THE MILLENNIAL KINGDOM. by the Rev. E. AURIOL, M.A., RECTOR OF ST DUNSTAN’S, FLEET STREET.
"I beheld, and the same horn made war
with the saints, and prevailed against them; until the Ancient of days came,
and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom."
The subject which I have been requested to bring before you on the present occasion, is doubtless one of the deepest interest. If we consider it in its connection with the glory of the blessed Redeemer, and the triumph of his truth ; if we view it as the fulfilment of a large portion of Gods word, and as accomplishing the hopes of the whole Church from the beginning, the student of the Holy scriptures cannot but look on the subject of the Millennial Kingdom as one which has a strong claim on his attentive consideration. At the same time, it is one which confessedly presents many difficulties. This is evident, from the difference of the views prevailing in the Church, among those who in the great matters of salvation and the spiritual life are undoubtedly taught of God, and who walk in the same faith and mind the same things.
For while it is very generally admitted by Christians that the truth of God must prevail to the overthrow of error and ungodliness, and consequently that a state of things will be introduced totally different from that which we now behold, and that passages in the Scriptures which relate to that glorious period remain yet to be fulfilled, various opinions are hold respecting the nature of those events which are to characterise these latter days. It becomes us therefore, in entering on a subject like this, to do so with unfeigned humility; with a determination, in dependence upon Gods grace, to take the Scriptures, and the Scriptures only, for our guide, and to endeavour to establish all which may be brought forward, by appeals to that infallible standard of truth.
Now undoubtedly, the one great point of difference between Christians is this: Are we to expect the kingdom, known by the name of the Millennial Kingdom, from the expression in the twentieth chapter of Revelation, which speaks of the saints living and reigning with Christ 1000 years, to be brought about by the gradual diffusion of Gospel light with a much larger outpouring of the Holy Spirit, or are we to expect that it will be introduced by a previous personal coming of our Lord and Saviour, which certainly seems a much more natural interpretation of the passage to which I have referred? It Is clear, that the ideas of the nature and character of that kingdom will differ very much, according to the conclusions at which we arrive, with respect to this point.
Now the subject of the pre-millennial coming of our Lord has been treated of in the present course of Lectures, and proofs have been brought forward, to show that the Scriptures lead us to look for this great and glorious event to precede, and to Introduce that to which I am now to direct your attention. I will not therefore refer to such arguments, except as they relate immediately to the words of my text; and from these words it appears that this kingdom, of whatever nature it may be, is to be set up at the time of the overthrow of the ten kingdoms, into which the iron empire of Rome has been divided: that it is to be a kingdom different, not only in its character, but in the manner in which it is to be established, from the other kingdoms, for it is to be brought about by the coming of the Ancient of days. If we refer to the vision recorded in the second chapter of this book, we find the coming of that kingdom likened to "a stone cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron, and day, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the day, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floor, and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for the, and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth." And the interpretation vouchsafed to this portion of the vision, is this-" And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the day, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure." (Dan. 11.44, 45.)
Hence it is to be inferred that this wonderful kingdom is to be set up at a period of the existence of the ten kingdoms into which the Roman earth has been divided, at the time of the making war of the little horn, or of the Papal power; against the saints, and that it is to be introduced; by the advent of the eternal Saviour. And this appears to me to be perfectly in accordance with all the expectations held out to us in the New Testament, for we read there of no promise of that universal diffusion of truth and righteousness, concerning which there is such ample testimony in the Old Testament; but, on the contrary, of "the whole creation groaning and travailing in pain together, waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God, the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body;" from whence we gather that the hope of a blessed futurity upon earth, the redemption of all creation, so frequently described in the glowing language of the prophets, shall be realized, after the glorious event of the coming of the Lord Jesus, " whom the heavens must receive, till the restitution of all things which God hath spoken by Ilis holy prophets, since the world began."
We will proceed then at once to the inquiry. What is the account which we find in the Scriptures of the Millennial Kingdom ?
And first we remark, that it is to be introduced by the victories of the great and glorious King; the infliction of His just judgments on an ungodly world which has refused submission to His rule. We have many passages of Scripture which prove this. In the second Psalm, when He shall come to take possession of the uttermost parts of the earth which the Father has given him in answer to His prayer, He is represented as "breaking the powers which oppose him with a rod of iron, and dashing them in pieces like a potters vessel." The description of His coming, In the fiftieth Psalm is, that "Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about Him." There is an awfu1 account of the judgment accompanying the coming of the Lord, the righteous King and Saviour, in Isa. xxxiv, 2-8. "The indignation of the Lord is upon all nations, and his fury upon all their armies: he hath utterly destroyed them, he hath delivered them to the slaughter. Their slain also shall be cast out, and their stink shall come up out of their carcases, and the mountains shall be melted with their blood. And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree. For my sword shall be bathed in heaven… For it is the day of the Lords vengeance, and the year of recompences for the controversy of Zion." In that magnificent passage, in the sixty-third chapter of Isaiah, the Lord is represented as coming as a victorious captain, with His garments red with the blood of His enemies. In the fourteenth chapter of Zechariah, which treats expressly of the advent, where it is said, "I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle," it is added, "then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as " when He fought in the day of battle." It is called by Malachi, the great and terrible day of the Lord, so that the Prophet hastens to ask, "Who may abide the day of his wrath? Who shall stand when He appeareth?" Now this corresponds exactly with the declarations in tile New Testament; for St. Paul tells us that "the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ."
O! what a solemn thought it is brethren, that His dominion over the earth must be established by means of the overthrow of all the opposing powers of evil, and that consequently the first act of His sovereignty will be "to gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them that work iniquity."
The next point to be noticed, is the deliverance of the saints of God out of the midst of these last judgments. At the very beginning of the period when our Lord himself shall appear, in a moment, "in the twinkling of an eye, the dead in Christ shall arise, and those who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall they ever be with the Lord;" then shall be fulfilled the words of Isaiah xxvi.: "Come my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee, hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast, for behold the Lord cometh out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain." This gracious invitation which follows immediately upon a clear and distinct prophecy of the resurrection of the just, calls upon us to act faith in the promises that our God will appear for us, and will be to us a sanctuary. The Apostle declares, " When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory."
It is true that the Lord Himself will reign; He, himself, in His own glorious person, will be "King, and his name one." "The Lord shall reign in Mount Zion, and before His ancients gloriously. The kingdom of the world will then become the kingdoms of the Lord and His Christ. At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow of things in earth, and things under the earth, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father." But it is no less clearly and distinctly declared in Scripture that He shall be accompanied by His saints, and that His saints shall take the kingdom. The promises to this effect are very precise. To his Apostles He declares, Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye who have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." And again He says, " Ye are they who have continued with me in my temptations, and I appoint unto you a kingdom as my father hath appointed unto me, that ye may eat and drink at my table, in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." In accordance with this, St. Paul asks the question of the Corinthians, as referring to a well-known subject of the teaching of his days, "Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world ?"
And moreover, our Lords promise is not confined to the Apostles, or to some distinguished saints only, but it is addressed to every one that overcometh -" to him that overcometh, will I give to sit with me on my throne, even as I overcame and am set down with my Father on His throne. The redeemed round the throne are represented in the Apocalyptic vision as making this the very theme of their song of praise to the Lamb, " Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain and has 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." in that passage which gives the most distinct account of the first resurrection, and the Millennial Kingdom, we read in the plainest language, directly after we are told of the binding of Satan,-" I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them, and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the Word of God, and who had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark on their foreheads, or in their hands, and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years." We do not presume to attempt to define in what way they shall reign with Christ, in what manner they shall exercise their dominion, or even in what measure their glory will be visible to the inhabitants of the earth, but we think it is clearly laid down in Scripture both that they will come with Christ, and that they will, with Him, and under Him, be administrators of his kingdom.
Let us consider briefly some particulars of the character of this kingdom, and we shall find such glorious things spoken of it as can leave no doubt on our minds that it will be the joy and rejoicing of the whole earth. Who does not feel that the earth, as it now is, by reason of sin, is smitten with an incurable disease, that " from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot, there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrifying sores." Men acknowledge it, and the wisest and the best despair of a remedy, two elements are wanting, and they know it. A perfectly righteous rule, and the power to exercise it without hindrance or opposition. We read in Isaiahs prophecy, "A king shall reign in righteousness and princes shall rule in judgment." In the eleventh chapter, again, "With righteousness shall He judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins." Of the saints who shall rule with Him it is said, " Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness and let thy saints shout for joy." " Violence shall no more be heard in the land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls salvation, and thy gates praise. Thy people shall be all righteous and they shall inherit the land, the branch of my planting, the work of my hand, that I may be glorified." " They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not war against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." "The fruit of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever." There shall be an extraordinary fertility, an abundant supply of all the fruits of the earth, as it is expressed by the Prophet Amos, "Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt" And since the face of the whole creation of God is to be renewed, it is not unreasonable to suppose that there will be a literal fulfilment of the words of Isaiah in relation to the lower animals: " The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in my holy mountain." "The sun shall be no more thy light by day, neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee; but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory." "Thy sun shall no more go down3 neither shall thy moon withdraw itself; for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended." Here we have a succession of images, a description of a state of things, the glory of which we can scarcely conceive, but which approve themselves to us at once as the natural though wondrous accompaniments of the righteous rule of the Lord of Hosts, and the manifestation of His immediate presence upon the earth.
Again, we may remark with regard to the chief city of this glorious kingdom, that the plain literal meaning of Scripture leads us to believe that it will be really Jerusalem. We read in connection with the passages we have been quoting, "Behold I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and I will rejoice in Jerusalem. The Lord Jesus shall sit on the throne of His father David:" a prophecy which remains to be fulfilled; for whilst lie was born on earth of the family of David, the people as a nation rejected Him, and refused to have Him to reign over them, so that that throne has never been re-established. But taken literally and plainly, we find the Scriptures in many places declaring that it will be on Mount Zion, on Gods holy mountain at Jerusalem, and amongst his ancient and restored people, that the Lord shall especially reign, whilst the influence of his kingdom shall extend over the whole earth, which shall be "covered with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." But as this has already formed the subject of one of our Lectures, I need not dwell further upon it. It remains that we should observe that, according to the prophecy in the twentieth of Revelation, the kingdom of the Son of Man shall continue a thousand years. Although during that period righteousness will prevail, as being the fruit of the real conversion of. the great body of the people, the binding of Satan, and the destruction of the beast and false prophet, the great enemies of the Church, it seems plainly revealed that sin and death will not be utterly destroyed during the Millennium. And this throws some light upon a passage in Isaiah, " there shall be no more an Infant of days nor an old man that has not filled his days, for the child shall die a hundred years old, but the sinner being a hundred years old shall be accursed." in Revelation xx. 7, we are told, that at the end of the thousand years, Satan shall be loosed out of prison, and shall deceive those distant nations among whom, it would appear, that multitudes will then be found who, having yielded a feigned obedience to the sceptre of righteousness, wielded by irresistible power, will fail a prey to his delusions, and join in this last confederacy of evil, the overthrow of which will be crowned with the everlasting destruction of the great enemy of our race. " Fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them; and the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever."
Now my brethren, if we are to take these passages which relate to future events in their plain literal meaning, just as we take passages which relate to other articles of faith, not daring to refuse or explain away what the Word of God declares because we find a difficulty in reconciling it with what appears to us to be probable, I think we cannot but be led to see, that at least in the leading particulars which we have been considering such a Millennial Kingdom as I have been trying to describe, is shortly to be looked for, and to be looked for in connection with that coming of the Lord who is at hand. But perhaps it may be useful to consider for a few minutes, one or two objections which have been made to this view of the subject. Thus some have been offended at this literal interpretation of Scripture, as involving expectations of too carnal and earthly a character. It has been asked, how can it be that saints who have, been, once admitted into heaven, should ever again descend to earth? Is not the idea of a reign upon the earth too base, too carnal, to be entertained for a moment? We suspect that such an objection arises from a total misapprehension of the subject. If indeed we believed that the risen and glorified saints were to occupy the same position as those nations living upon the earth, in the flesh, during the Millennial period, there might be force in the objection; but there will probably be as much difference between them, as there Is now between the people of God living in the world, and the angels of God who behold the face of our Father who is in heaven; and there is certainly nothing carnal in the state of these ministering spirits who are sent forth to minister to such as shall be heirs of salvation. We do not count the hope of the Resurrection a carnal hope, yet were it not a revealed truth, mans reason might have dealt with it in a similar manner. We do not see, any reason for thinking that the being permitted to witness our Lords glory on the throne of his Father David, (the express words of the angel), and to share in the administration of His kingdom of righteousness involves the remotest idea of any carnal enjoyment. Again, another objection has been founded on the statement made in 2 Peter iii, that at the coming of the day of the Lord, the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, it is asked, how after this, can the earth be inhabited; how can any human beings be supposed to survive such a catastrophe? It is admitted that there are difficulties connected with that passage, but the analogy of Noahs flood, to which allusion had just been made, seems to show that we are not necessarily to infer that human life would be completely annihilated. The expressions used are scarcely stronger than those employed in Isaiah xxiv, where it is said :" The Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof. The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the Lord hath spoken this word." And again - "The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again." And yet, immediately after, it appears that the earth is to be Inhabited. But it does not appear that by the words, "in which," in the passage in St. Peters Epistle (referring to the day of the Lord), is certainly meant the commencement of which day; it may surely mean in which period: at the very close, it may be, of that day of a thousand years, that great consummation shall take place.
One other objection shall be noticed. It Is urged that the expectation of a kingdom for the limited period of 1000 years, contradicts the literal meaning of the words of my text, and other passages, which speak of the kingdom of Christ as enduring for ever and ever, an everlasting kingdom. This argument loses its force, when we take into consideration that the Millennial Kingdom is not all that is to be looked for, but may be viewed rather as only one phase or manifestation of the everlasting kingdom; the first stage, as it were, of a gradual development of the power and majesty of the King Eternal, of Him who is wonderful in counsel, as well as excellent in working: now, according to the purpose of His will crushing for a season the power of Satan, that old Serpent, whose works He was manifested to destroy, then, again permitting one more outbreak of his malice and fury, not that his last mighty conflict and terrible doom should close the manifestation of the glory of the Lord at the end of 1000 years, but rather that it should serve to proclaim the immoveableness of that kingdom which cannot be shaken.
Let us leave these objections, however, to consider, on the other hand, somewhat of the excellency and completeness of that which we believe to be the Scriptural view of the kingdom of Christ. The earth has been the scene of mans rebellion; it shall be the scene of his recovery. It has been filled with violence, degradation, and misery, is it not a welcome thought that it shall be inhabited by man as a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness! The world has been deceived by Satan, is it not reasonable that his lie should be made manifest? that when he is shut up in the darkness of the bottomless pit, the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, against which he is now continually blinding men s minds, should become the sevenfold light, the joy and rejoicing of the whole earth? But we may go further, and remind you that this earth witnessed the humiliation and crucifixion of the Son of God. How perfectly in accordance is it with that which we might reasonably expect, that the same earth should be the scene of His glory and dominion; and if the one was personal, it is natural to expect that the other will be personal also; and we trace a further harmony in the thought that as it has been upon this earth that his saints have suffered with him and borne his reproach, so it shall be upon this earth that they "shall be glorified together."
But again, what an interest does this view of the subject give us, personally, in a large and most important portion of Gods word. All those promises which speak of the glories of Christs kingdom, of the nations of the earth acknowledging him, of the restoration of the Jews to their own land, record events in which we shall have a personal share. Whether we shall have fallen asleep in Jesus, or whether we shall be of those who will be alive at His coming, the same blessed portion awaits us. That view of the subject which interprets the prophecies figuratively, cannot hold out to us any such hopes. We may have passed away from the earth, as many of Gods saints have done, long before the anticipated success shall be granted, and the world be leavened with the knowledge of the Gospel of Christ. Since the other scheme of interpretation excludes the idea .of the literal resurrection of the saints before the Millennium, those only who are living at the time, would enjoy the blessing belonging to a world whose inhabitants are all righteous. But not so with our views of the Millennial Kingdom. The earliest saint, from Adam and Abel, down to the last, caught up into glory, will each behold the King in His beauty. What an interest should that give us in all that concerns those events, and in the contrast between the present state of the wretched victims of heathenism, and the outcast wandering descendants of Israel, and that which we shall ourselves behold, when "all shall know the Lord, from the least to the greatest!" How earnest should it make us in the desire, that, in the meanwhile, a large and increasing body of believers may be added to that number, in which we ourselves hope to be found; and how sensible it should make us of the great responsibility of being permitted to be instruments in the Redeemers hand, for. the accomplishing the number of His elect, and hastening His kingdom! How too, may it support us in the midst of trial and disappointment, or in the threatening troubles of the last days, to be assured that "the time is short:" to see, in the prophetic Scriptures, that none of these events have been otherwise than before announced of God; and whatever preceding trials may await us; to be assured that we shall be delivered from tile last intolerable. afflictions which await an ungodly world, and therefore, under every pressure of the storm, to hear His voice, saying, "Fear not little flock, it is your Fathers pleasure to give you the kingdom." "Lift up your heads, for the time of your redemption draweth nigh."
We will conclude with one more remark on the practical bearing of the subject. Let it not be forgotten, that if we are not now fighting on the Lord’s side, we are in danger not only of losing the blessing of having our part, and standing in our own lot, when the glorious kingdom shall come, but of undergoing all the horrors of the second death. All the promises of the blessed head of the Church, of Him who is in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, and who holdeth the stars, in His right hand, are given to him that overcometh. The crown of righteousness is prepared for those who have fought the good fight, and who love His appear-. ing: "but the rest of the dead lived not again, till the thousand years were ended." What an awful portion awaits them then! "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 I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death." (Rev. xx. 11-15.) And again, behold the contrast: "He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearfu1, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, 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." (Rev. xxi. 7, 8.)
What a voice of warning is this to the ungodly, the undecided, the faint-hearted! To the servants of God, to those whose desire it is to follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth, what an instructive view may we take of the subject. All who are really and truly in Christ, may be regarded as being trained, educated, as it were, for that office which they are hereafter to fill, as kings and priests to God. The events of the divine providence may be so ordered for them, as not only to work together for their present good, but as fitting them for the blessed employment in which they shall be engaged, when they shall appear with their Lord in His glory. Who can tell how much of present experience may be made, useful to us (since "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he reap,") when we are called upon to minister to the inhabitants of a renewed and redeemed earth. This at least, appears certain, that every true follower of the Lamb, who is growing in grace and in the knowledge of his Saviour, is growing in meetness for that place prepared for him in his Redeemers kingdom: and the hope thus held out to us is used as a pressing argument by the Apostle, to strengthen our steadfastness of purpose, to animate us in running the race and fighting the good fight of faith, and to lead us to press forward in the diligent pursuit of fresh attainments in holiness. "Therefore," he says, "my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain, in the Lord."