The true state of the Millennium, according to Characters taken from Scripture; some mistakes concerning it, examin’d.
WE have made sufficient proof of a Millennial state, from Scripture and Antiquity; and upon that firm Basis have setled our second Proposition. We should now determine the Time and Place of this future kingdom of Christ: Not whether it is to be in Heaven, or upon Earth: for that we suppose determin’d already; but whether it is to be in the present Earth, and under the present constitution of Nature, or in the New Heavens and New Earth, which are promis’d after the Conflagration. This is to make our Third Proposition: and I should have proceeded immediately to the examination of it, but that I imagine it will give us some light in this affair, if we enquire further into the true state of the Millennium, before we determine its Time and Place.
We have already noted some moral Characters of the Millennial state; And the great Natural Character of it, is this in general, That it will be Paradisiacal. Free from all inconveniences, either of external Nature, or of our own Bodies. For my part, I do not understand how there can be any considerable degree of
happiness without Indolency: nor how there can be Indolency, while we have such Bodies as we have now, and such an external constitution of Nature. And as there must be Indolency, where there is happiness; so there must not be Indigency, or want of any due comforts of life. For where there is Indigency, there is solicitude, and distraction, and uneasiness, and fear: Passions, that do as naturally disquiet the Soul, as pain does the Body. Therefore Indolency and Plenty seem to be two essential Ingredients of every happy state; and these two in conjunction make that state we call Paradisiacal.
Now the Scripture seems plainly to exempt the Sons of the New Jerusalem, or of the Millennium, from all pain or want, in those words, Apoc. 21. 4. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying: neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And the Lord of that kingdom, He that sate upon the Throne, said, Behold I make all things new, ver. 5. This Renovation is a restauration to some former state: and I hope not to that state of Indigency, and misery, and diseasedness, which we languish under at present. But to that pristine Paradisiacal state, which was the blessing of the first Heavens and the first Earth.
As Health and Plenty are the Blessings of Nature, so, in civil affairs, Peace is the greatest blessing. And this is inseparably annext to the Millennium: an indelible character of the kingdom of Christ. And by Peace we understand, not onely freedom from Persecution upon religious accounts, but that Nation shall not rise up against Nation, upon any account whatsoever. That bloody Monster, War, that hath devour’d so many Millions of the Sons of Adam, is now at length to be chain’d up: and the Furies, that run throughout the Earth, with their Snakes and Torches, shall be thrown into the Abyss, to sting and prey upon one another. All evil and mischievous passions shall be extinguish'd: and that not in men onely, but even in Brute creatures, according to the Prophets. The Lamb and the Lyon shall lie down together, and the sucking Child shall play with the Basilisk. Happy days, when not onely the Temple of Janus shall be shut up for a thousand years, and the Nations shall beat their Swords into plowshares: but all enmities and antipathies shall cease, all acts of hostility, throughout all nature. And this Universal Peace is a demonstration also of the former character, Universal Plenty: for where there is want and necessitousness, there will be quarrelling.
Fourthly, ’Tis a kingdom of Righteousness, as well as of Peace. These also must go together; for unrighteous Persons will not live long in peace, no more than indigent Persons. The Psalmist therefore joyns them together: and Plenty also, as their necessary preservative: in his description of the kingdom of Christ: Psal. 85. 10, 11, 12. Mercy and truth are met together: Righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring out of the Earth, and righteousness shall look down from Heaven. Yea the Lord shall give good, and our Land shall yield her increase. This will not be a medley-state, as the present World is, good and bad mingled together; but a chosen generation, a royal Priesthood, an holy Nation, a peculiar people. Those that have a part in the first Resurrection, the Scripture pronounceth them Holy and Blessed: and says, the second death shall have no power over them. Satan also is bound and shut up in the bottomless Pit, and has
no liberty of tempting or seducing this people, for a thousand years: but at the end of that time, he will meet with a degenerate crew, separate and aliens to the Holy City,Apoc. 5. 9. that will make war against it, and perish in the attempt. In a word, those that are to enjoy this state, are always distinguish’d from the multitude, ch. 7. 14.
ch. 14. 3, 4.
ch. 21. 27. as People redeem’d from the Earth; That have wash’d their Robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb; and are represented as Victors over the World; with such other Characters as are incompetible to any but the righteous.
Fifthly, This will be a state under a peculiar divine presence and conduct. It is not easie indeed to determine the manner of this presence, but the Scripture plainly implies some extraordinary divine presence to enlighten and enliven that state. When the New Jerusalem was come down, St. John says,Apoc. 21. 3. And I heard a great voice out of Heaven, saying, Behold the Tabernacle of God is with men: and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people: and God himself shall be with them and be their God. And the like is promis’d to the Palm-bearing Company, Chap. 7. 15. where they are admitted to the priviledges of the New Jerusalem. When our Saviour was incarnate, and vouchsafed to dwell amongst the Children of Men, the same phrase is us’d by this same Author, Joh. 1. 14. 1 The Word was made flesh, and Tabernacled amongst us: and we beheld his glory, &c. We read it, He dwelt amongst us, but render’d more closely, it is, He set his Tabernacle amongst us. And that which the Hebrews call the Shekinah, 2 or divine presence, comes from this very word. Therefore there will be a Shekinah in that kingdom of Christ; but as to the mode of it, I am very willing to confess my ignorance.
The last Character that belongs to this state, or rather to those that enjoy it, is, that they are Kings and Priests unto God. This is a character often repeated in Scripture, and therefore the more to be regarded. It occurs thrice in the Apocalypse in formal terms, Ch. 1. 6. Ch. 5. 10. Ch. 20. 6. And as to the Regal dignity apart, that is further exprest, either by the donation of a kingdom, as in Daniel's phrase, Chap. 7. 18, 22, 27. Or by placing upon Thrones, with a judicial power; which is the New Testament style, Matt. 19. 28. Luk. 22. 29, 30. Revel. 20. 4. These two Titles, no doubt, are intended to comprehend the highest honours that we are capable of: these being the highest dignities in every kingdom; and such as were by the Ancients, both in the East and in the West, commonly united in one and the same Person: Their Kings being Priests, like Melchisedeck: or as the Roman Emperour was Pontifex Maximus. But as to the Sacerdotal character, that seems chiefly to respect the temper of the mind; to signifie a People dedicated to God and his Service: Separate from the World, and from secular affairs: Spending their time in devotion and contemplation, which will be the great employments of that happy state. For where there is ease, peace, and plenty of all things: refin’d Bodies, and purified Minds, there will be more inclination to intellectual exercises and entertainments: which they may attend upon, without any distraction, having neither want, pain, nor worldly business.
The Title of King implies a confluence of all things that constitute temporal happiness. ’Tis the highest thing we can wish any in this World, to be a King. So as the Regal dignity seems to comprehend all the Goods of Fortune, or external felicity: And the Sacerdotal, the Goods of the Mind, or internal: Both
which concur in the constitution of true happiness. There is also a further force and emphasis in this notion, of the Saints being made Kings, if we consider it comparatively, with respect to what they were before in this World; where they were not only mean and despicable, in subjection and servility, but often under persecution, abus’d and trampled upon, by the secular and Ecclesiastical powers. But now the Scene is chang’d, and you see the reverse of Providence, according as Abraham said to the Rich man, Son, remember that thou in thy life time receivedst the good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things. But now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. Now they are set upon Thrones and Tribunals, who were before arraigned as Criminals, and brought before tyrannical Judicatures. They are now Laws and Law-givers to themselves: in a true state of Royal Liberty, neither under the domination of evil men, nor of their own evil passions.
Some possibly may think, that this high character of being made Priests and Kings to God, is not general to all that enjoy the Millennium, but a prerogative belonging to the Apostles and some of the chief Martyrs, who are eminently rewarded for their eminent services. But Scripture, as far as I perceive, applyes it to all that inherit that kingdom. The redeemed out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, are made kings and priests to God, and shall reign on the earth, Apoc. 5. 9, 10. And in the 20th chap. ver. 6. all the sons of the first Resurrection are made Priests of God and shall reign with him a thousand years. Here is no distinction or discrimination thus far. Not that we suppose an universal equality of conditions in the Millennial state, but as to all these characters which we have given of it, I do not perceive that they are restrain’d or confin’d by Scripture to single persons, but make the general happiness of that state, and are the portion of every one that is admitted into the New Jerusalem.
Others possibly may think that this priviledge of the first Resurrection is not common to all that enjoy the Millennial state. For tho’ St. John, who is the only person that hath made express mention of the first Resurrection, and of the thousand years reign of Christ, does joyn these two as the same thing, and common to the same persons; yet I know there are some that would distinguish them as things of a different extent, and also of a different nature. They suppose the Martyrs only will rise from the dead; and will be immediately translated into Heaven, and there pass their Millennium in celestial glory. While the Church is still here below, in her Millennium, such as it is; a state indeed better than ordinary, and free from persecution: but obnoxious to all the inconveniences of our present mortal life, and a medly of good and bad people, without separation. This is such an Idea of the Millennium, as, to my eye, hath neither beauty in it, nor foundation in Scripture. That the Citizens of the New Jerusalem are not a miscellaneous company, but a Community of righteous persons, we have noted before: and that the state of nature will be better than it is at present. But, besides this, what warrant have they for this Ascension of the Martyrs into Heaven at that time? where do we read of that in Scripture? And in those things that are not matters of Natural Order, but of Divine Oeconomy, we ought to be very careful how we add to Scripture.
The Scripture speaks only of the Resurrection of the Martyrs, Apoc. 20. 45. but not a word concerning their ascension into heaven. Will that be visible? We read of our Saviour's Resurrection and Ascension, and therefore we have reason to affirm them both. We read also of the Resurrection and Ascension of the Witnesses, (Apoc. 11.) in a figurate sence, and in that sence we may assert them upon good grounds. But as to the Martyrs, we read of their Resurrection only, without any thing exprest or imply’d about their Ascension. By what authority then shall we add this new notion to the history or scheme of the Millennium? The Scripture on the contrary, makes mention of the descent of the New Jerusalem, Apoc. 21. 2. making the Earth the Theatre of all that affair. And the Camp of the Saints is upon the Earth, ver. 9. and these Saints are the same persons, so far as can be collected from the text, that rise from the dead, and reign’d with Christ, and were Priests to God. ver. 4, 5, 6. Neither is there any distinction made, that I find, by St. John, of two sorts of Saints in the Millennium, the one in Heaven, and the other upon Earth. Lastly, The four and twenty Elders, ch. 5. 10. tho’ they were Kings and Priests unto God, were content to reign upon Earth. Now who can you suppose of a superiour order to these four and twenty Elders: Whether they represent the twelve Patriarchs and twelve Apostles, or whomsoever they represent, they are plac’d next to him that sit upon the Throne,chap. 11. 16. and they have Crowns of Gold upon their heads, ch. 4. 4. there can be no marks of honour and dignity greater than these are; and therefore seeing these highest Dignitaries in the Millennium or future kingdom of Christ, are to reign upon Earth, there is no ground to suppose the assumption of any other into Heaven upon that account, or upon that occasion.
This is a short and general draught of the Millennial state, or future Reign of the Saints, according to Scripture. Wherein I have endeavour’d to rectifie some mistakes or misconceptions about it: That viewing it in its true nature, we may be the better able to judge when and where it will obtain. Which is the next thing to be consider’d.
Maimon. Mor. Nev. par. 1. c. 25