Can Change the World Again.
By A. M. Hills.
POST-MILLENNIAL ADVENT THEORY
Definition. The post Millennial Advent theory is: The nations of the earth are to be evangelized and all are to be converted, who ever will be converted, in this Holy Spirit's dispensation, by the present means of grace. The millennium means the triumph of Christianity in this world, the gospel being the controlling influence in human society, and in civic and national life. It will be followed by a brief but terrible apostasy, in the midst of which Jesus will come (after the millennium) with His holy angels to raise all the dead, and to judge and sentence the whole moral universe. This is our Lord's second and only future coming in this sense. Those who accept this view are Post-millennialists.
Post-millennialists feel obligated to carefully obey the laws of interpretation: among which are the following:
1. There is the law of non-contradiction. Inspired Scripture must be interpreted in harmony with itself. It cannot be correctly interpreted when it is forced to plainly contradict itself.
2. No vast, complicated and far-reaching doctrine of Scripture can be built on a single text or passage of Scripture.
3. No doctrine can be built on highly poetic, figurative, or symbolic language, if it is not also supported elsewhere by plain
4. Manifestly, the Christ - taught and Holy Spirit - inspired writers of the New Testament are the best interpreters of the Old Testament, and of the meaning of its rites, ceremonies and symbols.
5. Jesus' plain statements are the ultimate authority on all questions of truth and doctrinal interpretation, from which there can be no appeal. His words brush aside all human contradictions. Any teachings, or theories, or notions that conflict with what He has said are nothing but the chaff and rubbish of human fancies and speculations. "Heaven and earth shall pass away," said Jesus, but my words shall not pass away."
Post-millennialists as they "search the Scriptures" find just one passage of Scripture that mentions a millennium (which means a thousand years). The phrase occurs six times in six verses in the beginning of the twentieth chapter of Revelation. This is one of the most figurative and symbolical passages in the most figurative and symbolical book in the entire Bible. If the vast system based on this passage Is true, we might expect to see the glorious coming of God breaking through the heavens in overwhelming glory, and the risen bodies of the saints going out to evangelize the earth. Now, what are the facts?
I. There is in the passage no mention of the advent of Christ. Is it possible that John should see the mighty angel, and the key, and the chain, and the Devil, and yet not see the Son of God Himself? Alford says: "Aggelos (angel) in this book, never means Christ." Dr. Steele adds: "Thus far in the Apocalypse there is not the slightest intimation that Christ has made His Second Advent in visible form."
In chapters 19-21 Christ wars against the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies; but the assumption that this is a literal battle fought on the earth by Jesus in Person, riding on a white horse, with a sharp sword going out of His mouth, is absurd and unendurable literalism. John saw these things in vision in the opened heaven, and he says he "saw the armies which were in heaven." The Scriptures are unanimous in making heaven the fixed abode of Christ, until He shall come to judge mankind at the last day. It was not till after the millennium passage that John saw Christ on the great white throne "From whose face the earth and the heavens fled away."
II. There are no raised bodies of saints or martyrs in this passage. He saw the "souls of them that had been beheaded," just as in chapter-9: 6 he saw "the souls of them that had been slain for the word of God." It was in heaven that he saw them. This fact virtually excludes the idea of seeing risen bodies.--Moreover, after the millennium, when the resurrection was reached, John did see the rising bodies: "The sea gave up its dead."
III. Post-millennialists feel that there is a total lack of evidence that these martyrs reigned with Christ on the earth. The vision has thus far been located in heaven. So say the noble commentators, Bengel, Wesley, Moses Stewart, Clarke, Barnes, Agar Beet, of England, Dr. Whedon, Daniel Steele, Henry Cowles, Dr. Hodge, and a host of others. "In heaven, and not on earth!" .
It is clear that John did not mean to teach a literal resurrection of the martyrs; but that there would exist at the time of the thousand years, a state of things "as if," "as if" the martyrs were raised from the dead. Their principles would be revived; their moral spirit would inspire the hearts of living men, as if they themselves had come back to earth. So Archbishop Whately wrote: "It may signify not the literal raising of dead men, but the raising up of an increased Christian zeal and holiness,--the revival in the Christian Church of the Spirit and energy of the noble martyrs of old, even as John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elias."
This is no far-fetched interpretation! It is the very language of the noble martyr Huss, who said of himself, "I am no dreamer:
but I maintain this for certain, that the image of Christ shall never be effaced. It shall be painted in all hearts by much better preachers than myself. The nation that loves Christ shall rejoice at this, and I awaking from among the dead, and arising so to speak from my grave, shall leap with great joy."--In like manner, a brief, addressed by Pope Adrian, to the Diet at Nuremburg contains these words: "The heretics Huss and Jerome, are now alive again in the person of Martin Luther." These quotations justify the contention that the revival of the principles and spirit of the martyrs might, in the highly figurative language of Revelation, naturally be called a resurrection, when no literal resurrection from their graves was meant.
IV. The Post-millennialists feel driven to this interpretation to preserve the harmony of the Scriptures-the law of non-contra-diction! For if we admit that a literal resurrection is taught in this passage, rising a thousand years before the general resurrection, then it appears to contradict Jesus, and a score of other passages,--all in perfect agreement, and seems to make utter confusion of the Bible on this and many other subjects. For instance, 1. In John 5: 28, 29, Jesus said: "The hour cometh in which all that are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done ill, unto the resurrection of judgment." Now that is the decision of the Omnipotent Son of God who knows the future, and tells us nothing untrue! Four times in the very next chapter He describes four good men who believe on Him and have eternal life, and of each of them He says, "I will raise him up at the last day!" Chapter 6: 39, 40, 44, 54.
Jesus said to Martha, "Thy brother shall rise again." Martha saith unto Him, "I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Where did Martha learn that? Unquestionably she learned it in her own home, from Jesus' own lips, as she sat with her brother and sister at His feet, and looked up into His blessed face. Those six passages, all from the lips of Jesus, prove to a demonstration that all the good shall be raised up at the last day. And I dare to suggest that there is no later day than the last day for anybody to be raised! In the second chapter of Romans, St. Paul teaches the same truth,--"A day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God upon every man that worketh evil, but glory and honor to every man that worketh good, in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men, according to my gospel, by Christ Jesus." One day of resurrection and judgment for good and bad alike! Of course Paul and Christ agree! And Post-milennialists think it is passing strange and even incredible, that, if there are several resurrections and judgments, there is not elsewhere in all the New Testament one hint, one intimation, or one allusion of them.
V. Post-millennialists hold that, if Rev. 20: 1-7, describes a literal resurrection, then all must be literal,--a literal angel, a literal serpent, a literal chain, a literal pit, and literal thrones, and, mark it! a literal resurrection of only beheaded martyrs. Other martyrs who were killed by torture, or burned at the stake, or eaten by lions in the ampitheatre can not be included, much less all the righteous dead. No fair biblical interpretation can pick out one of these terms and make it literal, and read into the other terms what you please. There is an utter absence of all general terms, such as abound elsewhere concerning the resurrection of all, or of any of the righteous at the beginning of the millennium.
VI. Post-millennialists hold that the Old Testament nowhere supports the idea of two gospel dispensations. It very minutely describes one dispensation worked by the power of truth and the presence of the Holy Spirit,--the Gospel preached by Jesus and His apostles. The prophets describe it in scores of glowing passages, as blessedly successful; but they are silent as the grave about a second one, entirely different, with risen saints and preachers to convert the world.
VII. Post-millennialists accept what Jesus said about Himself as King, and about His kingdom, as absolutely true. He said to Pilate, "1 am King," not "I am going to be King in two thousand years" (John 18: 37). He further said: "My kingdom is not of this world":--it is a kingdom of truth and spiritual life in human hearts, that cometh not with observation (Luke 17: 20, 21 and John 18: 36). He never led us to believe that His kingdom would be like other kingdoms, with Him on a throne in Jerusalem, with a cabinet of advisers, and generals, and admirals, and secretaries, and governors of provinces, and hundreds of thousands of office-holders,-- a kingdom of this world with imposing splendor and external magnificence.
VIII. Post-millennialists accept what Jesus said about' the expediency of His personal absence from" the world (John 16: 7). He plainly taught that His visible presence anywhere, would not be so helpful to His Church as the invisible but universal presence of the Holy Spirit in all Christian hearts. He never spoke one syllable about the insufficiency of the Holy Spirit and the gospel, and the present means of grace to win the world and establish His kingdom. He never intimated that His preachers and teachers and missionaries should go in the power of the Holy Spirit, with the gospel and the means of grace, and labor in vain, because all these Christian instrumentalities were never intended to succeed! God inaugurated these means and they will succeed!
IX. Post-millennialists believe that the Church which is His Bride will be complete when Jesus comes the next time. He comes for His bride, the Church, to celebrate the marriage, and "she will be ready." 1 Cor. 15: 23, 24; Eph. 5: 25-27; 2 Thess. 1: 10; 1 Thess. 3:13; John 6: 39, 40. Dr. Daniel Steele offered a prize to any one who would point out one text that declared that there would be another conversion after Jesus comes the next time. Nobody has named the text.
X. Post-millennialists believe what the Bible says that when Jesus comes the next time "Then cometh the end." 1 Cor. 15: 24. All the hopes and promises and warnings of the Bible look forward to that event as the last in the great drama of redemption. 1 Peter 1:13; 2 Tim. 4: 8; Phil. 3: 20, 21; 2 Thess.. 1: 7-10; 2 Peter
3: 10. Jesus came the first time to redeem mankind: the next time He will come to judge the race, and pronounce its rewards and penalties.
XI. Post-millennialists believe that when Christ comes in person the next time this world will be destroyed by fire. So said Paul in 2 Thess. 1: 7-10. "The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire . . . when He shall come to be glorified in His saints." So said Peter: 2 Peter 3: 10-12. "The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night: in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth, also, and the works that are therein shall be burned up." So also said John in Rev. 20: 11. "And I saw a great white throne and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away: and there was found no place for them." "And there was no more sea" (21: 1). This earth will be a wrecked world, as dead and barren as the moon.
Thus the Scriptures teach us that the righteous and the wicked shall be judged together at the end of the world's history, at the coming of Christ. Matt. 12: 36; Matt. 13: 38-43; Matt. 16: 27; Matt. 25: 3 1-46; John 5: 28, 29; John 6: 39, 40, 44, 54; John 12: 4S; Acts 17: 31; Rom. 2: 5-16; 1 Cor. 3: 13; 1 Cor. 4: 5; 2 Cor. 5: 10; 2 Tim. 4: 1; 2 Peter 2: 9; 2 Peter 3: 3, 7; Jude 6, 7; Rev. 20: 12, 13; Matt. 11: 24; Luke 11:32; Rom. 14: 10-12. Now of these twenty-one passages nineteen speak of a definite, specific judgment, or judgment-day. Fourteen tell us that all will be judged, "the world," "all nations," "all," "each one," "every one," "the quick and the dead." Seven of these passages tell us that it will be at Christ's coming. If ever language expressed, or could be capable of expressing the doctrine of a simultaneous and universal resurrection and judgment, at the coming of Christ, it is found in these passages.
We give a brief positive statement of the Post-millennial view. It will help to an understanding of the Scriptures to observe that Jesus spoke of "His coming" in four senses, or with four different purposes.
1. He comes for the purpose of taking His people to Himself at their death. In that sense He said: (John 14: 1, 2) "I go to prepare a place for you . . . I will come again and receive you unto myself: that where I am there ye may be also." See Luke 23: 43; 16: 22-25; Phil. 1: 23. The Revelation of John everywhere locates departed saints with Jesus even then. Hence spiritually, the idea that His coming and receiving His people to Himself refers to the final judgment is untenable. It must therefore refer to His coming at the death of each individual saint" (Cowles). This may be by angelic ministration. John Wesley speaks in his journal of Jesus coming for such and such a saint at their death. It is common to Christian thought.
2. In a second sense of "coming," Jesus comes to His people in the manifestation of His presence by and through the Holy Spirit. Thus we must explain John 14: 16, 18, 23. "I will not leave you comfortless. I wilt come to you." John 14: 28. "I come unto you." Also Rev. 3: 20.
3. In the third class Jesus speaks of Himself as "coming in power," or "in His kingdom" in the sense of bringing desolating judgments on Jerusalem: and He makes this fearful visitation of retributive justice a type and pledge of His final judgments of the whole race. The standard passages are Matt. 16: 27, 28; with Mark 8: 38; and Luke 9: 1; and Luke 9: 26, 27; also Matt. 24: 29-34 with its parallels Mark 13: 24-30 and Luke 21: 31, 32. That these have a remote reference to the final judgment is unquestionable; but primary reference to a long anterior coming of a similar character. It may be difficult whether to locate some passages In class three or four. This coming, however, is wrought by providential agencies.
4. "Of passages in the fourth class the standard one is Matt. 25: 31-46, where He comes to judgment. Probably Matt. 26: 64 may be classed with it. This, and this only, is a coming in person, visibly manifested before the universe. None of these passages can be fairly interpreted to promise and prove a visible coming, yet future but long prior to the general judgment, for the purpose of inaugurating a visible reign on earth. They do not mean such a coming. Hence the doctrine of a visible coming and reign on the earth has no foundation in the recorded words of Christ. So far as His words are concerned, it is a theory without a bottom. Nothing that Jesus has said contains the doctrine, or gives it the least support" (Cowle's Commentary, John, pp. 389-392).
The Common Church Doctrine, as stated by Dr. Charles Hodge, is the following:
First, There is to be a second, personal, visible, and glorious advent of the Son of God.
Second, The events that are to precede (not follow) the advent are: (1) The universal diffusion of the Gospel: or, as our Lord expresses it, the ingathering of the elect: this is the vocation of the Christian Church. (2) The conversion of the Jews, which is to be national. As their casting away was national, although a remnant was saved; so their conversion may be national, although some may remain obdurate. (3) The coming of some peculiarly hostile power called Antichrist.
Third, The events which will attend the Second Advent are:
(1) The resurrection of the dead, both of the just and of the unjust.
(2) The general judgment. (At which all will be present.)
(3) The end of the world (it being consumed by fire).
(4) The consummation of Christ's kingdom.--(Vol. III, p. 792).
3. The so-called millennium will be brought about, not by the visible return of Christ to set up a temporal throne and kingdom, but by the Holy Spirit restraining the power of Satan in some unknown way, and by giving unwonted efficacy to all the ministrations of the gospel, and the means of grace. What if the power of the Papacy to corrupt and delude mankind, and to oppose the spread and reception of the gospel were set aside; and along with it should come to an end the power of the Mahometan system to fetter and enslave mankind; what if all the direct influence of Satan in causing or perpetuating slavery, war, intemperance, lust, avarice, greed, oppression of the poor, skepticism, and social injustice were checked and stayed, and the heathen nations were evangelized! Would it not justify the language of Scripture that Satan was bound with a chain? And what if at the same time, a marvellous and unwonted power of the Holy Spirit should send vast waves of ever-recurring revival power around the earth, converting and sanctifying uncounted multitudes of people throughout the entire world! What if the spiritual condition that occurred in Northampton, Mass., during the ministry of Jonathan Edwards in 1745 should spread from town to town, from land to land, from continent to continent! Might it not be said that the millennium had come?
"Presently," says Edwards, "a great and earnest concern about the great things of religion and the eternal world became universal in all parts of the town, and among persons of all degrees and ages:
all the conversation in all companies and upon all occasions, was about these things only, unless what was necessary for carrying on their ordinary business. They seemed to follow their worldly business more as a duty, than from any disposition they had to it. The only thing in their view was to get the kingdom of heaven, and every one appeared pressing into it: the engagedness of their hearts in this great concern could not be hid: It appeared in their countenances. The work of conversion was carried on in a most astonishing manner, and increased more and more: souls did, as it were, come by flocks to Jesus Christ. From day to day, for many months together, might be seen evident instances of sinners brought out of darkness into marvellous light. This work of God, as it was carried on, and the number of true saints multiplied, soon made a glorious alteration in the town: so that in the Spring and Summer following, in the year 1745, the town seemed to be full of the presence of God: it never was so full of love and joy, and yet so full of distress as it was then. There were remarkable tokens of God's presence in almost every house. It was a time of joy in families on account of salvation being brought to them: parents rejoicing over their children as new-born, and husbands over their wives, and wives over their husbands. . . . Our young people when they met were wont to spend their time in talking of the excellency and dying love of Jesus Christ, the gloriousness of the way of salvation. . . . God has in many respects gone out of, and much beyond, His usual and ordinary way. The work in this town and some others about us, has been extraordinary on account of the universality of it, affecting all sorts of people, sober and vicious, high and low, rich and poor, wise and unwise. A loose and careless person could scarcely find another in the whole neighborhood: and if there was any one that seemed to remain senseless or unconcerned, it would be spoken of as a strange thing." Now who shall say that the Holy Spirit is not able to repeat such a state of things in ten thousand towns around the world, and keep on doing it? It would by no means be so "far beyond His usual and ordinary way," as would be the setting up of a visible and temporal government, with Jesus on the throne at Jerusalem!
4. The Scriptures warrant us in saying that that blessed period will have the following characteristics:
(1) It will be characterized by the universal spread of the gospel (Isaiah 11: 9; 25: 7).
(2) By the universal sway of Christianity and Christian principle in the governments of mankind (Psalm 2: 8-11; Zech. 9: 10; Matt. 28: 19).
(3) By universal peace (Isaiah 2: 4; Micab 4: 3; Isaiah 11: 6-9).
(4) By great spiritual power and glory (Isaiah 66: 8; 60: 22).
(5) By the return to Christ of Israel (Rom. 11: 26-29; Zech. 12: 10; 13: 1).
(6) The ascendancy of truth and righteousness in human affairs (Rev. 20: 4-6; Psalm 72: 11, 17; Zech. 14: 9; Isa. 60: 12). "Religion," says Edwards, "shall be uppermost in the world in every respect."
(7) There will be a great increase in the population of the globe. Let wars cease, and intemperance cease, and the sinful habits that now shorten life, be conquered by sanctification, and there must be a vast increase in the human race.
(8) There will be an increase in the diffusion of intelligence (Dan. 11:4).
(9) There will be great temporal prosperity. The resources of nature are by no means exhausted. "Godliness is profitable for all things, having the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come." Matt. 6: 33; 1 Tim. 4: 8. The world will be opulent beyond any dream of man, when its peoples cease wasting in extravagance and vice, and wisdom and virtue develop the resources of the earth.
5. Yet we are not to suppose that all will be converted. There will still be hearts that are strangers to saving grace. There will still be on earth the remains of wickedness and corrupt human nature. Many will be constrained by the religious influences everywhere surrounding them, to fall in with the spirit of the age, catching apparently its holy impulses: but they will never come savingly under its holy power. There will still be a tendency to sin in the human soul, just as there is now. And when Satan is released from his enforced restraint, this portion of mankind will gladly throw off the moral bonds that have held them, but were always irksome, and will lift the standard of revolt against Jesus. Satan will be able once more to rouse their enmity, and lead them in one more desperate effort to destroy the spiritual kingdom of Christ.
But in the hour of their seeming victory, when faith in Christ seems rarest and feeblest, and opposition to Jesus seems most defiant and successful,--suddenly Jesus will come, "with a mighty shout," "with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God." All the dead will rise, and all the moral universe will assemble for judgment. And this world, the scene of man's sin and shame and of his redemption, will go up in flames.