David Brown:

Why the first resurrection is figurative

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The Creation Concept

Contents

First

Second

Third

Fourth

Fifth

Sixth

Seventh

Eighth

Ninth

Notes & References




From:
David Brown. Christ's second coming: will it be pre-millennial?
R. Carter, 1856.
pp. 217-242.

NINE INTERNAL EVIDENCES THAT THE MILLENNIAL RESURRECTION IS NOT LITERAL, BUT FIGURATIVE.

As the vision is followed up by certain explanatory clauses, it is natural to begin with them. And,

First.—The clause, "This is the first resurrection" (v. 5), which is thought to prove it literal, seems to me to suggest the reverse. "It is allowed by all," says Daubuz, in his Commentary on the Revelation, "that the second resurrection is of bodies; and if so, why not also the first, since both are expressed in the like terms." And Bishop Newton says, "We should be cautious and tender of making the first resurrection an allegory, lest others should reduce the second into an allegory too." Unfortunately for this way of reasoning, the very next verse contradicts it: "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection, on such the second death hath no power" (v. 6). Here "the first resurrection" and "the second death" are intentionally brought together and contrasted. But are these deaths of the same nature? Quite the reverse. The first death is that of the body, the second that of both body and soul; the first death is common to the righteous and the wicked, the second is the everlasting portion of the wicked alone. To suffer the first death for Christ carries with it exemption from the power of the second death—"Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life"—"He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death" (Rev. ii. 10, 11). "The Scriptures," says Fraser of Kirkhill, "frequently mention the second or new birth. The first birth is that of the body. Is it necessary that the second should be so too? Will any man, acquainted with the Scriptures, put the question now which Nicodemus formerly proposed to our Lord, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?" (John iii. 4). The second birth is doubtless an allegory. But does it follow that the first birth is an allegory too? The Scriptures mention the second death: now, the first death is that of the body. But is it necessary that we understand the second death of the body only? Does it affect the body in the same manner, by putting it in a state of insensibility and putrefaction? The terms, first and second, are used in Scripture to distinguish subjects which are in some respects similar, but in others are very different, lest we should mistake the one for the other; and so the term "first resurrection" is used here, to show that this part of the prophecy does not describe such a change as shall take place at the general resurrection." [1]

Second.—It cannot but appear strange that we should be told that the risen and glorified saints do not perish eternally. Yet this is what the second explanatory clause tells us, according to the literal view of this vision—"Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power" (v. 6), or, in other words, they shall not be "cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death" (v. 14). Is it likely that the Spirit of God means nothing more here than such a truism? But only suppose that the first resurrection is a glorious state of the church on earth, and in its mortal state, a period emphatically of "life from the dead"—when the whole world shall seem to hear a voice saying to them, "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light" (Eph. v. 14)—take it thus, and the whole clause becomes intelligible and highly consolatory. [2] Accordingly, in another part of this same book, where we have the same identical promise, that certain persons "shall not be hurt by the second death," the promise relates not to risen and glorified men, but to "him that overcometh'' in the struggle for "the crown of life" (Rev. ii. 10, 11). And as exemption from the power of the second death is here made to rest upon a certain character, namely, fidelity to Christ even to death, and in our millennial chapter, exemption from the power of the same second death is made to rest upon participation in the first resurrection, is it not reasonable to conclude that this "first resurrection" is meant to signify a certain character in the present life, and not the possession of bodily resurrection and glory? In that case, the assurance of our prophecy is, that this victorious spirit, as it will be the reigning characteristic of the millennial period, so it will be the bright pledge of immunity from the power of the second death. The word "blessed" will then express the high privilege they enjoy who have their lot cast in such a period. Indeed, the same language is employed by Daniel to express the privilege, not of bodily resurrection, but of living in the body during this very period. "Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days" (Dan. xii. 12). And then, the word "holy" will express the high devotedness and spirituality that will distinguish the Christians of that period, and signalise the millennial day itself above all former periods in the world's history; while the following words, "over such the second hath no power," will just be one more example of a spiritual as the earnest of a bodily resurrection, a present of a future, so familiar in the language of the New Testament. "The hour is coming," says our Lord, "and now is, when the (spiritually) dead shall hear his voice, and they that hear shall (spiritually) live: marvel not at this, for the hour cometh in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth (bodily)." "My sheep hear my voice, and I give unto them (now) eternal life, and they shall never perish (or die the second death)." "If," says the apostle, "the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus our Lord dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you (your quickened souls)." [3]

Third.—There are but two alternatives in this prophecy— either to "have part in the first resurrection," or to be under the "power of the second death." "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on them (***) the second death hath no power." Into which of these classes are we to put the myriads of men who are to people the earth, in flesh and blood, during the millennium? They have no "part in the first resurrection," if it be a bodily one. Are they given over, then, to "the power of the second death? "But only suppose" the first resurrection "to be a phrase denoting the character of the millennial era, as one of prevailing spiritual life—bright earnest of life everlasting on that "new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness;" and then the assurance that "on such the second death hath no power," becomes a promise that such as possess this character—found in its substance in every renewed man, and constituting the prevailing character of the millennial era—shall not "be hurt of the second death." [4]

Fourth.—The express mention of how long this "life and reign with Christ" will last, namely, "a thousand years," if meant to inform us what a long period of earthly prosperity the Church is yet destined to enjoy, is intelligible and cheering. But to say that the risen and glorified Church is to live and reign with Christ for a period of a thousand years, is totally unlike the language of Scripture in every other place. I know what is said in answer to this, but it has no force. The limiting of the life and reign to a thousand years, we are told, has relation not to the risen saints, but only to those over whom they reign, and to the imperfection which will continue upon earth till that thousand years be ended. But so says not the text. No mention is made of their reigning over any other class of persons; still less is it said that they reigned over them only for a thousand years, but with Christ for ever. On the contrary, it is just this reign of the saints with Christ that is to last a thousand years. The very thing which everywhere is said to be unbroken and everlasting ("so shall we ever be with the Lord") is here said—if it be a reign in their glorified state—to be limited to a thousand years. Vain are all the attempts made to explain away this, as if the still changeable state of the earth might account for a period being mentioned. For the words of the text fix down the limitation not to the accidents but to the essence of the reign—telling us that it was their "living and reigning with Christ," whatever that means, that lasted a thousand years. And as we are immediately told of a great change for the worse, after the expiry of this period, and during another shorter period called "a little season," it is perfectly clear that the "life and reign with Christ," considered as the characteristic feature of the millennial state, terminate with the thousand years. [5] I think this is enough convincingly to show that it is no literal resurrection of the Church of God to be ever with her Lord that is here meant, but just the long period of a thousand years' "life  from the dead" (Rom. xi. 15), in that figurative sense with which Scripture, in previous portions of it, had made us so familiar.  [6]

Fifth.—If the first resurrection be literal, the other or wicked party, styled "the rest of the dead," who "lived not again until the thousand years were finished," must of course be expected to "live again," or rise from the dead, in the same bodily sense, "when the thousand years are finished. [7] But so far from this, we read of no bodily resurrection at all on the expiry of this period.

"When the thousand years are finished" (***), we read that "Satan shall be loosed out of his prison" (v. 7) for a period expressly called "a little season" (v. 3). Some would make this, from its supposed brevity, no period at all; but if we take it in relation to the preceding thousand years, and to the work to be done, perhaps it will not be so little as many suppose. "He shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, the number of whom is as the sand of the sea;" and observe not only the multitudes he collects, but the union and organization effected in this stupendous and appalling confederacy—the last desperate effort of the serpent—"they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city:" In view of this, the little season of the enemy's liberty, after the expiry of the thousand years, and compared with that long period of "imprisonment," seemed to Bengel and Faber to require a century or so. However this may be, during all this time we read of no bodily resurrection at all. This postmillennial period is to be filled up with something else than bodily resurrections. It will indeed be employed in the raising of a wicked party, but not bodily, from their graves. Where, then, do we read of the bodily resurrection of that party called "the rest of the dead"? Nowhere. We go downwards in the chapter to find them, till we come to the account of the last judgment, and there observing that "the dead, small and great," are seen "standing before the throne," we must suppose that these "dead, small and great," are just "the rest of the dead" we have been seeking for—otherwise, they never appear again at all.

And when once we have made "the dead, small and great, that stand before the throne" at the final judgment, to be merely "the rest of the dead that lived not again until the thousand years were finished," we are forced to exclude the righteous altogether from the last judgment, making "the dead, small and great," to be all wicked. This, besides doing the greatest imaginable violence to that august scene, gives no explanation of the "opening of the book of life" on that occasion, except one which I have shown to be wholly inadmissible (pp. 214216), and I would say absurd—namely, to show that none of those then judged have their names written in it! [8]

Now, reverse the process. Make the resurrection of both the parties figurative, and understand by it first the extinction of the one and triumph of the other for a thousand years, and then the temporary resuscitation of the defeated party, with their gigantic death-throes, under the desperate agency of the old serpent before the final ruin of his kingdom—and not only are all the difficulties of the literal sense avoided, but a meaning put upon the whole chapter consistent with itself, and entirely accordant with the phraseology of Scripture in other places. At the close of the previous chapter, we find "the Beast taken, and with him the False Prophet, and cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone" (xix. 21). This puts an end to the antichristian kingdom; but it is added, "The remnant"—or the rest (***)—"were slain with the sword of Him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth; and all the fowls were filled with their flesh" (v. 21). A marked distinction is thus drawn between the doom of "the beast and false prophet," and that of "the rest." The former go to "the lake of fire"—never more to reappear: The other do not so, but are merely "slain with the sword from the mouth of Christ." We are prepared, then, for the possibility, at least, of their reappearance upon the stage. Accordingly we find them in the fifth verse of the next chapter, under their old name—"the rest (***) of the dead;" dead, that is, in respect of the cause they espouse. In this sense they "live not again (after being 'slain with the sword from Christ's mouth') until the thousand years are finished." To use the triumphant language of the prophet, pointing to this same period, "They are dead, they shall not live: they are deceased, they shall not rise: therefore hast thou visited them, and made all memory of them to perish" (Isa. xxvi. 14). Meanwhile, the other party, so long hold down, are seen springing to life and dominion. The devil is bound that he may no more deceive the nations till the thousand years be fulfilled (ver. 1-3). The earth is at rest from the plots and seductions of the enemy. His cause is at an end, his kingdom extinguished, and for a thousand years, "the sovereignty of the world" is "our Lord's and his Christ's" [9] (chap. xi. 18). "The Lord alone is exalted in that day;" and "the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, is given to the people of the saints of the Most High." But the very hint, "they lived not again till the thousand years were finished," is a warning to expect their reappearance at the close of that period. Accordingly, though in the sense of a literal resurrection of their bodies we never hear of them again, we find them duly reproduced, as a party, by the old serpent, who is loosed at the close of the millennium for that very purpose. "When the thousand years were fulfilled," and Satan is loosed, he shall again "go out to deceive the nations;" not, of course, the same individuals, but their successors, who are spoken of under the same name, as deceived first for long ages, then undeceived for a thousand years, and finally again exposed, for a brief period, to deception. [10]

Thus does this famous prophecy, when viewed as symbolical, explain naturally from beginning to end; when taken literally, however well some expressions may interpret, we cannot get through with it.

Sixth.—We have seen (pages 202,203) that the "opening of the book of life," at the time when the dead are judged (ver. 12, 15), signifies the manifestation of those who are written in it. "Two reasons," says Mr Gipps, "lead me to conceive that this must take place at the second coming of Christ. First, It is utterly inconceivable that all  this glory [described in Matthew xxv. 31, &c.] can be conferred upon the saints, and such a manifestation of them be made in the presence of Christ and of all the holy angels, of one another, and of all the ungodly living in every part of the earth, one moment before what is called 'the opening of the book of life.' The very absurdity of the idea would convince me that such a manifestation of the glory of those who are written in the book of life must coincide with, and be the same as 'the opening of that book.' And the expression (v. 15), 'Whosoever was not found written in the book of life,' still farther proves that this is the time when the open discovery or manifestation is made of those who are written therein.—Secondly, It is expressly set forth that 'the manifestation of the sons of God' will take place at their resurrection (Rom. viii. 19, 23). As, therefore, I am convinced that this manifestation cannot take place before the book of life is opened, in which their names are written, but must be the same as the discovery of those who are written therein, I feel assured that the resurrection of the saints will be at the time of the 'opening of the book of life,' and not at the 'first resurrection.' These two reasons, therefore, prove to my mind that when Christ sits upon the throne of judgment and the book of life is opened, must be the time of his second coming, and of the resurrection of the saints." [11]

Seventh.—"The omission," says the acute author just quoted, "of any declaration as to 'the sea, death, and the grave [or hades] giving up the dead' at the first resurrection, and the making such a declaration respecting 'the dead' in verse 13, convinces me both that 'the first resurrection is not that of the saints, and also, that 'the dead' in verses 12, 13, include all mankind, both the saints and the ungodly. In every other part of the Word of God, the information given concerning the resurrection of the saints is not only much more frequent, but also much more explicit, than concerning the resurrection of the ungodly. I feel convinced, therefore, that in this portion also of Scripture, if it were intended to foretell a resurrection of the saints distinct from that of the ungodly, more explicit information would be given concerning the former than concerning the latter. I find, however, that the information given concerning 'the first resurrection,' instead of being much more, is much less explicit than that concerning the resurrection intimated in verses 12, 13; for there is not the least allusion to 'the sea, death, and the grave giving up the dead' at the first resurrection, and it is expressly declared that they do this at the time of the resurrection set forth in verses 12, 13. By contrasting this, therefore, with the course pursued in other portions of the Word of God, I feel convinced that the first resurrection cannot be that of the saints ; and that verses 12, 13, do not describe the resurrection of the ungodly only, but that of the saints also, and include all the dead without any exception."

The seven foregoing arguments have been gathered from the surface of the millennial prophecy: the two following, with which I will conclude, are suggested by a narrower observation of the vision.

Eighth.—It is a fatal objection to the literal sense of this prophecy, as announcing the bodily resurrection of all dead, and the change of all living saints, that it is exclusively a martyr-scene—the prophet beholding simply a resurrection of the slain; whereas this very circumstance eminently favours the figurative sense.

The vision is described first generally, and then in detail.  Two companies are seen in the vision, and in two successive and opposite conditions—first as dead and dishonoured, next as risen and reigning. Thus:—

GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF THE VISION.

"And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them:

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE VISION. 

First Company seen Dead.

"And [I saw] the souls of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the Word of God;

Second Company seen Dead.

"And [I saw] such as had not worshipped the beast nor his image, neither had received his mark upon their forehead, and on their hand:

Both Companies seen Risen and Reigning.

"And they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years." (V. 4.)

A few remarks on the several clauses of the passage will still further open it up.

"I saw thrones, and they sat upon them." Who sat upon them? Not any mentioned as yet, for the vision begins here. Clearly, therefore, it is the two companies about to be specified. Accordingly, as soon as the prophet has described these in detail, he comes back to his first general statement—"And they (those now specified) lived and reigned a thousand years;" as if he had said, 'And I saw thrones, and persons sitting on them, to whom judgment was given: these thrones were filled by the beheaded, &c., and such as had not worshipped the beast: And their reign lasted a thousand years.' [12] If this be the construction of the passage, as it clearly is—if the words "they sat upon them," mean "they to be presently mentioned"—then we must put no other saints into the vision besides those afterwards specified; and the concluding words, "And they lived and reigned," tie us peremptorily down to those two companies alone. Let us now see who they were:—

" And [I saw] the souls of them that were beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the Word of God." Beheading, [13] a well-known Roman mode of putting to an ignominious death, is mentioned here, merely to denote the Roman authority by which they were slain, in the Pagan and unbroken period of the empire. All the martyrs of Jesus, then, under the Pagan persecutions are here embraced. The next clause describes another class of martyrs, to arise after this class was completed. But before coming to it, let me request the reader's attention to the following passage, in the sixth chapter of this book, where the same class of martyrs (under Paganism) are described in nearly identical terms, and the other class announced as yet to come:—"And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the Word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, How long, O Lord, [14] holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth! And a white robe was given unto every one of them; [15] and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a [little] [16] season, until both their fellow-servants and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled."

The persons seen in this vision are unquestionably the same as the first class in our millennial vision; "their souls" in both cases, or themselves in the state of the dead—as slain for the Word of God. In the former vision, however, the apostle hears them asking "judgment;" in the latter, he sees them get it. "How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" is their doleful cry in the one vision: "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them," is the delightful response to that cry which the apostle was privileged to announce in the other. The one, in short, is the petition presented, and the other, the petition granted. But the connection of the two visions is closer than this. The petitioning party in the former vision are one. But they are told there is another party to come after them, to be treated like themselves, and who will have to be judged and avenged as well as they. They must wait, therefore, till their time be over; and then they shall both together "have judgment given them, and their blood be avenged on them that dwell on the earth." "White robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow-servants also, and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled." As these are clearly two distinct parties suffering in succession for Christ, and as the former includes all who suffered under the great red dragon in his Pagan form, the latter can be no other than those who were to suffer under the same dragon in his subsequent, and, I believe, Papal form of opposition to Christ. Now, as judgment is promised to the former party as soon as their brethren and fellow-servants of the other party have suffered, or after Antichrist shall have fallen, and the millennial time have arrived—we naturally look for both parties in our vision, and expect to find "judgment given" to both together "against them that dwell on the earth." Accordingly, so it is. That exquisite jointing of the corresponding parts of this book—which, with other peculiar features of it, so fascinated Sir Isaac Newton, that he pronounced it to have more characters of divinity than any other book of Scripture—is nowhere better seen than here. "I saw," says the apostle, "the souls of them that were beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the Word of God:"—'Those whom I had before seen under the altar, the souls of them that were slain for the Word of God, and for the testi.nony which they held—them I now saw again, getting the judgment which then they sought.' So much for the first company of martyrs, under Paganism.

The next clause of our passage describes the second company. "And [I saw] such as had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had recieved the mark upon the forehead and in the hand." The resurrection of this company shows they were seen as dead, while the "judgment" given to them along with the former class—in fulfilment of the promise made to that class, that they should have judgment given them as soon as the other party were "killed as they were"—puts it beyond doubt that this is a martyr-company too. Accordingly, we read (ch. xiii. 15), that "it was given to him"—the second beast that spake like a dragon, v. 11—"to cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed."

Thus this celebrated vision is exclusively a visional resurrection of martyrs. Not only are none else in it, but the first and last clauses of the passage—the one referring us to those about to be described, and the other to these as already described—tie us down to the very parties specified in the two middle clauses of the passage, and necessitate the restriction of the whole to the slain witnesses of Christ. [17]

In this view of the vision, it is utterly inadequate to express the resurrection of the whole Church of God bodily from the grave. I think every one must see this. The amazing contrast between the all-comprehensive idea to be expressed, and the rigidly-limited expression of it, if such it were, would prevent any cautious interpreter from recognising it in the passage. And is it conceivable that the Spirit of God, supposing him to have reserved the announcement of a prior resurrection of the righteous to one single passage at the end of the canon of revelation, and intending this vision to be the one formal announcement of it, should have selected such a mode of revealing it, that only an inconsiderable few out of the whole Church of Christ have been able to detect it—that those few are not able to assign satisfactory reasons for the conclusion at which they have arrived—and that the more closely every clause of the passage is investigated, the more sternly are we forbidden, by all the admitted rules of interpretation, to put that construction upon it?

But what is fatal to the literal sense is eminently favourable to the figurative. Need I ask any familiar with the figurative language of Scripture, and with the scriptural figuration of this very period, familiar with the best writers in every language and every age, or himself accustomed to think and speak in vivid style, whether a resurrection of the slain witnesses of Christ of every period, to people, possess, and hold the supremacy of the earth with their Lord, be not a conception worthy of the Spirit of God to dictate, and inexpressibly refreshing for the soul of an oppressed Church to be filled with? In this very book, the figurative resurrection of the witnesses for the truth is thus expressed:—"And after three days and an half, the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet."—(Rev. xi. 11.) It is indeed part of the classic style of Scripture in depicting this very millennial period. For example, Will the Jews be brought in? "Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my Spirit in you, and ye shall live; and I will place you in your own land."—(Ezek. xxxvii. 12-14.) "After two days will he revive us; in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight."—(Hos. vi. 2.) This certainly is figurative.

Again, Will this resurrection of Israel be a mighty blessing to the Gentile world? "What shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead?" As of the return of a prodigal, it is said, "He was dead and is alive again;" and of 'the change which passes upon the believer in justification, it is said,—"He shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life;" and of sanctification, that he is "quickened who was dead in trespasses and in sins," so it is said of the church:—"thy dead men shall live," &c.; just as it is said of the opposite party,—"They are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased, they shall not rise: therefore hast thou visited and destroyed them, and made all memory of them to perish."—(Isa. xxvi. 13, 14.)

I have said further, that this idea is current coin in all vivid thinking, in every age and every language.

Mr Elliott mentions that a medal exists, representing Huss at the stake, and having this legend round it, Centum revolutis annis Deo respondebitis et mihi—"When a hundred years shall have revolved ye shall answer to God and to me." He also refers to a brief addressed by Pope Adrian, in 1523, to the Diet at Nuremberg, containing these words:—"The heretics Huss and Jerome are now alive again in the person of Martin Luther." [19]

These last illustrations supply a complete answer to the only plausible argument that I have met with against the figurative sense of our vision. "Surely," it is said, "the resurrection must correspond with the death. If the one be figurative, so may the other; but if the death be literal—as we have admitted to be the case with both the martyr-companies in this vision—then must the resurrection be the same." This argument is adduced by all literalists as triumphant. But though the principle of it is undoubtedly correct, Mr Elliott, who among others urges it with his accustomed force, has, in the above illustration, himself furnished enough to show that it is pointless in the present case. John Huss, before his death, anticipated the day when, "awakening from among the dead, and rising from his grave, he would leap with great joy." Suppose, then, I were to reason thus: "A resurrection ought to be of the same character with the death from which it is a revival: but Huss's death was literal and personal; therefore it must have been his own literal and bodily resurrection which he anticipated on the eve of his death." But it was not. Did Huss, then, expect no resurrection of himself personally? Of course he did; but that was not the burden of his thoughts at the time. He was filled with the thought of the eventual triumph of the truth he was dying for, and that was the resurrection of himself which he so joyfully anticipated. Take now the other case. Pope Adrian said to the Diet at Nuremberg, "The heretics Huss and Jerome are now alive again in the person of Martin Luther." But the death which Huss and Jerome died was a literal and bodily one: Shall we therefore say that Adrian meant to tell the Diet that Huss and Jerome were not figuratively, but literally and personally alive in Martin Luther? Absurd. It is true that Huss and Jerome were literally slain, just as the witnesses in our vision were; but as this did not in the least prevent either Huss himself anticipating a glorious resurrection in the person of his successors in the faith, nor the enemies of both from testifying that they had risen and were actually living in the man who of all others best represented them, so neither does it hinder us from seeing in this vision the same figurative resurrection of the slain witnesses of Jesus in the millennial day. [20] The only difference is, that what was realized at the Reformation, in Luther and his compeers, was but as a drop in the bucket—"the little cloud as a man's hand"—compared with the millennial resuscitation, not only in point of numbers but the completeness of the triumph. For while Huss and Jerome, as witnesses for Christ, were put completely down by the antichristian party in their day, Luther and his coadjutors at the Reformation were not able to put them completely down in their turn. But at the time of our vision, the witnesses for Christ of every age shall not only "live and reign" in their successors "for a thousand years," but "the rest of the dead (the opposing party) will not live again until the thousand years shall be fulfilled—This is the first resurrection." And "blessed," surely, "shall he be" whose lot is cast in such times, and "holy shall he be that hath part in this first resurrection"— representing in his person the noble army of martyrs, yet without being exposed, as they were, to be crushed and swept off the stage, merely because Jesus and his truth were dearer to them than life itself!

Lastly.—The literal view can offer no consistent explanation of the "judgment that was given unto" the slain martyrs. What judgment was this? Clearly the same that the first company of them sought, and were assured they would get as soon as the second company were ready to receive it along with them—"How long, O Lord, dost thou not Judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" If the two words "judge" and "avenge" here do not mean precisely the same thing, the latter being explanatory of the former, they at least mean things inseparable from each other, and to be received at one and the same time. 'When "it was said unto them, that they should rest yet a little longer until" the other company "should be killed as they were"—the meaning is, "Judgment shall be given unto you, and your blood shall be avenged on them that dwell on the earth," when that period arrives. Accordingly, when our millennial vision says, "I saw judgment given unto them"—the martyr companies—it is impossible, I think, to doubt that the meaning is, "I saw the Lord fulfilling his pledge to the souls under the altar,—I saw him judging and avenging their blood—and the blood of the other company along with them—on them that dwell on the earth." If this be correct, of course the slain, and those who slew them, must be taken in the same sense. If the judgment is to be given unto the martyrs personally at the millennium, their blood must also be personally avenged on them that dwell on the earth. If the martyrs are to rise bodily from their graves, in order that judgment may be personally given to them, then their persecutors, every one of them, must be raised from their graves to have vengeance rendered to them for the blood of those dear saints which they shed. If Paul, for example, was seen in this millennial vision having "judgment given to him" in his individual person, why is not Nero here also, to have apostolic "blood avenged upon him?"—If Ignatius, why not also Trajan? If Justin, and Polycarp, and the blessed martyrs of Lyons and Vienne, why is not the mild and lauded Marcus Antoninus confronted with them in this "judicial," "bloodavenging "resurrection? Why, in a word, is not the long line of bloody emperors, and their more guilty minions, arrayed in person before the hundreds of thousands of the martyrs of Jesus, of whom the world was not worthy, whose blood they poured out like water, with little intermission, for three hundred years? On all just principles of interpretation, if the cry for "judgment" and "vengeance on their enemies" is to bring up the martyrs in their persons at the millennium, the same cry ought to bring up their enemies in person along with them, for their part of the judgment. So with respect to the second class—after whose slaughter the whole army of martyrs is to be judged—if the Lord's

"Slaughtered saints, whose bones
Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold,"

are personally to appear in this millennial resurrection, why not also

"The bloody Piedmontese, that rolled
Mother with infant down the rocks!"

And shall the seventy thousand dear French Christians that perished in three days—to the eternal infamy of the Church of Rome—rise from their graves for "judgment" at the millennium, and, while looking for the avenging of their blood on them that shed it, shall they miss the bloody Guises, and that Man of Sin who, from his throne on the seven hills, caused a medal to be struck in honour of this fearful slaughter of the Huguenots?

Certain it is, that the judgment which John saw the martyrs get, brings up not one of the persecutors in their individual persons. Have the martyrs been deceived, then? Having asked bread, have they gotten a stone? No, but you misinterpret their petition. The thing granted shows what we are to understand by the thing asked. They get "judgment" on the cause that slew them. That, therefore, is the judgment sought. It is just the testimony of Jesus, once slain in the martyrs, at length living in their millennial successors—trodden once, but now triumphant. Listen to the following words of the 18th chapter:—"Rejoice over her (over Babylon), thou heaven, and ye saints and apostles and prophets; [21] for God hath avenged you on her" (v. 20). "Reward her even as she rewarded you" (v. 6). And again, in the 19th chapter,—"He hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hands" (v. 2). Here you have both parties together—the party avenged, namely, "the saints and apostles and prophets," from the beginning; and the party "on whom God hath avenged them," namely, Babylon, the harlot-Church, in its destruction. It is simply the fall of this antichristian, cursed, bloody system, that is meant. Over her ruin the whole Church of God, of every age, and especially those who fell under her murderous policy, are called to rejoice, as if personally avenged in the destruction of that which destroyed them.

I am far from denying that this righting of the cause of Christ and his enemies involves an ultimate resurrection of the persons of all on either side—to everlasting life in the one case, and to shame and everlasting contempt in the other. In this sense, the millennial state, as being the next stage and the nearest resemblance to the eternal state, is described in the Old Testament prophets in language which in the Apocalypse is appropriated, with slight elevation of strain, to the everlasting state. But if you raise the platform of the vision on the one side into the celestial and eternal region, by bringing up the martyrs into glory at the millennium, you must not sink the platform on the other side, by leaving the persecutors to rot quietly in their graves for a thousand years more. This is a clumsy expedient, which creates more difficulties than it removes, and in the case of our vision fails, as we have seen, to meet the requirements of the text. [22]

To put this argument, then, in a single sentence, the "judging" and "avenging," if not precisely the same thing, plainly go together—as in the petition, so in the bestowment: the thing meant is one and the same interposition in favour of the one party and against the other; with reference to the cause at the millennium, and at the great day with reference to the persons, when all who have had any thing to do in the conflict shall "go to their own place."

Thus have I examined this celebrated passage both presumptively and directly, both generally and in detail. Though I have adduced some considerations which, even before examining the passage, seemed to bear very hard against the literal sense, it will not be said that I took advantage of these to prejudge the question. I have rejected some arguments in favour of the figurative sense which did not appear to be tenable, as proceeding upon a mistaken apprehension of what the vision really was; and while I have freely availed myself of the observations of others on both sides, I have presented the whole in the light in which it rose before my own mind. Some of the arguments which I have advanced appear to me decisive of themselves; but taking the whole nine arguments together, I believe the conclusion to which they lead—that the millennial is a figurative, not a literal resurrection—cannot be overthrown.

And this is the "seat" of the doctrine of a resurrection of the righteous a thousand years before the wicked. If this, now, be dislodged—and the confirmations of it elsewhere were found to be none—the whole doctrine falls, and with it, of course, the premillennial theory itself, which absolutely depends upon it. [23]

Notes and References

1. Key to the Prophecies, pp. 408, 409 (1795.)—Of this argument Mr Birks, I observe, takes no notice.

2. Compare with this apostolic call, to awake from the sleep, and arise from the death of sin, the prophetic call from which it is borrowed: "Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee."—(Isa. lx. 1.) What the apostle applies to individual conversion is just this prophetic summons to the Church—once confined to Palestine, and shrouded in dark ceremonies—to feel the meridian splendour and quickening warmth of the Sun of righteousness.

3. The answer given to this is, that the words "on such the second death hath no power," are merely "the repetition of the same idea in a different form, than which nothing is more common in Scripture."—(Kitto's Journal, July 1850.) So Mr Birks (p. 115). And Mr Wood considers it as designed to announce the fulfilment of the promise (ch. ii. 11), "He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death" He even considers the words in Daniel, "Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the 1335 days," to mean, not 'Blessed is he who shall be alive at that happy era,' but 'Blessed is he who shall be then raised from the dead' (pp. 51,52). I leave the reader to judge which is most natural, especially in connection with the following arguments.

4. As for the millennial saints, says Mr Wood, in reply to this argument, the assurance they possess of protection from the second death, "lies in the promise that they, too, shall by and by put on immortality." But what promise is that? I was curious to know this, since Mr Wood exhausts all the promises of resurrection in the bible upon those who live before the millenmum, leaving not one for those who live during the thousand years. "Are not these," says he, "the nations of the earth who dwell not in the New Jerusalem, but eat for healing of the leaves of the tree of life?" (p. 53). The reviewer in Kitto takes the same view of the tree of life, assigning its fruits to the citizens of the New Jerusalem, and its leaves to the nations outside. Mr Birks' laconic answer is more plausible, though I think unsatisfactory: "The myriads who people the earth during the millennium belong to neither class. Hence the vision does not speak of them at all" (p. 116).

5. Least of all can those who believe that thero will be a fleshly state to all eternity, over which the glorified will reign, and of course imperfection on earth for ever, assign even a tolerable reason for the emphatic saying, that the risen saints will "reign with Christ a thousand years." But the difficulty is nearly as great in any way of it.

6. But is not this same millennial reign said in Daniel (vii. 18) to bo "forever, even for ever and ever"?(Kitto, ut supra, and Mr Wood, p. 53.) True: but it is easier to understand the extension of the earthly and temporal condition of the kingdom into the heavenly and eternal, which is done in Daniel, than to understand how the reign of risen and glorified saints with Christ should be definitely fixed to a thousand years. To say with Moses Stuart, and Mr Wood, who quotes him, that "the simple object of the words is merely to aflirm the certainty of the reign during all that period," is, I think, manifestly weak.

7. "Mr Elliott, indeed, observes that the expression 'till the thousand years were finished,' does not necessarily imply that 'the rest of the dead' would rise immediately on the completion of the thousand years, and cites two passages in proof." [So Mr Birks, "Four Empires," &c., Appendix II.] "We do not dispute this. We hold that a statement to the effect that a particular event shall not take place till after a given time, does not necessarily imply that it must take place even then. But when, as here, two things aro mentioned together; when their order is stated; when a period is assigned to the first, and the commencement of the second is deferred till the period is fulfilled; and when, after this distinction of times, tho first is again brought forward and characterised—it seems impossible to avoid the conclusion, that the two constitute one uninterrupted scries, gradational or antithetie, and that the specification of times is exact. Besides, the time till which their living again is deferred, is expressed word for word as the time is till which Satan is bound. Both are—***—'till the thousand years should be fulfilled.' Whence it is but reasonable to infer that there exists an intimate connection between them"—British Quarterly Review, Fob. 1849 —"Modern Millenarianism," an able article, and on this vision particularly so.

8. The keen-edged reflections of Mr Birks on this argument (pp. 119-121) contrast unpleasantly with his usual style. Vitringa, from whom he quotes, though connecting v. 5 with v. 12, is the farthest possible from identifying "the rest of the dead, who lived not again till the thousand years were fulfilled," with the whole "dead, small and great, who stand before the throne" at the final judgment, which Mr Birks and his friends are obliged so unnaturally to do. This makes the reference to Vitringa of small avail, if it be not fitted to convey an erroneous impression.

9. ***. "Much more glorious," says Bengel, "is this primitive reading than that of a hasty transcriber, ***." Since then, every critical edition of the text has introduced this " much more glorious " reading. The English is from Tregelles.

10. Mr Birks (pp. 122-126) gives no fewer than eleven arguments against this view of the "living again" of "the rest of the dead," which he erroneously calls "novel." It would be tedious to go through these, every one of which admits of easy answer. But if my view does not commend itself to the impartial reader of the vision, on this point—on which diversity of opinion may very well exist—let him just blot out number five from the list of internal evidences against the literal sense of the First Resurrection.

11. Treatise on the First Resurrection (1831), pp. 21-23—a work of great modesty, but full of acute verbal criticism; although I think it fails to establish the author's view of the period of the millennium.

12. Mr Elliott, perceiving how much depends upon this point, gives the words another turn, but ono that I am convinced is untenable. "Christ and his saints," says he, "were seen to take their sitting on thrones of judgment and royalty. St John specifies particularly, as if conspicuous among them, the souls of them that had been beheaded, and others also, whosoever had not worshipped,"  &c.—(Hor. Apoc. iv. 125, fourth edition.) One objection to this is, that it introduces into tho vision those who were not seen in it, and makes the only parties who were seen to be merely "conspicuous among the whole number of Christ's saints." Another objection is, that it obliges us to seek for a nominative to the verb "sat"—the parties that were seen in the thrones—out of this vision altogether. Mr Elliott takes the nominative to "sat" to be "Christ and his attendant hosts, described at large in the preceding chapter as combatants against, and conquerors over, the beast,'' &c. That is to say, he takes his nominative out of a perfectly different vision from the ono where the verb is; and not only so, but since another vision comes in between these two, we have his nominative in the first vision and the verb in the third, or at least another and quite distinct representation of the same period from the second vision. Could any more unnatural and inadmissible construction be proposed? But take the verb (***) "they sat," impersonally, as equivalent to "they were sate upon"—a usage quite familiar in the Greek Testament and the Septuagint—and the construction of the whole passage becomes transparent. "Nothing scarcely," says Moses Stuart, who takes the literal sense of our vision, "is more common in the Old Testament and in the New, and especially in the Chaldee of the book of Daniel, than to employ the third person plural for the passive voice, thus making a kind of impersonal verb of it: Gramm. 174. Note 2."—(Comm. on Apoc. ad loc.) "In the New Testament," says Winer, "verbs are used impersonally, in the third person plural." Then follow some examples. (Gramm. 49)

13. ... , an axe.

14. ***, Master—'Thou that rulest over the oppressors and the oppressed alike.'

15. ***. So the true reading would seem to be, as given by Sdiulz, Lachmunn, Tischendorf, and Tregelles. Scholz, however, omits ***, and Tregelles puts it in brackets, Bengel, whose verbal accuracy seldom fails him, in reply to Wolfius, who had said it might justly be doubted whether John wrote ***, says, "But he has written ***, chap. ii. 23 ; and so Luke, ii. 3, *** and Acts ii. 8, ***. Paul, Eph. v. 33, ***. This very *** occurs in Sir. xvii. 14."

16. It seems doubtful whether "little" belongs to the text, but the evidence is scarcely sufficient to remove it.

17. "Nor," says the Rev. Capel Molyneux, an extreme premillennialist, "does this passage teach that his saints, universally or even generally, shall rise and reign with Him. So far from this, it does not say a syllable about his saints generally, or about his saints at all as saints merely; it speaks exclusively of martyrs, of those "that were beheaded," &c., while of others it makes no mention whatsoever."—World to Come (1853), p. 199.

18. "When the venerable priest," says Merle D'Aubigni, speaking of John Huss, "had been summoned by Sigismund's order before the Council of Constance, and had been thrown into prison, the chapel of Bethlehem, in which he had proclaimed the gospel and the future triumphs of Christ, occupied his mind much more than his own defence. One night the holy martyr saw in imagination, from the depths of his dungeon, the pictures of Christ that he had painted on the walls of his oratory effaced by the pope and his bishops. This vision distressed him; but on the next day he saw many painters occupied in restoring these figures in greater number and in brighter colours. As soon as their task was ended, the painters, who were surrounded by an immense crowd, exclaimed, 'Now let the popes and bishops come, they shall never efface them more!' And many people rejoiced in Bethlehem, and I with them, adds John Huss. 'Busy yourself with your defence rather than with your dreams,' said his faithful friend, the knight of Chlum, to whom he had communicated this vision. 'I am no dreamer,' replied Huss; 'but I maintain this for certain, that the image of Christ will never be effaced. They have wished to destroy it, but it shall be painted afresh in all hearts by much better preachers than myself. The nation that loves Christ will rejoice at this. And I, awaking from among the dead, and rising, so to speak, from my grave, shall leap with great joy." [History of the Reformation in the Sixteenth Century, vol. i. p.93. Oliver and Boyd. 1848.]

19.  Hor. Apoc., ii. 442, 443, fourth edition.

20. Mr Elliott, though adverting to other points of my argument, simply repeats, in his fourth edition, his own statement here, as if my answer to it, as above, had not been before him. Mr Wood's reply is merely an endeavour to show, I think without success, that more were meant than were actually seen in the vision. As to Mr Birks' statement (pp. 135-137), I have nothing to add to, or alter in, the above.

21. ***. in all the critical editions.

22. Mr Elliott says, it would bo poor comfort to persecuted Christians merely to be told that one day their cause would triumph; and, in a note, he states, that though he urged this in the Free Church Magazine in reply to me, I made no answer to it.—(Iforce, ut stipra, iv. lib.) he is mistaken. I answered it there, and I have answered it in the above paragraph, which was before him when he was writing this complaint, though he overlooked it. It is a vast comfort to persecuted Christians to be assured that the cause for which they suffer will one day triumph; but their own personal reward is, of course, over and above this, as it is written, "If so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together."

23. "Yet on this verse alone," says the Rev. Capel Molyneux, "out of the whole Bible,—on this verse, despite its own internal evidence, and that of the context, to the contrary—on this verse alone has it been, and still is it maintained, that an interval of a thousand years shall elapse between the resurrection of saints and sinners! Nay, and further still, not only is the assertion made despite the opposing evidence of this passage, but despite the testimony of all Scripture which bears on the subject; for unexceptionable is the testimony of Scripture, that however the righteous may rise, in order, before the wicked, yet that the resurrection of the wicked, with all its attendant judgment and condemnation, shall quickly, yea almost immediately, follow the coming of the Son of Man," &c.—World to Come (pp. 201, 202).