The Hallelujah chorus -- its real occasion and meaning -- the marriage of the Lamb -- the destruction of Rome -- the reasons for joy involved in these events -- the avengement of the slaughtered saints, of which they are the resurrected and rejoicing spectators -- the national celebration in the Holy Land under the leadership of Christ -- the next stage -- preparing to subjugate the whole world -- summons to surrender -- its rejection -- the "war of the great day of God Almighty" -- the programme of events in eleven items -- coming sacrifice -- destruction of the great men of the earth -- Nihilism eclipsed -- overthrow of the confederated powers of Europe -- capture of the leaders -- the beast and false prophet -- the lake of fire -- the host of rejected (resurrected) fugitives in their territories -- the binding of the dragon -- shutting him up in the abyss -- the reign of the saints for a thousand years -- who they are that reign -- not "martyrs" only -- the millennium not 360,000 years -- the first resurrection -- the rest of the dead -- living and reigning with Christ -- orthodox imagination -- the gloriousness of the kingdom.
THE civilized world has been made familiar with the Hallelujah chorus by the splendid composition of Handel; but its real nature, occasion, and meaning are by no means so generally understood as the music is appreciated. Handel himself had evidently a poor light on the subject; for, in selecting from the Apocalypse the word, to be set to strains which are as nearly "immortal" as anything musical can be, he omitted the very pith and marrow of the song that pealed forth in John's hearing in a tumult of joy and praise, which he could only compare to the noise of many waters, and the voice of mighty thunders. The pith and marrow are contained in two items, which Handel did not deem appropriate in his composition, though they formed part of the song John heard: 1. "The marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready;" and, 2. The Lord our God "hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hands." Both are central and essential aspects of the crisis causing the joy, and both are equally foreign to the theology in which Handel, with the majority of people, was born and bred. The first you understand very well: we need not dwell much upon it.
We have come to know that the marriage of the Lamb is the union that takes place between Christ and his brethren, in the day of his manifestation upon earth in power and great glory. This knowledge is
derivable from this very Scripture. We are told (verse 8), "The bride was arrayed, in fine linen, clean and white;" and that this fine linen, as part of the Apocalyptic imagery, represented "the righteousness (or more strictly translated, righteousnesses -- the righteous actions) of the saints." Consequently, the bride stands for the saints; and, when we know who the saints are, we know who the bride is. Who the saints are we may learn from the recorded work of the apostles in the first century. All who believed and submitted to the requirements of the gospel were saints, as in the case of the Romans (Rom. 1:7-16); the Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:2); the Ephesians (Eph. 1:1); the Philippians (Phil. 1:1); the Colossians (Col. 1:1), etc. All in every age who have, like these, believed the gospel are in a similar position with them, and therefore constituents of the bride, to whom the Lamb is to be united in glorious marriage at his coming. That bride stands for all the saints, in their numerical completeness, in the day spoken of by Paul, when the Lord comes "to be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe" (2 Thess. 1:10). The union is more than a legal union. It is a union of nature. Christ is now immortal, while his brethren are either in their graves or living in a weak and mortal state. At his coming the dead of them will come forth, and the living, with them, will, in the act of marriage, be assimilated in nature with him; for it is written, "He shall change their vile bodies, that they may be fashioned like unto his glorious body" (Phil. 3:21). They will, therefore, be "no more twain, but one flesh." Marriage will have its highest antitype, when Christ presents the complete ecclesia "to himself a glorious ecclesia, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing" (Eph. 5:27). The time for this presentation arrives at the epoch of Rome's overthrow. Pulpit theology has no counterpart for this; for it sends the friends of Christ to him, one by one, in detail as they die. There is no place for a simultaneous muster in such a system. Handel could not associate the marriage of the Lamb with his "Hallelujah", and so he left it out, and, in doing so, left out its most glorious feature; for the marriage of the Lamb is more glorious than the judgment of the Romish whore, though that is glorious. The two events are naturally related. A bride and a prostitute are congruous ideas. A gaudy prostitute is the divine symbol for the Church of Rome. That Church counterfeits what is coming. In the Roman Church we have a body subject to a head: that body the benighted Catholic populations, perishing for lack of
knowledge; that head, the Pope at Rome, a feeble, erring mortal, claiming the attributes and accepting the honours of God upon earth. What a body when contrasted with the body of the immortalized saints! -- a glorious corporation of men and women, perfected in character and nature, "without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing;" and what a head when compared with the omnipotent, immortal, and infallible Lord Jesus, the Son of God, and heir of all things! The contrast helps us to see the glory of the feature omitted by Handel; for the false Church is to be supplanted by the true. The pretended head is to be destroyed by the true head of the Church, and government given over to Christ and his glorified brethren, to the unutterable joy and well-being of earth's teeming populations, who will, under them, experience the truth of Jehovah's promise to Abraham, that all nations shall be blessed in him and in his seed.
The theme of the "Hallelujah!" that first broke upon John's ear is one that is very unpopular with society, and yet is one that in the system of true wisdom is glorious and joyful. It was expressed in these words, "True and righteous are his judgments, for he hath judged the great whore which did corrupt the earth with her fornications, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand." It is impossible for those who are intelligent in the truth to leave this out of their vision of the Hallelujah chorus. Such know too well what great reason there is for the rejoicing in which the apostles themselves are divinely summoned to take part (chap. 18:20). Apart from the fact that the manifestation of the destroying judgments of God will teach the world righteousness, there are retrospective reasons that will give them much joyful zest in the appreciation of those who are in sympathy with the divine work upon the earth. They are hinted at in the closing verses of chap. 18: "By thy sorceries were all nations deceived; and in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth". Here is a reference to the demoralizing effect in the now current age produced by the system headed up at Rome. There is a deceiving of all nations by ecclesiastical sorcery. We see it before our eyes. It is much more of a reality than the common run of people (looking at things merely in the light of what they have been accustomed to) are able to realize. It is not merely that the community everywhere has for ages been sorcerized by ecclesiastical pretensions, assertions and ceremonies into the belief of worse than worthless fables -- (whose hold upon the popular mind is so deep-rooted that
even Protestants, who repudiate the authority of Rome, are largely victimized by them), but the effect of these fables has been to dull the intellect, and degrade the mind, and brutalize the tastes of the peoples everywhere, to an extent that is only realized when the ennobling glory and emancipating power of the truth is seen. The mind is on the move from day to day, and inevitably assimilates the influences acting upon it. Papal doctrines and traditions are utterly corrupting and degrading. They blind the understanding, rob the better nature of all stimulus, and directly encourage the free play of the worst impulses of human nature. This is done by the slow out-working of their logical effects in the minds of their victims, and not by their ostensible professions. I believe it is impossible to estimate fully the part contributed by historic ecclesiasticism to the intellectual stolidity and moral debasement of the European populations. The truth gradually awakes us to a perception of its stupefying effects, even in Britain, which, in a certain way, has been free from the Roman yoke for centuries. We do not realize it all at once. "Drunk with the wine of the harlot's fornication" is the Spirit of God's own symbol of the world's condition; and while, at first, the symbol shocks by its plainness and its vigour, at last it seems exactly adapted to express the actual state of things. The world appears in a very different state to a mind scripturally enlightened, from what it does to a merely natural observer. Who can alter it? Argument is powerless. The system rests upon the impregnable foundations of vested interest, respectability, human honour, and historic celebrity. All the world wonders after the beast. A strong and infallible hand is wanted to break up a strong and hoary system of intellectual and spiritual slavery, which has besotted the nations and keeps them besotted. Such a hand is brought to bear when Christ comes. The true and righteous judgments of God are poured upon the great whore to her extermination from the earth. Is it a great marvel that such an event should evoke the loud and long hallelujahs that John heard beforehand in the vision in the isle of Patmos?
But there is another aspect to the case, yielding joy in the "judgment of the great whore." It is that expressed in the words, "He hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hands." This sentiment is entirely obnoxious to modern "Christianity." Boasting of the New Testament as the source of its inspiration, it yet has no place for this New Testament foreshadowing of retributive visitation of the blood of saints and prophets on their
ecclesiastical murderers. This is the result of a misapprehension of the New Testament precepts on the subject of vengeance. We are not to avenge ourselves. We are to submit to evil at present: but this does not exclude "the righteous judgment of God." In the same precept it is written, "Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." And at the time we are considering, the era for this vengeance has arrived. It is a vengeance to be inflicted by the very hands of the saints themselves, with Christ at their head (Psa. 149:9; Dan. 7:22; Rev. 2:26; Rev. 19:11-15).
The apostles are called upon to rejoice over Rome's perdition (18:20). This implies they will be on the scene at the time: so they will. The resurrection has taken place before Rome goes crashing into the abyss. The song that John hears in the beginning of this chapter -- "a great voice of much people in heaven" -- is the song of the resurrection multitude, who have become aware of the retributive catastrophe that has overwhelmed their historic enemy. It is heard "in heaven," because they are there, that is, in the heaven of the Apocalypse -- the heaven in which previously John saw the dragon and the sun-clothed woman -- the heaven of power upon earth. In this heaven they have become enthroned, as the result of the appearance of Christ in power and glory, their resurrection and immortalization with him, and their joint overthrow of Gog and his assembled hosts on the mountains of Israel, from which, at this point, they will have expelled these hosts, and established themselves in their stead as the beginning of the kingdom of God upon earth. Firmly established here (in the Holy Land), they will have sent their summons to the nations to submit, as we saw in the consideration of chapter 14. That summons will have been rejected, and its rejection will have been answered by the blow which destroys Rome in their midst -- an event, the of which causes the joyful outburst in the camp of the saints which John heard in "the heaven" of their occupation. A glorious and imposing State ceremonial -- far exceeding anything possible to mortal men -- is implied in the intimation that "A voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great." We have heard of thanksgiving services by royal authority -- national fasts and national thanksgivings on special occasions; but where has the world ever witnessed a celebration like that which responds to this divine summons, issued to the house of Israel on the morrow of Rome's perdition? The thousands of Israel
led and guided by an immortal multitude, surrounding the Son of Man, give no formal and laggard expression to their praise. The manifestation of the national joy -- after so long and bitter a night, and in the presence of so perfect a deliverance as the Lord brings -- is hearty and rapturous beyond all previous ebullitions of human feeling -- excelling even the song of Israel on the eastern shore of the Red Sea after Pharaoh's destruction. If ever men weep tears of gladness, it must be on the occasion here depicted, when, after the depression and desolation of ages, the mustered family of Jehovah can say in the language of manifest fact, "The Lord God omnipotent reigneth"; and when they seek to give vent to their unspeakable joy in saying, "Let us be glad and rejoice; for the marriage of the Lamb is come; and his wife hath made herself ready." This marriage of the Lamb is not only union with his brethren but union with the land (Isa. 62:4), and union with the long outcast nation of Israel (Zeph. 3:17). It is the era of regeneration all round, the joyous heading-up and ripening of all the glorious purposes and promises of God for which the night of suffering is but a preparation.
Handel inserts, in his version of the song, the words proclaimed on the sounding of the seventh trumpet (Rev. 11:15); "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ." This is rather out of place. It is true the epoch for this mighty revolution has arrived when "the marriage of the Lamb is come;" but at the particular moment represented in the celebration before us, the change has not taken place. "The kingdoms of this world" are still "the kingdoms of this world." The only part of the world that has become subject to Christ is the Holy Land, cleared of the Gogian hosts by the preliminary stroke of Ezekiel 38 and 39; Joel 3; and Zech. 14. The rest of the world, though startled by that disaster, and by the subsequent cataclysm on the Italian peninsula, have no knowledge of the divine nature of the revolution begun, and are engaged in sullenly organizing their forces for the succeeding phases of "the war of the great day of God Almighty." These ensue shortly. After a period of great joy and rejoicing in the Holy Land, the palm is laid aside in the camp of the saints for the sword. The heavenly hosts equip themselves for the struggle on which they are about to enter for the mastery of the world. This is signified by the next scene (verses 11-16): "And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse, and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in
righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written that no man knew but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called THE WORD OF GOD. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS."
Here is an entire change of scene: instead of a Lamb, and a bride, and a marriage, we have horses, instruments of war, fire-glancing riders, and blood-stained garments, with glimpses of smitten nations, iron rule, and hot retribution. Though the picture is changed, its elements are self-evidently the same in the principal features. The "faithful and true" leader of the heavenly host is, without controversy, the Lamb; the armies following are the bride, and their companionship in war is that which is inaugurated by the marriage. The first picture is that of the saints in the banqueting house of love, so to speak; the second is the Apocalyptic hieroglyph of their subsequent relation to the nations of the earth as military conquerors. This is a perfectly natural order of ideas. God is in all things the God of order. The universe, as we see it, is a perfect illustration: the history of His past doings is a confirmation, if needed. The work to be done at the coming of Christ is the work of God, for Christ is God manifest. "God was in Christ," in the days of his flesh, "reconciling the world unto himself;" much more is God in Christ in the days of his power, when, as "the name of Jehovah, he comes from far, burning with his anger" (Isa. 30:27). The work to be done at the appearing of Christ being a work of God, we should expect it to be done in an orderly and consecutive manner. What more orderly and appropriate than the following programme, which appears from the symbols and testimonies bearing upon the case: --
1. -- The arrival of Christ in the earth as a thief during the progress of the sixth vial, viz., in this current epoch, when the political Euphrates is at the dried-up point, and the nations of the earth in an armed state, as the result of the policy of the political frogs (Rev. 16:15).
2. -- The gathering together of the household of faith -- living and dead, faithful and unfaithful, into his presence, to be judged by him --
as the "account" may warrant -- to be accepted or rejected -- immortalized or sentenced to inherit corruption according as it shall be shown the things done during probationary life have been good or bad (2 Thess. 2:1; 2 Tim. 4:1; Luke 19:15; Acts 10:42; 2 Cor. 5:10; Luke 12:8-9; Gal. 6:8).
3. -- The sending away of the rejected to await the judgment that will "devour the adversary" (Heb. 10:27), that is the manifestation of Divine power that will overthrow the nations who will oppose Christ, organized as "the devil and his angels" (Matt. 25:41), and Apocalyptically described as "the great dragon, that. old serpent, the Devil and Satan" (Rev. 20:1).
4. -- A season of rejoicing together (in the seclusion of the judgment scene -- probably Sinai -- in the presence of the attendant hosts of angels), on the part of Jesus and his accepted brethren -- the long separate but now united bride and Bridegroom, yielding mutual joy and gladness -- the Bridegroom beholding in the bride the fruit of "the travail of his soul" during the terrible days of his sufferings; and the bride, realizing in the spectacle of her visible Lord and Saviour that "joy unspeakable and full of glory," which, in measure, she experienced in the days of faith, when she had to say, "whom having not seen, we love" (John 16:22; Matt. 25:21; Isa. 53:11; 1 Peter 1:8).
5. -- Their ascent together from the desert to the mountains of Israel to waylay and overwhelm the northern Gog, who will have victoriously overspread the re-settled Holy Land, and have brought the partially-restored Jews into great affliction, he resting in confident possession of Jerusalem (Zech. 14:5; Joel 3:11; Ezek. 38:1-12, 21; Daniel 11:45.
6. -- The destruction of the northern hosts, and the expulsion of a miserable remnant out of the land (Ezek. 39:1-5; Isa. 17:14).
7. -- The setting-up again of David's fallen tabernacle (Amos 9:11).
8. -- A call to the nations to surrender to Jehovah's king, enthroned on Zion (Psa. 2:6, 10-11; Isa. 52:13-15; Rev. 14:7).
9. -- The destruction of Rome (Rev. 14:8; 18:21).
10. -- Great rejoicings in Jerusalem (Rev. 18:1-6).
11. -- Preparation in the Holy Land for carrying war into the enemy's country, and inflicting the vengeance of God throughout the world (Isa. 41:15; Micah 4:13; Jer. 51:20; Rev. 19:11-16).
This is the point to which the white horse scene in Revelation 19 conducts us -- the point at which the kingdom of God has begun upon the earth, but has not yet subdued the earth to its power. At this point, it exists only in the territory of the Holy Land which has been previously cleared of the enemy by the overthrow of Gog. Established here, after a preliminary pause of consolidation, it takes attitude for its great aggression upon the whole world, which it is destined to subjugate to the sceptre of the house of David. This is the relation of things symbolized in the scene before us. In such a situation, the summons of the fowls to a feast of carrion is appropriate: "I saw an angel standing in the sun: and he cried with a loud voice, saying, Come and gather yourselves together to the supper of the great God; that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great." Here we have exhibited a coming sacrifice of the great men of the earth. What greater men are there than "kings and captains and mighty men?" They comprise the respectability of the Continent where militarism is in the ascendant. The abolition of this class of respectability is a necessity before a true civilization can be established. The Socialists see this: the Nihilists of Russia have startled Europe with a programme aiming at it, and with one or two attempts to carry it out, but what can they do? If every attempted assassination were a success, it would be but a leaf or two more from the mighty oak, and even if they could pull the oak down, what could they put in its place? We should only have the same monstrous evil in another shape. Better the ascendancy of an elegant and refined aristocracy than the leadership of an ignorant and vulgar democracy. God has His own remedy in store. He intends the destruction of the great of the earth in preparation for the new order of society to be established under Christ's glorious headship -- not a democracy, but a theocracy -- a true theocracy -- not in name merely -- the real and active government of God through Christ and an immortal administration, numerous enough to meet the requirements of universal empire. This purpose involves the perdition of the present order of things, for it is based upon principles with which the present order is at utter variance. It is expressed in the angelic formula, "Glory to God in the highest: on earth peace, and goodwill toward men." This was the motto of Christ's mission, heralded on the plains of Bethlehem, and it will not be falsified when that
mission is accomplished. That mission will not be accomplished till he has performed the work symbolized in the chapter we are considering. The work he has done so far is great, but it is only foundation work. He has laid the basis of the world's reconciliation to God; but there are many obstacles, and these have to be cleared out of the way. This will be done when the kings and captains and mighty men are served up at "the supper of the great God." The way it is done is beautiful. They are not hunted and shot, like game. They are allowed to give full vent to their native diabolism, in a fully organized military enterprise to put down the power of Christ just established in Palestine.
"I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat upon the horse, and against his army." This is the preparation for the supper announced in verse 17. The confederated hosts of Europe, marching under the constituted authorities, draw near in threatening masses, to crush the insolent and mysterious dictatorship that has newly sprung up in Syria. They probably expect an easy victory, supposing they have only some fanatic of a second Mahomet to deal with. They put forth great strength to make sure work. They come on like Goliath, disdaining their petty foe, yet angry at having to condescend to smite him. But how speeds the war when the hosts meet? Many a carnage-strewn field from which the kings flee will slowly tell the tale. The war lasts a long time as we saw in connection with chapter 17, and for purposes which we then considered. The end is certain. "The beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat on the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth; and all the fowls were filled with their flesh. Such is the symbolic description of the general upshot of the war of the great day of God Almighty. Its general effect is clear enough, whatever may be involved in the details. The system of civil and ecclesiastical European society, as headed-up in the emperor and Pope (for the time then being), will be "taken," and extinguished in the fiery destruction that will have beforehand obliterated sacerdotal Rome in volcanic perdition. That they are "cast alive," as distinguished from the "remnant" who are "slain with the sword" of the white-horse rider in chief, intimates the difference made between the leaders and the rank and file. The
latter are destroyed with an indiscriminate slaughter; but the official heads are preserved for ceremonial judgment at the hands of the victor, after the type of the kings of the Amorites, who were brought before Joshua when their forces had been overthrown and scattered (Joshua 10:22-25). By this discrimination, the beast-and-false-prophet system, of which they will be the last representatives, will be more strongly and effectually suppressed than if they were slain in battle. The lake of fire, into which they are cast, is the symbol of the second death, as we are informed in chapter 21:8. It therefore stands for the fiery judgments of God, inflicted destructively on the adversary at Christ's coming; for it is this judgment that is to devour false brethren in a second death, after they have risen from the dead (Heb. 10:27; 2 Thess. 1:7-9; Matt. 25:41). While the fiery lake is a symbol, it does not exclude the employment of literal fire as the destruction which it symbolizes, which leaves the wicked neither root nor branch (Mal. 4:1). Fire has been so employed in several former cases: vile Sodom and Gomorrha (Gen. 19:24); Korah's sympathizers (Num. 16:35); Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:2); the military companies sent to arrest Elijah (2 Kings 1:10-12), etc. In whatever manner destruction befalls the adversary (and the manner will doubtless vary in different cases), it will be terrible and effectual. Participation in it -- ("alive" -- that is, raised from the dead to judgment) -- is the fate awaiting those who, being responsible, are not counted worthy by the Lord of acceptance in that day: for "the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whore-mongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death" (21:8). This is not the popular hell, but it is terrible enough. It is a lake of death, and not a living torment. It symbolizes the inflicted judgment of God, which destroys those who are the subjects of it (Psa. 37:20; 145:20; Matt. 3: 12), but which, for a time, leaves the traces of their shame for the instruction of the populations who will survive the judgment crisis, and find their wisdom and delight in the worship of Jehovah (Isa. 66:23-24). Proximately, the judgment will be put forth (by fire and sword) for the overthrow of the kings who oppose the setting-up of the kingdom of God; but, secondarily, it will be the great day of retribution for the wickedness of the generations that have passed. It is part of the political situation that "the time of the dead that they should be judged" arrives with the coming of Christ
and the anger of the nations. Though responsibility is limited to but a small proportion of the dead (the rest remaining undisturbed: Isa. 26:13-14; Psa. 49:6-20; Prov. 21:16; Jer. 51:57), yet those who come forth to the shame and contempt of that retributive era will be a vast multitude, far vaster than the number of those accepted and glorified; for, though many be called, few are chosen (Matt. 22:14). Thus, a new and terrible aggravation of the troubles of the times will be the launching upon society of a crowd of fugitives, accursed of God, lacking friend and bread, and the opportunity of quiet settlement anywhere; knowing the nature of the time that will have come upon the world, and having only the language of despair on their lips; for they will have seen the Judge, and retired from his presence, "with weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth" -- death lying before them, but not till the time appointed, at or before the close of the struggle between the nations and Christ. Well may such a time be described as "a time of trouble, such as never was," when "many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake" (Dan. 12:1-2). Blessed are those who find mercy of the Lord in that day, and are invited to his side, among the called, and the chosen, and the faithful, who follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.
The political sequel is the suppression of human government and the establishment of the kingdom of God in all the earth. This is shown in the symbolism of Rev. 20:1-6, which comes within the purview of this evening's lecture.
"And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. And I saw thrones, and they sat on 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 foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not 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."
The significance of this symbolism becomes evident enough after what has gone before. It shows the elements of previous scenes in new combinations. Just as the marriage scene gave way to a picture of war, in which the marriage parties appear in a new guise; so here we have the combatants in the war under
a new figure, illustrative of the altered relations resulting from the war. The heaven-descended angel is Jesus and the saints; the key and chain, power to open and shut at will, and to bind or reduce to a condition of powerlessness; the dragon, the Devil and Satan, or human nature in organized opposition to God, and here represented by the symbol of the eastern section of the Roman Empire (the dragon), because that is the part of the earth (Turkey occupied by Russia) in which the closing opposition is offered. Also called the Old Serpent, because the Edenic serpent was the beginning of human rebellion, and became the symbol of the system resulting from it. For such an angel to lay hold on the dragon and bind him, is for Jesus and the saints to seize on human government, and impose on all its officials such a restraint as will effectually prevent them from re-asserting their authority, or making any attempt to re-establish their power. To cast him into the abyss -- (translated bottomless pit) is to eject human nature -- (sin's flesh, alias the devil) -- from all share in the government, and to cast all its officials into privacy among the common people. To shut him up, and set a seal upon him, is to establish such a system of repression and watchfulness as will leave no loophole for the escape of human Satanism from the abyss of powerlessness into which it will be thrown.
The adoption of such a system would be simple and easy to such a class of rulers as Jesus and the saints, who control the power of the Spirit of God. There are several historic illustrations of the practical use of this power in dealing with men. The Syrians could not succeed in their plans against Israel, because, as one of the servants of the king told him, "Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telling the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber" (2 Kings 6:12). Gehazi sought in vain to conceal his private movements from the prophet, who said, "Went not mine heart with thee when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee?" Peter, by the power of the Spirit, knew the private understanding between Ananias and Sapphira to misrepresent facts, before they came to tell their tale (Acts 5:1-7). Jesus knew the whereabouts and the attitude of Nathanael at a distance, before he was called to come and see Jesus (John 1:48). These are some of the illustrations of the power by which the government of Christ and the saints in the age to come will be able to detect the smallest germ of sedition without the employment of spies; while the falling down dead of Ananias and Sapphira illustrates the power by
which they will be able to enforce their authority, thus admitting of that entire abandonment of the art of war, which is the prophetically-declared characteristic of the reign of Christ (Micah 4:1-4; Hosea 2:18; Zech. 9:10).
The work of binding and shutting up the dragon accomplished, the next scene in natural order is that presented in verse 4 -- a picture of thrones -- the thrones of the house of David and their occupants. "I saw thrones, and they sat on them..." Who are "they?" They are defined in the amplification following: "The souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the word of God." On the strength of this, some say that the millennial thrones will only be occupied by "martyrs" -- those who have actually suffered death for Christ. That this is a mistake you are all aware from two things: 1, Christ judges and rewards the living, as well as the dead, "at his appearing and his kingdom" (2 Tim. 4:1). The living, found in the act of faithful service, are made rulers, as well as those who have gone to their graves by violence, or otherwise (Matt. 24:46). This is only reasonable; for the kingdom is awarded, not for being killed, but for faithful service in life, which is often more difficult than to die. "If we suffer, we shall also reign with him" (2 Tim. 2:12), whatever form the suffering take. Secondly, the 4th verse of Rev. 20 does not limit the occupants of the throne to one class. There are not only those who were "beheaded for the witness of Jesus," but those "who had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither received his mark upon their foreheads or in their hands:" that is, who had stood aloof from all complicity with Roman Babylon. There is a special appropriateness in classifying the occupants of the millennial thrones in this way, in view of the preceding portion of the vision, which exhibits the beast and his image in the ascendant in all the earth, and prevailing against the saints, "even unto death." The time has now come in this chapter for a reversal of parts. The saints rise from the dead; the beast and his image are destroyed, and the saints reign. They reign a thousand years, -- hence the period of their reign is called the millennium, from the Latin word signifying a thousand. Some have suggested a day-for-a-year interpretation of this period, making it 360,000 years; but there is no ground for the suggestion, beyond the fact that the day-for-a-year principle is observed in the definition of some of the Apocalyptic periods. This is by no means a conclusive evidence of every period being on the day-for-a-year principle. It all depends upon the association of the period. The life
of the beast, signifying an empire, requires a condensation of the time, for the sake of decorum: so with the depredation of locusts, or the exposure of corpses, symbolizing political events: symbolic time was a necessity to suit the fitness of things; but here, in Rev. 20, it is a question of "reigning," which is a literal function, as those who reign are literal persons, requiring a literal statement of time. The surroundings of the case necessitate a literal understanding of the thousand years. It is in harmony with the Sabbath type, six days followed by a seventh of rest: six thousand years of turmoil, followed by a thousand years of rest and peace. 360,000 would be incompatible with the mission of the kingdom of God, which is to bring the mortal population of the globe into reconciliation with God, and a state of readiness for the immortal state beyond. 360,000 years of mortal propagation would cram the earth many times over, even at the present rate of increase; but what shall we say to the rate of the increase when human life is greatly lengthened, as we learn it will be from Isaiah 65:20-22, and when the enriching blessing of God will be on the earth with its increase, and the family of man everywhere? (Psa. 67:6-7; Hosea 2:18-22; Jer. 31:12-14; Ezek. 34:26). God's plans are wise; and therefore a thousand, and not 360,000 years, are required for the reign of Christ and the saints. A poor salvation, some say, if it is only to last a thousand years. The criticism is founded on a mistake. It is not salvation, but only its opening phase, that is to last a thousand years. When mortal man has been divinely governed a thousand years, the time will have come for the final form of things on earth. Man's mortality will cease in the immortalization of the mighty harvest of obedient men and women, generated by the millennial reign, and in the destruction of such of the races as do not, after that wonderful era of privilege, answer to that description. But this is anticipating the subject of the last lecture.
"The rest of the dead lived not again till the thousand years were finished." This shows that after Christ comes and raises his brethren and associates them with himself in the government, there will be no further resurrection till the period of their government is at an end. "The rest of the dead"* does not necessarily mean those left unraised in their graves at Christ's coming, though it may include some such; because the bulk of them will never see the
[*The dead who figure in this vision of the millennial "thrones" are the righteous. No others "shall reign"; and no others are within the purview of the vision. "The rest of the dead" are the "post-millennial harvest", of which Christ and his brethren are" the firstfruits" (1 Cor. 15:23-28; Rev. 14:1-5). -- Publisher.]
light of resurrection at all, not being in circumstances making them responsible (Isa. 26:13; Psa. 49:14-20). "The rest of the dead" must be understood of the entire reign of death on the earth. The time for death to cease has not arrived with the setting-up of the kingdom. Death continues in the kingdom of the thousand years (Isa. 65:20; Ezek. 44:25). When the saints are immortalized, there is a remainder of Adam's mortal race, who like them will at a subsequent time become immortal; and the force of the statement seems to be in the intimation that there will be no more admission to immortality till "the thousand years are finished." The Revised Version of the New Testament omits in this verse the word "again," and the omission strengthens the meaning of the verse in the direction now suggested.
"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." This verse is usually understood in a way that nullifies important truth in other directions. It is taken to mean that all who come out of the grave at the coming of Christ are "blessed and holy," in disregard of the plainest declarations elsewhere that the unworthy servants of Christ as well as the worthy come forth to judgment at his coming (Dan. 12:2; John 5:29; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Tim. 4:1). What the verse says is that "Blessed and holy is he that hath part (meros, portion, inheritance, or lot) in the first resurrection."* Many come forth at that time who, like Simon Magus, have "neither part nor lot in the matter" (Acts. 8:21); to whom Jesus says "I never knew you" (Matt. 7:23), and in whom at that time will be realized his terrible words, "Ye shall see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out" (Luke 13:28). To say that these do not rise at this time is to deny the judgment of the living and the dead at the appearance of Christ, and therefore to reject a first principle of the gospel of Christ (Acts 10:42; Rom. 2:16; Heb. 6:1- 2).
[* "The first resurrection" in this vision refers only to the righteous. Compare Luke 20:35-36. The judgment seat is a thing of the past before Satan is bound and the millennial thrones set up. -- Publisher.]
The contrast, in the verse, is between those who at the time have part and those who at that time have no part; those on whom the second death hath no power and those on whom it has the power. The contrast is not between those who rise when Christ comes, and those who rise at some other time. Such a contrast could not hold good; for millions who rise at the close
of the thousand years will be as "blessed and holy" as those who rise at the beginning of that period, though doubtless a higher rank will eternally appertain to those who enter eternal life "through much tribulation" than to those who, in such an age of light and blessing as the thousand years, hear a voice behind them, so to speak, at every step in their journey, saying, "This is the way, walk ye in it" (Isa. 30:21), and when "all shall know the Lord, from the least even to the greatest" (Jer. 31:34).
This "living and reigning with Christ" is a privilege which cannot be enjoyed at a subsequent stage of God's work on earth. It is a work of subduing the evil and dispensing blessing among mankind in a thousand practical ways, while as yet the effects of sin remain. They are no meaningless words that are addressed in the parable to the man faithful in the use of the talents entrusted to his use in his Lord's absence, "Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful in a very little: I will make thee ruler over many things: have thou authority over ten cities." To qualify his brethren for the enlarged stewardship of the age to come, the first thing Christ does at his return after judgment, is to transform their natures into similarity with his own. This is testified with a plainness that leaves no mist on the point (Phil. 3:20-21; 1 John 3:2; 1 Cor. 15:50-53). Endowed with an incorruptible, unflagging, immortal nature and gifts of penetration unknown to mortal faculty (1 Cor. 13:12), we behold the saint enter upon the work of ruling his appointed district in the name and by the power of Christ when the word everywhere has been brought into subjection. An immortal amidst mortals; an infallible man among erring men; an omniscient judge among those who see only the outside of things -- the beautiful, the dignified, the noble, the strong among the frail and lacking sons of Adam: the omnipotent and the wealthy among the weak and the poor. We can form but a faint conception of the glory of the destiny of "living and reigning with Christ a thousand years." Such a man will be a father among his people -- a god among men -- revered, honoured, loved and worshipped by his grateful and rejoicing subjects, who thrive and flourish in his clemency and in his wisdom in all their affairs. He will be a constituent of Jehovah's One Name in all the earth (Zech. 14:9), of which the kernel will be Jesus enthroned in Jerusalem (Isa. 24:23; Mic. 4:7). This the gospel of the kingdom has taught us. It is a common idea that the doctrine of the millennial reign of Christ depends upon the few verses in the Apocalypse we have been considering. When people become acquainted with the Scriptures,
they see how totally groundless this idea is. You have experienced the truth of this remark. You have seen that the doctrine of the kingdom of God (or the reign of Christ on earth in the age to come) is the theme of divine promise from the beginning; the subject of the promises made to the Fathers (Gen. 22:17-18; Gal. 3:16); the covenant made with David (2 Sam. 7:12-17; 23:3-5; Acts 2:30); the communication of God to men by all the prophets (Isa. 9:7; Jer. 33:15; 23:3-5; Ezek. 37:21-22; Dan. 7:14, etc., etc.), and the preaching of Jesus and the apostles (Luke 8:1; Acts 28:23). You have seen that the salvation offered to us in the gospel is neither more nor less than the realization of all those glorious promises. The Apocalypse is a dramatic exhibition of the course of affairs among men with relation to the working out of this hope. It exhibits in a distinct manner the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth as the appointed consummation to which all things are working: but it is by no means the source of the idea. The idea is rooted in all the Scriptures. It is pre-supposed in the Apocalypse throughout, which is merely a communication to the servants of God for their enlightenment in contemporary matters of detail. Their hope of living and reigning with Christ would rest on substantial grounds if the Apocalypse were taken away. It rests on "the sure word of prophecy" delivered to Israel ages before John was banished to Patmos. It rests on the gospel itself, which is the gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 24:14).
It is a hope very distinct and tangible. Reigning with Christ, as exhibited in this gospel, is a reality. Popular hymns talk of reigning with Christ, but what do they mean? They know not. A mere subsistence of delight -- a passive ecstasy, in which they drowsily float in the ethereal clouds of "the happy land" -- a bathing in the blue and brightness of heaven -- an imaginary bliss. This is not the Bible "reigning with Christ," though the Bible reigning with Christ will have all the happiness about it that was ever imagined in connection with the orthodox heaven. The Bible reigning with Christ is a regulating of human affairs as they ought to be regulated: a guiding of mankind with power into ways of enlightenment and righteousness, joy and peace, in the then present time, with an unbounded prospect of eternal day beyond. Such a reigning with Christ is exactly adapted to meet the wants of the afflicted human race who will be blessed by it, and to give scope to the noble aspirations of those who will be called upon to take part in it.