Essays On Chiliasm (Part 3)

   In my last two articles, I have shown that there will be a personal reign of Christ upon the earth; and that this reign constitutes what is known as the Millennium.  I realize quite well that some of my friends and correspondents of past months will be surprised that I have taken this position.  But, as explained previously, it is not really a new position at all, but an old one.  It is not one that I never held before, but the faith in which I was baptized.  Moreover, it is not my own teaching, but that of the Word of God itself.  It is my business to simply follow what the Bible teaches.

   Most of the lack of credibility in a future Millennium has arisen, I think, from allegorical methods of interpretation.  Not only are such theories unsound, however, but they are potentially dangerous.  From a Preteristic angle, there is nothing in God’s word that is plainly spoken or written.  Every word has a secret cryptographical meaning, which only certain individuals can unlock.  It is maintained that Christ spoke often in parables.  Therefore, His words must have a hidden and mysterious sense.  So the allegorists would have us to believe.  However, they cannot see that, while Christ did often speak in parables to disguise His teachings from the religious hypocrites of His day, this only determines that His words were plainly spoken.  For if His words were enigmatical, what need was there to speak in parables?  It would have been enough simply to have spoken, and then to have disclosed the true meaning to the disciples.  But that He spoke in parables gives us to know that His teachings were plainly understood. 

   Moreover, when Christ was questioned by Caiaphas, He said: “I spake openly to the world: I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing” (John 18: 20).  Then He says: “Why askest thou me?  Ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them: Behold, they know what I have said” (John 18: 21).  Would Christ have referred the High Priest to His hearers if He spoke in riddles?  For in that case, He only practiced a deception upon the High Priest.  But Christ and His Father are One; He cannot lie.  He is all light, and there is no darkness in Him.  Thus, when He refers Caiaphas to His hearers, He does so in good faith. 

   Obviously, many of our Lord’s teachings were spoken in parables for a reason.  And that because His passion was not yet fulfilled.  Christ’s sacrifice was hidden from Satan, that it might not be frustrated.  And so until Christ was delivered up, many of His teachings were spoken in parables.  But the meaning of these parables is disclosed in the New Testament; which proves that Christ’s purpose was not to mystify, but to enlighten us.  For what good will the preaching of the Gospel do if the sense of words is unknown?  For “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10: 17). 

   It seems the allegorists have gone and split themselves upon the rock of Gnosticism.  For they use the very methods that early heretics utilized in attacking and subverting the truth.  In looking for hidden meanings, they’ve only destroyed the theology of the New Testament, and even worked unbelief in themselves.  Those who have become shell-hardened over process of time are now perfectly unable to believe anything that we speak or write– be the proofs presented never so plainly by us.  Their error comes from destroying the meaning of language.  Wherefore, Paul warns us against “doting about questions and strifes of words” (1 Tim. 6: 4)– the very fault of the allegorists, who succeed in wresting the Scriptures to their own destruction.

   However, anyone who agrees with the meaning of language, and reads the Bible according its plain and natural sense, will discern that there shall be a rule of Jesus Christ upon this very earth, and that this rule constitutes the Millennial reign.  A learned Bible critic once implied that Pauline eschatology differs from Joahannine eschatology; that whereas Paul speaks of the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked as being contemporaneous, John inserts a thousand year reign of the righteous between the two resurrections.  We are not sure that this statement is correct.  For while Paul sometimes places the two resurrections at the same point in time, he also makes allowance for a personal reign of Jesus Christ and His saints. 

   (1 Cor. 6: 2-3) “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?  And if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge in the smallest matters?  Know ye not that we shall judge angels?  How much more, things that pertain to this life?

   It is manifest that Paul here refers to the Millennial reign.  But will this reign occur in heaven, or on earth?  Certainly on earth.  For he elsewhere writes that, “The earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the Sons of God” (Rom. 8: 19); looking forward to the time when Christ will come with all His saints to rule the world, when the earth shall be restored to righteousness and peace.  And it is to this personal reign of Christ that Isaiah referred when he wrote: “And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2: 4).  As I wrote in my last article, it is impossible to interpret this passage as relating to Christ’s present Mediatorial kingdom.  It must and can only be referred to the Millennial kingdom.

   And Paul speaks of both “reigning with Christ” and attaining unto “out-resurrection of the dead” (Phil. 3: 11).  The early church always understood this ‘exanastasis ton nekron‘ to be synonymous with the “resurrection of the just,” which occurs at the commencement of the Millennium.   The resurrected saints will then with Christ bear rule over the world.  Lactantius writes: “They who shall be alive in their bodies [i.e., the nations] shall not die, but during those thousand years shall produce an infinite multitude, and their offspring shall be holy, and beloved of God; but they who shall be raised from the dead shall preside over the living as judges.” (Divine Institutes, VII. xxiv).  This certainly fulfills Paul’s prediction that “the saints shall judge the world;” and accords with John’s vision of the Millennial reign: “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them” (Rev. 20: 4).

   And really, if we look at the general tenor of Revelation, it is no secret that the saints are to rule upon the earth.  For Christ has promised: “He that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations.  And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers” (Rev. 26-27).  And again, when recording the visions that would take place “hereafter” (Rev. 4: 1), John sees the thrones set up in heaven, and the saints singing a new song, saying: “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 blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation: And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5: 9-10).  This can refer to no other reign than that described in Rev. 20: 4.

   But we do not, like others, interpret this reign to be either harsh or tyrannical, but a rule of righteousness and peace.  It will be the inculcation of Gospel precepts among all men.  For Christ loves mankind and wishes all men to be saved.  And He desires our good and our well-being.  But knowing the perversity of the human heart, and the resistance of most men toward all forms of Divine government, He has ordained a time when human dominion will be brought to nothing and superseded by Divine rule.  And this is what Daniel’s vision relates, in which he saw the great stone cut out without hands which smote the feet of the image and brought it to nothing (Daniel 2: 34). At this time the seventh angel shall sound, and great voices in heaven will shout: “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 11: 15).

   Once again, where shall this rule take place?  If it takes place in heaven, then the saints will not in any manner be allowed reign on earth, nor to exercise power over the nations.  But if it takes place on earth, then all the Messianic prophecies harmonize in a wonderful manner; and not allegorically either, but truly, and in accordance with the Word of God.  And when we look to John’s vision of the New Jerusalem coming down to earth, we cannot entertain any other notion than that the rule must take place here, on earth.  For John sees the New Jerusalem coming down to us (Rev. 21: 2).  Whereas if the reign were heavenly, we should rather expect to be seen ascending to Him.  But Paul, while he speaks of “sitting together in heavenly places” (Eph. 2: 6), only uses this language because Christ is now seated at the right hand of the Father.  Thus as we maintain spiritual communion with Him, we are where He is (cf. Col. 3: 1-2).  But when our Lord returns to establish His reign among us, the heavenly city will descend to earth.  For in Jerusalem the Lord will dwell, to administer His reign over all mankind.  And all the saints will reign with Him.

   Commodian writes: “From heaven will descend the city in the first resurrection; this is what we may tell of such a celestial fabric.  We shall arise again to Him, who have been devoted to Him.  And they shall be incorruptible, even already living without death.  And neither will there be any grief nor any groaning in that city.  They shall come also who overcame cruel martyrdom under Antichrist, and they themselves live for the whole time, and receive blessings because they have suffered evil things; and they themselves marrying, beget for a thousand years.  There are prepared all the revenues of the earth, because the earth renewed without end pours forth abundantly.  Therein are no rains; no cold comes into the golden camp; No sieges as now, nor rapines, nor does that city crave the light of a lamp.  It shines from its Founder.  Moreover, Him it obeys; in breadth 12,000 furlongs, and length and depth.  It levels its foundations in the earth, but it raises its head to heaven.  In the city before the doors, moreover, sun and moon shall shine; he who is evil is hedged up in torment, for the sake of the nourishment of the righteous.  But from the thousand years God will destroy all those evils.” (Instructions, xliv).

   In order to understand why the the resurrected saints should “marry and beget for a thousand years,” we must refer back to man’s original constitution in Eden, which was free from lust.  For although truly the saints shall be changed into the similitude of angels (Luke 20: 35-36), this shall not occur until the last and public resurrection.  This view is supported not only by Commodian, but also by Irenaeus and Lactantius.  However, lest any should entertain carnal conceptions of the Millennium, we must keep in mind that, all things having been restored at that time, the saints will be above any carnal desires.  For then we shall be conformed to man’s original state, our will free from any corruptions of the flesh.  This will qualify us to reign over all the nations, and to lead men into the ways of justice, wisdom, righteousness, and peace.  We have more to say concerning the first resurrection, but must defer the subject to a later article.

   Nevertheless, during this period Jerusalem will be the glory of all nations, and the fame of Christ’s equity shall be spread far and wide.  When the Lord establishes His city in the midst of the earth, all nations shall flow unto it from all quarters, to worship the Lord and to keep the feast of tabernacles (Zech. 14: 16). 

   And we find a parallel between the New Jerusalem described by John, and the temple seen by Ezekiel.  Make no mistake, they are one and the same.  And yet some Chiliasts would infer from Ezekiel’s vision the re-institution of the temple sacrifices, which they fetch from passages such as Ezek. 43: 18-27, and similar Scriptures which imply that sacrifices will be set up when Christ comes to reign.  Which thing will never be, inasmuch as all sacrifices have been done away by Christ.

   What some fail to understand, is that when Ezekiel’s prophecy issued forth, Christ had not yet come to offer a final atonement for sin.  And so in Ezekiel’s vision the Mosaic statutes and sacrifices are described as being in effect in the administration of the Third Temple.  But these statutes, which include not only sacrifices, but “new moons and sabbaths” (Ezek. 46: 3) are described by Paul as “a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ” (Col. 2: 17).  Hence, Ezekiel was still looking forward to Christ’s first advent, at which time the temple sacrifices were abolished.  Now, wherefore in John’s city is there seen no temple? (Rev. 21: 2).  Because when Christ comes to reign in person all the ordinances will be fulfilled and summed up in Himself.  Once the substance has arrived, the shadows are of no avail.

To be continued…

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