar’d with chap. 21. 2. Lastly, to the Church of Laodicea is said,ch. 3. 21. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my Throne. And that is the usual phrase to express the dignity of those that reign with Christ, in his Millennial kingdom: as you may see, Apoc. 20. 4. Matt. 19. 28. Dan. 7. 9, 13, 14. So all these promises to the Churches aim at one and the same thing, and terminate upon the same point; ’Tis the same re-ward express’d in different ways; and seeing ’tis still fixt upon a victory, and appropriated to those that overcome, it does the more easily carry our thoughts to the Millennium, which is the proper reward of Victors, that is, of Martyrs and Confessors.
Thus you see how this notion and mystery of the Millennial kingdom of Christ, does both begin and end the Apocalypse, and run thorough all its parts: As the Soul of that Body of Prophecies: A Spirit or ferment that actuates the whole
mass. And if we could thoroughly understand that illustrious Scene at the opening of this Apocalyptical Theatre in the 4th and 5th chap. I do not doubt but we should find it a Representation of the Majesty of our Saviour in the Glory of his future Kingdom. But I dare not venture upon the explication of it, there are so many things of difficult and dubious interpretation, coucht under those Schemes. Wherefore having made these observations upon the Prophecies of St. John, we will now add to them some reflections upon the Prophecies of Daniel. That by the agreement and concurrence of these two great Witnesses, the Conclusion we pretend to prove, may be fully established.
In the Prophecies of Daniel there are two grand Visions, that of the Statue or Image, chap. 2. and that of the four Beasts, chap. 7. And both these Visions terminate upon the Millennium, or the Kingdom of Christ. In the Vision of the Statue, representing to us the four great Monarchies of the World successively, (whereof, by the general consent of Interpreters, The Roman is the fourth and last) after the dissolution of the last of them, a fifth Monarchy, the Kingdom of Christ, is openly introduc’d, in these words:ch. 2. v. 44. And in the days of these kingdoms, shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroy’d, and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces, and consume all those kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. This may be verified, in some measure, by the first coming of our Saviour in the days of the 4th kingdom; when his Religion from small beginnings, in a short time overspread the greatest part of the known World. ver. 34, 35.As the stone cut out without hands, became a great mountain and filled the whole Earth. But the full and final accomplishment of this Prophecy cannot be till the second coming of our Saviour. ver. 35.For not till then, will he break in pieces and consume all those kingdoms; and that in such a manner, that they shall become like the chaff of the Summer threshing floor, carried away by the wind: so as no place shall be found for them. This, I say, will not be done, nor an everlasting Kingdom erected in their place, over all the Nations of the Earth, till his Second Coming, and his Millennial Reign.
But this Reign is declared more expresly, in the Vision of the four Beasts, chap. 7.ch. 7. 13. For after the destruction of the fourth Beast, the Prophet says, I saw in the night, Visions, and behold one like the Son of man, came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him: And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away: and his kingdom that which shall not be destroy’d. Accordingly he says, ver. 21, 22. The last Beast and the little Horn made war against the Saints, until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the Saints of the most High; and the time came that the Saints possessed the kingdom. And lastly, in pursuit still of the same argument, he concludes to the same effect in fuller words, ver. 26, 27. But the Judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the Saints of the most High: whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.
Here is the end of the matter: says the Prophet.ch. 7. 28.
ch. 12. 13. Here is the upshot and result of all. Here terminate both the Prophecies of Daniel and St. John: and all the affairs of the Terrestrial World. Daniel brings in, this kingdom of Christ, in the conclusion of two or three Visions; but St. John hath interwoven it every where with his Prophecies, from first to last. And you may as well open a Lock without a Key, as interpret the Apocalypse without the Millennium. But after these two great Witnesses, the one for the old Testament, the other for the new, we must look into the rest of the Sacred Writers; for tho’ every single Author there, is an Oracle, yet the concurrence of Oracles is still a further demonstration, and takes away all remains of doubt or incredulity.