Revelation 20

The first three verses of this chapter are closely connected with the one that goes before. For there we see the judgment of the beast and the false prophet, and of their adherents. Here we have what God saw fit to inflict for the present upon the real unseen leader of all the mischief — the devil. But there is this difference, that it is not Christ who deals with Satan. It was the shining forth of His coming that destroyed the beast and the false prophet. They were taken and were both cast alive into the lake of fire. And so we learn in Revelation 20:10, when Satan’s turn came for being cast there also, it is into that lake where the beast and the false prophet already were, and where they shall be tormented for ever and ever. But it was not yet the time for the last and most terrible judgment of Satan. God’s trial of the world was not quite over, and therefore, perhaps, God did not interfere by Christ in person, but through an angel. Before Christ inflicts the last crushing blow upon Satan, an angel is employed to limit his power and liberty for a certain period. This is what we have here. Satan is restrained for a thousand years; and the risen saints judge the world.

Many persons have raised difficulties as to this chapter, as indeed to all the rest of the book, on the ground of the figurative language. But no objection could be less reasonable; for figurative or symbolic language is used in scripture from the first book to the last. So that if you neglect one part of God’s word on this ground, you are in danger of slighting all. It is the commonest thing possible. Take the language of God Himself in Eden, the words which the Holy Ghost used for the comfort and salvation of souls from the day that man was fallen by sin. Even there we find that God used highly metaphorical language.

But if a soul was needy, and through grace desired to understand God, there was always a sure way. God waited patiently, and taught and led on His children. No doubt there was room for growth; but then there was room for unbelief too, and the evil heart could readily find difficulties to stumble over. But faith always finds out the way to understand God. Not but that there are things hard to such as we are; yet faith pursues its narrow path through obstacles and dangers, because God has said, “they shall be all taught of God.” Nevertheless, the language in which God was pleased to pronounce judgment on the enemy and to intimate a Redeemer was so figurative, that an unbelieving Jew like Josephus could pervert it and apply it merely to the natural dislike that men have to serpents, and their desire to get rid of them wherever found! Of course such a notion sprang from not understanding the mind of God, and the Jewish historian was ignorant of scripture and of the power of God.

And remember that I do not use the word “ignorant” here to describe the lack of human learning, any more than scripture does, when it says of certain persons that “they are unlearned and unstable.” They might be as wise as Plato and prudent as Aristotle, but they were not learned in God’s will and in the knowledge of His mind. This is the learning that we should value and cultivate — a thing that never can be gleaned in the schools of this world. On the contrary, if a man prosecute human learning as a means of understanding the things of God, he is sure to go astray, because this per se is never from the Holy Ghost. Doubtless he who has got human learning may make use of it for God. But the great point is, that the man of God must make learning and everything that is of man to be his servant; whereas the mind of man, as such, makes learning his master and becomes its slave. Hence the danger of all such things proving positive hindrances, even to the Christian, save so far as he is led by the Spirit of God. The only possible way of understanding God’s word is by subjection to the Holy Ghost; and the test is Christ, because the object of the Spirit is to exalt Him. Therefore it is that you never can separate growth in the things of God from the moral state of the soul. It is true that a man who has learned a great deal of truth may slip into a bad state of soul: but, in general, sound knowledge of the things of God and a wise gracious application of the truth flow from communion with God.

I have made these few remarks not doubting that many of my readers know them to be true from their own experience; but some perhaps may learn from them why they make small progress in the things of God. The true way is to seek the glory of Christ. Where a man is bent upon this, he must learn, no doubt; but all is open and clear before him, because he is in the current of the Holy Ghost, whose office is to take of the things of Jesus and to show them unto us. “When he is come . . . . he shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine and shall show it unto you:” for Christ, not man, is the aim and end of the Spirit.

Doubtless, as to the earliest book of the Bible, Genesis, all will acknowledge it to be a perfect model of perspicuity. It is the most simple book, containing profound truth, that ever was written. In this book where God was putting us in His nursery school, yet what do we find? Not seldom bold and figurative language. Hence, if I am to give up the scriptures because of figures, I must give them up from Genesis to Revelation.

The revelation of the woman’s Seed that was to bruise the serpent’s head was the very word on which salvation hung; the blessed truth that faith laid hold of at all times. Take a case. Abel’s faith, that expressed itself in the offering which he brought, was grounded upon this word. He believed that the Lord Jesus was coming (though he did not yet know that name), who would be bruised in order to destroy the serpent — One who would suffer, whose heel would be bruised, though eventually He would crush the bruiser.

This shows that faith is a very distinct thing from the ability to explain the figures of a passage, the general sense and certainty of which may yet be clearly seen. So much so that even now, if you were to take a Christian and ask him to explain all the particulars of that verse — what was meant by the Seed of the woman and that of the serpent, the enmity between them and the bruising of the head and of the heel, though he might be perfectly certain that it speaks of Christ, and might understand the general meaning of all, yet he would find a great deal of difficulty in explaining what each thing meant. But there lies the blessedness of God’s word, that people are not saved by having clear thoughts on the obscure; but God knows how to direct every soul that is saved to the right object. Their hearts rest upon a Christ who has suffered for them and completely destroyed the destroyer. They may not be able to bring out their thoughts clearly to others; but the faith of the taught knows the truth perhaps as well as the teacher, though the latter alone can develop it with convincing plainness. This shows that even where God employs these figures, the general thought is sufficiently plain. To expound them by words might be an insuperable difficulty to the soul that has no question of the general sense.

Here an angel comes down out of heaven. This angel, in the prophetic vision, has the key of the abyss and a great chain hanging on his hand (verse 1). He is seen laying hold of “the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan,” the well-known enemy of God and man; and then follows the use of the key and the chain, the key for shutting him up and the chain for binding him fast. Obviously these are figures, but they are familiar to the simplest mind. There is no one, however ignorant about some things, who need misunderstand what is meant. The Spirit of God takes advantage of the commonest things of every-day life to describe an act of judgment that is about to be accomplished in His providence by and by. God intends to restrain Satan, and will not suffer his going about to deceive the world as he does now; but it will be only for a season (verses 2, 3). He is not thrown into the lake of fire at once, but is a prisoner in the bottomless pit, which is the expression of the place, under the control of Satan ordinarily, that will then be made the place of his confinement. (Compare Revelation 9, 11 and 17.)

It is certain from God’s word that Satan is not yet shut up on the contrary, that he goes about now seeking to deceive and to destroy souls. The New Testament always supposes this. It is perfectly clear that Satan is an enemy still at large; that he is active in his rebellion against God, in the falsehood that he spreads among men, and in the death and ruin that he causes everywhere. But this is to close when, for a certain limited time, the earth will be freed from his deceits. This is all that I need to draw from the passage. I am not going to discuss whether the thousand years are to be taken literally or mystically; for this is a question of detail and decree only. But beyond a doubt the period has a beginning and has an end; nor can it have begun yet, because Satan is not bound. The New Testament epistles suppose that Satan still carries on his devices hinders the work of God, has to be resisted, and is going about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. So that there must be a vast change when the time comes for his restraint. And God will have to cast His people upon other parts of His word, which would not apply to the past or the present. The saints then will be in many respects in a totally different state, In that day Christ will be reigning over the earth, having it under His direct control; and assuredly the change will be incalculably great. Satan too will be bound, and God’s people then will not require the same discipline through the word of God as those do now who have to encounter the assaults of Satan and his accusations. God will deal with them according to the condition in which they will be placed, and for which His word provides.

Allow me to repeat that it is chiefly the influence of prejudice, with which persons approach the book of the Revelation, that makes it appear so difficult. People say that so many good men have made mistakes in interpreting it, that there is no sure way for the simple to take it up profitably. But this is to the dishonour of God; for He has given the book to be understood by His people at large, peculiarly commending it to His servants. Special promises of blessing He attaches to such as read, hear, and keep it, foreseeing the delusion abroad with regard to its obscurity. But why is it the devil’s object to hinder people from reading this book? Why is it that, in what are called Christian churches, every other part of the Bible is read, while the book of Revelation is scarcely looked at? Even the Apocrypha is read by some, while of the “true sayings of God” only a few fragments here and there are used for public services. The reason is because there is no book in the Bible that Satan fears more, and justly too. It announces first his sure humiliation by angelic power, and then his destruction afterwards. Other books show his partial temporary successes; this dwells on his overthrow, and therefore must he dread it. Again, if you have here the account of God’s putting down Satan, you have also very fully brought out the awful height of power to which he rises before the end. For the divine principle is never to judge evil until it has rejected all the patience of God, abused His goodness, and become thoroughly unbearable. Had Christians felt that Satan’s object was to conceal his own wiles, and power, and ruin, by leading them to neglect this book, they might have been more on their guard. But this is the last thing he wants people to suspect; for then they at once get upon the ground where the Spirit of God can lead them on; whereas, if they assume that the book is so dark as to be, practically unintelligible, they are so far exposed to his delusion, though God is faithful, who will not suffer them to be tempted above that they are able.

In the next verse we get another thing, the portion of the blessed. What will Christ be doing, and what they who are with Him, now that the victory is won? “And I saw thrones; and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them” (verse 4). The heads, civil and ecclesiastical, of the evil in the world had been summarily judged; the hidden source of all was next set aside “till the thousand years should be finished.” But now the Lord Jesus has taken the kingdom of the world. Still the object here is not so much to show us Christ’s reign, because this was a familiar truth, found throughout all scripture, and one that was well known to the Old Testament saints; and so habitually were they waiting for the Messiah, and so prevalent was the expectation of His kingdom, even in the mass of unconverted Israel, that Satan took advantage of it to make men refuse the grace of Christ coming in humiliation. Here His reigning is of course implied, as the central pivot of the blessing; but His people, or at least His sufferers, are specified with the utmost clearness.

This then may be one reason why prominence is here given to those who reign with Christ. God felt deeply for His saints. They were under keen trial and temptation. He takes pains to show that, if they had suffered, they were also to reign with Him. And therefore, as it seems to me, it is not there said, I saw a great throne, but “I saw thrones.”114 As the Lord Jesus Christ Himself had said to the disciples, “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” He does not speak of one peculiar mansion there for Himself, but He says, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” Was it not in the same spirit that the prophet here had the vision of these thrones? And they were not vacant. “I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them.” They were now to exercise judgment.

Evidently this is an accomplishment of the word in 1 Cor. 6. The apostle there, addressing the saints at Corinth, says, “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?” And here they are judging the world. But more than that. The Lord had said to the twelve apostles, “Ye shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Many persons think that this will only be fulfilled in heaven. But there can be no such state of things there. The twelve tribes are not above. They are only known as such upon earth. Here below they will be found as an object of government; and so the prophets speak. What will there be for saints to judge in heaven? When the glorified are there, where will be the men to judge above? All will be blessed there. These will have passed out of the scene of judgment.

It is plain therefore that this scene is one that cannot apply to heaven: and that it supposes the earth as a sphere of judgment. Those in question reign over the earth. I say, “over the, earth,” for there is no reason to believe that this world will be the home of the risen saints of God. They may visit it from time to time, as we know the Lord Himself will; but their proper dwelling-place will not be the earth. Even now our blessing is in heavenly places in Christ; much more evidently will it be when we are glorified. The blessing is heavenly in its source, character, and sphere. But while we shall thus have blessing in heavenly places, the earth will be the lower and subject province — full of interest and glory to God, but a comparatively outside domain. Just as a man who owns an estate may have a grand family seat in it; but this does not hinder his having property outside, which he must leave his house in order to see. And so it will be hereafter. The glory above will be the rest and centre of the heavenly saints; but besides that they will judge the earth.115 Accordingly it is written here, “I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given unto them.” They were the destined assessors of the Lord in judging or government.

But that was not all. “And [I saw] the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God.” Mark the word “souls.” It is strictly correct. There are many who, in the main agreeing that this vision represents a judgment exercised by heavenly saints over men upon earth, understand the “souls” spoken of here to mean persons according to a common usage of scripture. But I do not believe that this is the true explanation. Why not take the word “souls” here as meaning those who were in the separate state? Thus, the apostle John saw in the vision, first, thrones with persons seated upon them; secondly, a certain number of disembodied people, the souls of them that had been beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the word of God; and besides, thirdly, a class of those “the which had not worshipped the beast nor yet his image, and had not received his mark upon their forehead, or in their hand.” Had he meant persons in their ordinary state, he might have said, I saw the souls that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, etc.; but not “I saw the souls of them that were beheaded.” Just as it was said of Jacob, “All the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt . . . . all the souls were threescore and six.” It is not said there “all the souls of them,” or “of the people that came,” etc. (Compare Rev. 6:9.)

Here, then, John beheld in the vision some that were already risen from the dead and seated upon thrones. “I saw thrones, and they sat upon them.” The reference seems purposely general, and implies “the armies” previously described (Revelation 19:14). Those who followed the Lord from heaven to war are now His companions in His government of the earth. Next, he saw a company “that had been beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God.” These were not yet raised from the dead, but were still in the condition of separate spirits. And there was a third class — persons who had not worshipped the beast, nor submitted to his pretensions in any form or degree. The two last were distinct but connected classes of people, who when first seen were in the separate state. “And they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” That is, they were reunited to their bodies; for this of course is what is meant by “they lived.” It might have been thought that they had missed their blessing, or at least the privilege of reigning with Christ during the thousand years. There were thrones, and persons in their risen bodies who already occupied them. What then was to become of those who, after the removal of the former to heaven, were beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the word of God, and who were not till long after raised from the dead? What was to be the portion not only of these, but of the last class that at a still later day refused to worship the beast or receive his mark? “They lived.” They are now seen, just before the reign, united to their bodies; and, together with those that had been previously raised and already seen enthroned, they reigned with Christ a thousand years.116

Thus we have a bright and interesting light thrown by and on the Revelation. For there are passages in it which this verse helps to clear up; while they, on the other hand, throw light back on a verse which is not intelligible unless these distinctions are seen.

Let us consider yet a little more the different classes here spoken of. “I saw thrones, and they sat upon them.” Evidently these first objects are introduced most abruptly. We are not told where they came from, nor who they were — probably because the Holy Ghost takes for granted. that we know enough about them through the previous statements of the book. Just before they had come out of the opened heaven. (Rev. 19.) When the rider on the white horse, the Lord Jesus, came out as a man of war, the armies that were there followed Him on white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and pure. I have already tried to prove that these were the saints who had been already taken up to heaven, and ever and anon shown to be there from the commencement of Revelation 4. They were seen then and repeatedly afterwards under the symbol of the twenty-four crowned elders. It will hardly be disputed that these elders represent the heavenly saints. I do not pretend to decide whether it is the church exclusively or not. Very likely both the church and the Old Testament saints are included; but one thing at least is very clear, that heavenly saints are meant. They follow Christ out of heaven when He comes to make war with the beast, etc.; and now, when Christ takes His throne, when He is not merely seen on a white horse going forth to conquer and subdue, but He takes the throne to reign triumphantly, they too are seen on thrones along with Him. “I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them.”

Every believer knows that in some sense Christ is to sit on His throne and to judge; but some might think that it was too high a place for Christians to be on thrones with Him; while others, who have etherealized into mist the direct meaning of the mass of scriptures that treat of the hopes of the saints and the prospects of the world, imagine that they will be merely in the vague distance of heaven, enjoying everlasting happiness with Christ, but having nothing whatever to do with the earth. For my own part, I do not believe that governing the world is by any means the highest part of the saint’s glory; but it will be an important element of Christ’s glory, and therefore surely not beneath the church. None can overlook or deny this without loss to their soul. When rightly held, it has no little practical influence. For if I am to judge the world then, God would not have me meddling with the world now. This was the very argument that the apostle Paul used when blaming the Corinthian believers, because they went before the judgment-seat of men. It is beneath the Christian calling. Of course, I do not mean by this in any way to slight the powers that be. A Christian ought to be ready any day and in all things to show them respect. He can afford to be the humblest man in the world, because he is the highest one. He has got a better exaltation that will shine most when this world has come to nothing. What a wonderful thing that we are anointed kings now, before the actual glory dawns, like David, who was consecrated king long before, as a fact, he was exalted to the kingdom! The holy, royal oil was upon him, even when he was hunted about by king Saul upon the mountains. So, in a yet higher sense, we too are anointed by the Holy Ghost, and this not only that we may be able to enter into the things of God, but as made kings and priests to God. Hence God looks for us not only to offer spiritual worship to Him now, but under all circumstances to preserve the sense of our dignity as His kings. (Compare 1 Peter 2:5, 9.) The world may mock and call us fanatics, but the world has done worse to God Himself. Alas! evil communications corrupt good manners; and Christians have fallen from the truth that is according to godliness as to this.

They have sought to have the world and Christ too. People may object that at best it is a hope so purely future as to have no present bearing. But the Spirit of God addresses us as possessing this treasure now, as having in principle all that Christ is going to display in us in His kingdom by and by. Hence we are responsible to God to walk in the faith of it now. It was so in the highest way in the Lord Jesus Christ. He knew that he was a king; and when Satan came and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, offering to five them to Him if He fell down and worshipped him, the Lord utterly rejected all. But Satan, as it were, repeated the offer to the church, and she at length accepted it. In seeking the glory of the world, she has sought honour where Satan is the prince. Can any man read his Bible and not own the truth of this? What did the Lord Jesus do when men wanted to make Him a king? He departed from them. When He stood before Pilate, He admitted that He was a king, but said, “My kingdom is not of this world . . . . Now is my kingdom not from hence.” By and by it will be. “The kingdom of the world shall become our Lord’s and his Christ’s.” And when it passes into His hands, the reign of Christians will begin. His people will share the kingdom along with Him. Hence faith waits for this: and meanwhile we are put to the test now, “as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.”

To some it will appear presumption to claim such a privilege now. But not so. It is faith, and its fruit is growing separation from the world. The principle is the thing of value. For if a man only strive for the simplest thing in this world that is an object to him, — for some present (even if it be a petty) distinction, there is the trace of the enemy’s work. God looks for holy separateness from the world in all” His saints: they are not of the world, even as Christ is not of it. Let it only be in proportion to a man’s spirituality and intelligence. Thus, when a Christian begins his path of faith, God does not say to him all at once, You must cut off this and renounce that; He leaves room for the exercise of grace and progress in truth. In the day that salvation came to the house of Zaccheus, the Lord said not a word of his odious position in the world as a Jewish tax-gatherer. Nor are we told, in the case of Cornelius, that he must forthwith give up his place as a centurion of the Italian band; because the whole blessedness of God’s ways would be destroyed by laying down and enforcing rules in that fashion. The church is not governed by a code of formalities. She is led on by the power of the Spirit of God according to His word. Just as with a child; when of tender years he speaks as a child, understands as a child, and thinks as a child. One could not wish babes to assume the ways of adults. So it is with spiritual children. The Lord does not look for such to be occupied with the things of men and fathers in Christ. He leaves room for growth in grace. Now, if a man is in a bad state, he takes advantage of grace, and asks, Is there any harm in this? Is there any command for that? Sometimes a soul only refrains from evil doings, in the thought that if he persists he is in danger of being lost. But what God values is simple-hearted obedience; the doing God’s will because it is His will, because it is delight to do His will, because it glorifies Him. He saves us by His grace, and saves us so as not to see a single fault in us. And now He says, If I have saved you and put you in such sureness and perfection of blessing before me, the thing that I look for is your heart, its confidence in my love and wisdom, your worship and your obedience.

But God also gives us the knowledge of the coming kingdom that we are to share with Christ our Lord. It is well to remember that the Spirit of God does not bring about the kingdom. Not He, but the Lord Jesus only is the king. Thus Christ’s presence is essential to the kingdom, at least in the full manifested sense. It would be a kingdom without a king, if Christ were not personally there; and therefore it is said, “They lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” Christ Himself was present, and He is the centre of all glory, and blessing, and joy. In Rev. 19 we had Christ and them coming out of heaven in judgment, and thereon in Rev. 20 the kingdom is established in peace over the earth.

This may answer the first question, as to who they are whom John first saw sitting on the thrones, and of course in risen bodies. They are heavenly saints, including (if not exclusively) the church. The next question is, Who are those whose souls were seen not at first united to their bodies? The answer is plain. If Rev. 4, 5 show us glorified saints under the symbol of the twenty-four elders, and corresponding with those first mentioned in our verse, Rev. 6 lets us into another scene. It tells us that there will be saints called to suffer after that, whose souls John then saw under the altar. They had been slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held, and they call upon God to judge and avenge their blood on them that dwell on the earth. Who are these saints that appeal to God’s vengeance? It is not the church in this case, one can answer with the utmost confidence. It could not be indeed; for the church had been already removed to heaven. But, besides, is the church ever said, in scripture, to call upon God to judge and avenge the blood of saints shed on the earth? It would falsify the very design of God in the church, and in the individual Christian too. We are the epistle of Christ, called expressly to show out His glory in Christ, and His grace towards the world ever since the cross. And as God has allowed men to put to death His own Son, and, so far from judging the guilt, has only made it an occasion for showing more grace still, so the church is called to suffer, and if need be even to death, for His name’s sake, without such a thought or wish as calling for vengeance.

Take a plain and signal example of this in Stephen. He was most grievously trodden down. they cast him out of the city and stoned him. But he kneels down and cries, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” It was with a loud voice too, for it was not a thing that his heart did not feel earnestly; and the Holy Ghost desired that those who were round him should know his heart’s desire about them, guilty as they were of his blood. Was this calling upon God to avenge his blood? The very contrary; and so all through. Look at the apostles Peter and John, who when they were beaten depart from the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus. Look again at the first Epistle of Peter; and what do you find there? This is the principle: “If when ye do well and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called.”

On the other hand, the world could not go on for a day on such a around as this; it must go to pieces, if evil were not to be punished, and those who did well and suffered wrongfully were merely to give thanks. But such exhortations were not intended for the world. And there is the mistake so often made. Men forget that the church was called to be a witness of heaven — was meant to express the mind and grace of Christ, while walking upon the earth. This is our “one thing” — our business here below. Of course, this need not hinder the providing things honest in the sight of all men. It is right for the Christian to do this, but let him weigh well how he does it. Our behaviour in the most ordinary employment should be a testimony to this — that we are not of the world; that we look not for honour and credit in the world, but to glorify Christ in heaven; that instead of seeking to help on the plans of men, and to be an ornament in the world, our mission is to make Him known to it, and to do His will during the little while we are here.

But to return. We have seen that, though the enthroned elders are in heaven (Rev. 4, 5), there are afterwards saints on earth, new witnesses who are called to suffer unto death for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus; but who, when they die, cry for God to avenge their blood on their enemies. Nor is that wrong in them, though it would be foreign to us, because it is not the will of God concerning us. But when God has formed the church, and, after it has been taken to heaven, has raised up fresh witnesses for Himself on earth, He will begin to deal with the world judicially Himself. And therefore when these holy sufferers cry to God against their adversaries, they will have communion with Him; and this is what faith always seeks — communion with God in what He is actually doing or about to do. God does not thus interfere to judge the world now, and therefore His saints should not ask Him, as these do, to judge and avenge. God now endures in perfect patience the wickedness of the world; and therefore a Christian should rather ask God to turn His long-suffering into salvation for souls. But when Rev. 6 is being fulfilled, God will pour down judgment upon judgment; and the witnesses for God in that day will ask God to judge, and rightly. They take up the language of the Psalms, in general so misunderstood and misapplied now, but then most appropriate and prophetically provided of God.

This shows then, that there is to be a very different state of things after the church has been taken away. God begins then to act in the way of judgment, and those whose hearts are converted, and who desired His glory, will be in great darkness compared with the church. Still, their godly testimony will be intolerable to the powers of the world, who will spill their blood like water. The sufferers will cry to God for judgment, and He will hear them. Look at Revelation 6:9, 10, 11: “And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that had been slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held.” Observe how this agrees with the two classes mentioned in Revelation 20:4: “I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God.” For mark the answer. They cry, “How long, O Master, holy and true,” etc. “And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them that they should rest yet for a little while, until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.” When the earlier sufferers, after the removal of the church, had been called out and slain, they were told of another and subsequent class who should be killed as they before the full judgment.

This is exactly what we find in our Revelation 20. First, there are those who sit on the thrones, invested with royal judgment; next, there are those who were beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the word of God; and, thirdly, their brethren who, as it was said in Revelation 6, had yet to be completed. These, when the beast brought out his idolatry, etc., and it was a question of being killed or of worshipping him, refused. . . they were faithful unto death. Well, here they are. “I saw . . . . and those who had not worshipped the beast, nor his image, and had not received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands.” Thus the Revelation gives us the full answer, as to these three classes. The twenty-four elders correspond with those who sit on the thrones; the second class are the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, etc., we had in Revelation 6; and then the latter part of the book shows “their brethren that should be killed as they themselves were,” and for whom they were told to wait. In Rev. 13:7, it was said that it was given to the beast to make war with the saints, and to overcome them. And move than that The latter half of the chapter supplies another part of the description, and shows us how these saints came to be characterized in Revelation 20 as those who had not worshipped the beast nor his image, neither had received his mark on their forehead, or in their hand. In verse 14 the second beast is said (Rev. 13) to deceive “them that dwell on the earth, on account of those miracles which he had power to do in the presence of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword and did live. And he had power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.” Now this most clearly pertains to the last or third class. Those referred to in Revelation 14:12, 13, are probably the same. But again, see Revelation 15:2: “I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.” Thus the Revelation answers fully the question, Who are these saints? It shows us, first, the risen saints, who had been taken up to heaven, and who come out with Christ. This is one reason why they are seen separate from the two other classes. They are viewed on the thrones at once, because they are already changed into the likeness of Christ’s glorious body. But the others are merely seen, up to this moment, as souls, and of course not glorified. We hear of glorified bodies, but never of glorified souls in scripture. The soul of the believer goes to be with Christ after death, but it has to be reunited with the body, before it can be spoken of as in a glorified condition. The only perfect state is, when we shall bear the image of the heavenly; when we shall be raised or changed into His likeness.

If we look at 1 Cor. 15 we shall see that quite plainly. It is said there, “The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed . . . . and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible, must,” not merely put off corruption, but “put on incorruption, and this mortal” must not merely slip off this mortal coil, as men say, but “put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality”-evidently the glorified state — “then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” Death is not swallowed up in victory when a Christian dies and goes to be with Christ; but when He comes, and the dead are raised, and the living changed. What was done individually in the case of Enoch and Elijah, will be done on a grand scale at His coming. All the living saints then will be changed, and will go to be with the Lord, without passing through death. These, risen or changed, having been taken up to heaven, will come thence with Christ, and are here seen on thrones.

But what next is the history of those saints on earth, who are called after the previous saints have been removed to meet the Lord? The Revelation shows us their sufferings for righteousness’ sake and their death. What becomes of them afterwards? The church had been already raised and glorified, and these sufferers are slain before the reign of Christ commences. Are these then, who have so suffered, not to reign? Are they to forfeit their blessings, because they have resisted unto blood, striving against sin? This could never be. “I saw the souls of them that were beheaded . . . . and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” They too are raised from the dead; they join the others already glorified, and all reign together with Christ in “the kingdom.”

I apprehend, but I only give it as an opinion, that their resurrection takes place at or about this time. The beast and the false prophet have been put down; Satan has been cast into the abyss, and the millennial reign of Christ and His risen saints is now about to commence. The Lord waits, as it were, for the very last moment. He wants not a soul of His holy sufferers to be left out of this their special reward. The beast had persecuted up to the last, and God delays till that moment, that every one who has suffered with Christ be included in the privilege of being glorified together. If the account of the resurrection had been given when the previously-risen saints were translated to heaven (i.e., before Rev. 4), there might have been doubt and anxiety as to the fate of those who suffer after the church was taken up. One can understand why this notice of resurrection is put here. It was the special object of God to comfort those who subsequently had to suffer and die for Christ, and to show that they would not be forgotten by Him. They are now raised to join the saints already risen; “and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” God puts off their resurrection till just before Christ’s reign, and then those that had meanwhile suffered for Him are raised up.

“But the rest of the dead lived not till the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.” “The rest of the dead:” — who were they? The beginning of verse 4 includes, as I conceive, not only the church, but the Old Testament saints; that is, all the heavenly saints taken up to be with Christ, when He will have come to receive them unto Himself in the air. Next we had the first band of sufferers before the beast came to the height of his power; and then the last band that suffer because they will refuse to worship him. These were the three classes of saints now alike living and reigning with Christ. “The rest of the dead” must then be the wicked dead, because the first resurrection included all the righteous dead.

It answers, in fact, to what our Lord called “the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14), save that it is more detailed, if not more comprehensive. So then there is a special resurrection that belongs to the just, and this without a word about the unjust. There is a resurrection of the unjust; and when the Apostle Paul spoke in Acts 24 before Felix, he testified to his belief in the resurrection both of just and unjust. But when the Lord Jesus was raising the consciences of his disciples to what was good and of value before God, He set forth the resurrection of the just alone.

But this is not all. There were men trying to bring the doctrine of the resurrection into ridicule.

We find on another occasion that certain of the Sadducees came to Him, putting a difficulty, because of a woman supposed to be married to seven brethren. In the case reasoned on these seven successively died, and last of all the woman died also. In the resurrection then, they ask, whose wife should she be of the seven? The Lord at once points out that the difficulty was founded on ignorance of scripture or of the power of God. In the resurrection they shall neither marry, nor be given in marriage, but shall be like the angels; that is, like them in that respect, not in all things, for they will judge angels; but like them in so far as this, that there will be no distinction of sex — neither marrying nor given in marriage. “Neither can they die any more.” But He adds, “They which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, [or rather ‘dispensation’] and the resurrection from the dead,” etc. This would be an extraordinary expression, if all were raised at the same time. “They that shall be counted worthy to obtain that age;” for the last word does not refer to the material world, but to a special dispensation or age, which the unworthy do not obtain. Weigh the force of the phrase. The resurrection of the saints is in an age peculiar to themselves. “They which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that age (the other dead are only raised after it), and the resurrection from the dead.” The resurrection of Christ was not merely a resurrection of the dead, but out of the dead. He left them undisturbed in their tombs. There were certain saints who rose with Him, or rather came out of their graves after His resurrection; but the great mass of the dead were so far unaffected by Christ’s resurrection. And so is it with the saints in principle. Theirs is to be a resurrection from among the dead. The rest of the dead must rise at another time; but they who shall be accounted worthy shall obtain that age, and the resurrection from the dead. They shall not die any more. Could God show more strongly, than by this language, a distinct and prior resurrection of the saints of God?

Hear also the language of Paul in Phil. 3:11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection from the dead.” In common Bibles, no doubt, it is “the resurrection of the dead;” but I have no hesitation in saying that this is a complete mistake. The true and only meaning of the verse, according to the best authorities, is, “if by any means I might attain to the resurrection out of (or from among) the dead.” It may seem to some but a slight change; but if we want to know the mind of God, it makes a weighty difference; because, if it is “resurrection from the dead,” it implies that while the rest of the dead remain in their graves, there is a resurrection not common to all mankind, bad and good, but belonging only to those that are dear to God. The apostle considered this resurrection to be so bright and blessed, that he says in effect, I care not what the sufferings and trouble may be, let the road be what it may — if I am but there; this is what I wait for and desire at all cost, For when he said, “if by any means I might attain,” not a shade of doubt is implied as to his having part in the first resurrection; but rather that he so valued the prize as to mind not what the path of suffering might be that led to the goal.

Now let us carry the light of this back to the Revelation. The reference in “the rest of the dead” is to the wicked dead. A resurrection was shown of all the departed saints up to the display of the kingdom. “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished” (verse 5). There is no difficulty really in the passage; but men have their own thoughts and opinions, and cannot make scripture square with them, whereas all is as plain as God could make it. “This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection” (verse 6). How beautifully this answers to what the Lord had said to the Sadducees, “They that are accounted worthy to obtain that age, and the resurrection from the dead!” So again St. Paul: “If by any means I might attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

“On such the second death hath no power.” Mark once more the force of the Lord’s words in the gospel: “Neither can they die any more.” As for the persons left to be raised after the thousand years are over, they are to die another and most woeful death — the second death. By it all those who had not part in the first resurrection are to die. Theirs shall be the second death — meaning that extinction of all hopes of blessing when all else is blessed in heaven and earth, and they perpetually abide under the wrath of God. They are cast into the lake of fire. As for those who have part in the first resurrection “they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years;” and afterwards shall they reign in life by Him for ever and ever.

The last three verses that we looked at form a kind of parenthesis in the chapter, something like what we saw in Revelation 12. There the war in heaven and the consequent casting down of Satan came in, and then the history which had been alluded to before (verse 6) was resumed in verse 13. Here is something similar, for the seventh verse continues the history that had been already begun just at the close of the third verse. We find there Satan bound for a thousand years, and consequently his power of seducing the nations into rebellion against God intercepted for a time. After these things, we are told, he must be loosed for a little season. The seventh verse anticipates his loosing and its effects. “When the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together unto the war: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea” (verse 8). Evidently therefore verses 4-6 form a parenthesis — important, no doubt, but still a parenthesis, and not a part of the regular history found here. One reason why it is given here may be to show that, during this same period when Satan is bound, there is the blessed side — not only the evil one restrained, but Christ and His saints reigning over the earth. It is never said that we shall reign on the earth.

In Revelation 5:10, I have already shown that the common version of that verse which conveys this is somewhat inaccurate, and that the true thought of the Spirit of God is not the place where the saints of God then dwell, but the sphere of their reign. “They shall reign over the earth.” The importance of the change is not so much as an isolated fact, but because it is connected with the whole scheme of truth; and it is a part of this scheme that the heavenly saints are never to be mingled with people on the earth. The promise of the first place of earthly blessing belongs to Israel, and therefore it would make the utmost confusion, if the heavenly, glorified saints were jumbled with men in their natural bodies in this world. In fact, one of the strongest objections that many Christians urge to the reign of Christ over the earth is founded on the notion that premillennialism supposes the glorified saints to be mixed up with the people then alive here below. But this is a great mistake.

The church will have its own proper glory; but withal there will be two orders or spheres of blessing, and one of a higher character than the other. All things in heaven will be gathered under the headship of Christ; but, beside this, all things on earth will be at the same time under the same government. Such is the peculiarity of the millennium. There will be the heavenly portion above, and the earthly one below, connected together, but not confounded. This is distinctly taught in Eph. 1:10, where the apostle says that the mystery of God’s will has been made known “according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself for the administration of the fulness of times, to gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, even in him.” I am aware there are many who suppose that it speaks of the gospel dispensation now going on. But this is unfounded The church is not a gathering of all nations, but on the contrary an elect body out of them all. It never was and never will be a gathering of all nations, peoples, and kindreds, and tongues, into one. Besides, the verse speaks of a gathering of all things. There is a gathering together of the children of God; for Christ died that He should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. But here it is a question not of persons, but things. When the glorious administration takes place of which the apostle speaks, all things are to be put under Christ’s headship. He has all under His headship now in title, but not as an actual displayed fact.

Daniel does not say that all was to be put under the Son of man, nor does the Holy Ghost reveal that secret of God’s will in the Old Testament. There was the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven. But the New Testament shows us more; it teaches us that, at the very same time when all things on earth will be put under His government, all things in heaven will be put under Him too. Nor this merely in a providential way as now, but directly and personally. The Lord, of course is above Satan, the god and prince of the world that now is. He does act providentially now; and, beside that, He has the full personal title to exercise all glory, heavenly and earthly. But the time when He enforces the title, and takes all things under His hand, is future. If He had taken it now in an immediate way, all wickedness would be put down. None could sin without judgment; neither would there be such a thing as righteousness suffering, or iniquity exalted. All this is a proof that, in the full actual sense, the Lord Jesus Christ is not yet reigning, however true it may be to faith. Look, for instance, at Psalm 97: “The Lord reigneth.” People quote this, as if applied when the Holy Ghost wrote, or now at any rate. But the next words refute this; because, when the Lord does reign as here meant, the earth will rejoice, etc. Whereas, it is plain from Romans 8, not to speak of every day’s experience, that the earth is groaning in misery, and that the whole creation travails in pain until now, which is the very reverse of rejoicing. But when the Psalms meet their full accomplishment, all creation will be delivered and will rejoice under the reign of Jehovah. Faith can say that the Lord reigns now: but He is not yet exerting royal power over the earth.

When Christ comes in His kingdom every opponent will have to be put down, and consequently there must be judgment. The beast and the false prophet were set aside, as we see in Revelation 19, and then comes the reign. And although everyone is not to be converted, no open sin will be permitted. It may be a “feigned obedience” that is rendered by a large part of the people upon the earth, but still in some sort it will be obedience, even from “the sons of the stranger.” That is the true thought of the millennial reign. It means a time, not when there will be no evil, but when evil will be suppressed by the presence of the Lord; when the heavenly glory will be in immediate connection with the delivered and gladsome earth; when the earthly people will be restored to their own land, converted, and owning that blessed One whom their fathers crucified; for in Zech. 12-14 we see the very circumstances, at least as to the earth, that I allude to. In the last chapter the Lord is “king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord and his name one.” This is precisely the millennium. All nations are seen coming up to own the Lord: if any refuse, they are to be chastised. The Spirit of God particularly notices the punishment, viz., the withdrawal of rain from such nations as should not come up to keep the feast of tabernacles. In Egypt, where such a want would not be felt, the land having other sources of fertility, there should be another punishment, “the plague wherewith the Lord will smite the heathen,” etc. Plainly, then, the prophecy shows us the earthly glory under the reign of the lord.

But Ephesians 1 points us not merely to the heavenly glory, but to the union under Christ of the heavenlies and the earthlies — of all things both which are in the heavens and which are on the earth. It is not that all are to be reduced to the same level, but that all must be gathered in one united system, as having one head over all, even Christ. But the church is not included in any of these things. We are not confounded with either; on the contrary, we are spoken of as those who have obtained an inheritance in Christ over all. The church is not to be a glorious people only, over which Christ is to reign. We are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ — not merely heirs under Christ, but with Him — according to the blessed type given at the very beginning of man’s history, where, while Adam had the glory of being head over this lower world, his wife shares the dominion in virtue of her union with him. The church is the spiritual Eve of the Lord Jesus, the bride of the last Adam. This may somewhat explain the force of the words in Ephesians 1:10, 23, and it shows us the importance of the day we are looking at in Revelation 20. For “the thousand years” answer to this very period, when the administration will be in the hands of the Lord Jesus, the exalted and manifested Head over all things, and the church will share all along with Him.

There is another remark that I would make. It is the New Testament alone that gives us the statement of the period of the reign. It is there that we find its duration of a thousand years defined. Almost all prophecy refers to it, but here its bounds are assigned, and its relation to the eternal state which succeeds.

In one sense Christ will reign, and the saints also, for ever and ever. So it is laid down doctrinally, apart from time, as in Romans 5:17, where it is said, “they shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.” This does not refer to the millennial reign particularly, which is only a part of the reigning in life by Christ Jesus. Our life in Christ, being an everlasting one, involves to my mind that in a certain real and important sense there will be a reigning blessedly and gloriously with Christ for ever and ever. But, on the other hand, where we hear of a kingdom given to Christ, which He surrenders before the end to God even the Father, this special reign for a limited time has also a bearing on the heavenly saints. Of course the proper divine glory of Christ is distinct from these glories and can be communicated to none. But God spoke of a special reward — the reward of suffering for Christ. “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.” “If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” All this bears on the millennial reign. Christ will be then publicly exalted in the world — in the very place where He was despised and rejected. And the saints will be publicly exalted with Christ in the place of their shame and sorrow, where they have followed Christ with feeble and faltering steps, but where they clave to the name of Jesus, in spite of loss and reproach. But besides these special rewards, there is the glory, blessedness, and joy which will never pass away.

The millennium will be a time when many saints are to be brought to the knowledge of the Lord. It will be the great harvest of blessing — the time celebrated with such rapture in the Psalms and Prophets, when the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea. This does not imply necessarily that every person who knows the glory of Jehovah will know His grace, and be converted. Nevertheless, many will be brought to the Lord. But there will also be a true and real knowledge of God given at that very time. For the Holy Ghost will be poured out from on high in a special manner, of which the day of ]Pentecost was in comparison only like the former rain, while that will be as the latter rain. It was the foreshadowing of future fulness of blessing — greater at least in extent — which will be realised in the millennium.

Now the saints of “that day” will never suffer as a privilege, never know what it is to follow Christ in reproach, and to be cast out with Him. Consequently they will not reign in the kingdom. All saints from the beginning, and up to the millennium, will have suffered with Christ more or less. But the church having pre-eminently known the fellowship of His sufferings, will have special glory. And those saints who will be brought in after the millennium has commenced, and who have never known His sufferings, will not so share the kingdom. Those before it will be brought into the scene of glory, and changed, because corruption never can inherit incorruption. Therefore, when they are brought in where God makes all things new, there can be no question of their bearing the likeness of Christ, because they are part of the family of the last Adam, and as being in connection with Christ, and having His life, that life will have all its way as to both body and soul: they will be changed into His likeness. It is true that we have no positive statement as to the millennial saints, when this change will take place. But we may gather, I think, from general principles, that it will be in the interval after the millennium is over, and before the new heavens and new earth appear with their blessed inhabitants. But this silence of scripture has left room for some to be beguiled into the strange notion that the millennial saints will remain in their natural bodies, marrying and giving in marriage, throughout all eternity! Such a notion as this has no warrant whatever in the word of God. It resulted from always interpreting the expression “for ever and ever,” as if it must mean eternity necessarily and in every case; whereas in some places it does, in others not.

Supposing that God’s word speaks of an earthly state of things, and uses the expression, “reigning for ever and ever,” as in Daniel 7 and Luke 1, it cannot be understood absolutely. The words must be limited by the subject-matter of which God is speaking. Thus in human things, if a man buys a house “for ever,” it does not mean throughout eternity, but as long as the world goes on in its present form and way; his right holds good while the earth subsists as left in the hands of man. So God uses the phrase, “for ever and ever,” when treating of earthly things and people. Only the case is far stronger than in ordinary human transactions: for a revolution may despise and destroy every such deed of conveyance. But the kingdom of Christ, before which all opposing authority must bow and become null, will assuredly secure Israel in all the promises of God. Thus “reigning over the house of Jacob” cannot but be modified by this — as long as the house of Jacob exists as such. But when the expression is in connection with the new heavens and earth in the full sense, Israel is no longer found nationally: such earthly distinctions disappear, when men are raised from the dead or changed. When eternal life or eternal punishment is spoken of, we must take the expression in the largest sense, because these things have nothing to do with the earth; they belong to the resurrection-state. If applied to earthly things, it must be taken in a limited sense, but when applied to things outside this world, it must be taken absolutely in all its extent. So in Daniel 7:27 “the kingdom under the whole heaven,” which is given to the people of the saints of the high places, is said to be an everlasting kingdom. This, I apprehend, is the same period that is called here the thousand years.

The Holy Ghost, in the New Testament, gives us the winding up of all the ways of God, and shows us that what may have appeared to the Old Testament saints to be an absolutely everlasting condition, is limited and qualified by further revelations, which make known to us two stages, as it were, instead of one. Thus the earthly kingdom spoken of in Daniel is to be “everlasting” in this sense, that it will never pass out of the dominion of Christ — never be taken out of His hands and given to another (as previous empires had been taken from their respective rulers), but it will remain as lone, as God has an earthly kingdom at all in His hands, and in the hands of the saints of the high places. When the earthly state ceases, and that kingdom is given up, Christ reigns everlastingly, though in another way. For in the eternal state it will evidently not be a question of all people, nations, and languages serving Him.

This chapter passes cursorily over the millennial state, as far as men on earth are concerned. If persons wish to look at the earthly part of the thousand years, they must search into the Old Testament. There it is spoken of constantly as “that day” — when the Gentiles will be brought in and blessed — when God’s name will be exalted — when there will be a suspension of all warfare and strife. It is the day when the wilderness shall rejoice and blossom like the garden of Eden, and when the ransomed of the Lord shall come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads — and all sorrow and sighing shall flee away. These words are descriptions that the Holy Ghost gives of this blessed period in the kingdom. Many have been disposed to take the prophetic accounts of the millennium figuratively; but they must allow that these figures may be much more fully accomplished than they suppose. In other words, I take the glowing accounts given of the millennium in the Old Testament prophecies as emblems of real and abundant blessings on earth. These figures may have a sort of spiritual meaning too. But, allowing this, we do not take away the simple and natural meaning of the phrase. For instance, scripture speaks of the wolf and the lamb, and other animals that now devour one another, living together in union and peace. They may be applied as figures to describe what will be morally true of men, though I do not myself believe that this is the real intent.

For why should not God bring back the creatures that He has made, and about which He takes a far greater interest than men suppose, to a state at least as good as that in which they were created? Why should not God root out all the evil consequences that sin has brought in, physically as well as morally? Because the sin of Adam had effects far beyond his own race: all that was put under his dominion got into ruin and disorder. And this is not a mere imaginative notion of ruin, nor a fanciful exposition of Old Testament prophecy. It is the doctrine plainly and positively laid down in Rom. 8. It is written there that “the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him that had subjected the same,” in plain allusion to the fall of him that was over the creature. He fell; and creation, being under the headship of Adam, fell alone, with him. It was he who made it subject to vanity; misery and death came in through him. For there is no reason to suppose that death would have reigned with regard to the brute creation of the Adamic world, any more than with regard to man, if sin had not entered. I am aware that the wise men of this world often speak of fossil remains which show the death of animals before man was created. Into such disquisitions I do not enter, but would only say that there was not the same state of things under Adam. Supposing now the facts and inferences of geologists to be sound — whatever living creatures may have been made and destroyed in the earth before Adam was created, scripture is entirely silent about them; and so I desire to be in expounding it. They are questions of no moral importance, and therefore a Christian need not meddle with them. I add that these theories, if true, do not contradict scripture in the slightest degree. For there is no trace of man connected with that state of things which preceded Adam; and scripture passes over it, hastening to what is immediately connected with him. When the human race begins upon the earth, the moral dealings of God are gradually developed. But man quickly fell, and then creation was degraded through its fallen head. Death, as far as regards the Adamic world, entered through the disobedience of Adam — death directly as to men, and, as a consequence, its ravages spread throughout all the lower living creation.

When the Second Man, exalted above the heavens, shall come again, He will not merely have such a dominion as the first Adam had, when all things in heaven and earth shall be put under His glorious sway. There is not a single spot or creature of God’s universe but what will feel the effects of His glorious power, whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Himself. Thus, if once man fell, bringing in sin and death and misery, and if all the attempts of the race to remedy the mischief, outward and inward, have been but expedients and no real cure, the Lord Jesus will be the good and sovereign and almighty Healer of every evil and sorrow of creation. And God will have such joy — His own joy — in relieving all the wretchedness that sin had brought about according to His estimate of the worth of His Son. And if all up to this time will have been but the filling up of man’s cup of woe, how blessed will be the time when God reverses the history, and when His own Son, no longer rejected and despised, shall fill the throne of His earthly and heavenly glory! When all wickedness shall be put down, and righteousness for ever exalted, not by bare power and glory, but by the One who in grace had borne all the sorrow first, and suffered the consequences of all the wickedness, according to the full holiness of God, upon the cross! And how sweet to think that God will there show that there is not an evil, nor a degradation, nor a pang for which He has not some suited and glorious answer in and through His Son! For He will then put forth all His might to glorify His own Son in the presence of all flesh, even of those who sent the message after Him, “We will not have this man to reign over us.” But when the blessed One returns, having received the kingdom, and will reign as the risen exalted Son of man, all creation will feel the gladdening effects of the Saviour’s headship and rule.

The Lord will exalt Israel on earth and make them, who have been so peculiarly His bitter enemies, to lead the song of praise with their once rejected Messiah, now in the midst of the congregation. Then it is that they will take up Psalm 100, the psalm of thanksgiving, and will invite all lands to come and praise the Lord; yea, to enter His courts with praise. What a contrast to all that has gone on, or is going on still! How different from the hatred which the Jews have ever shown against the mere sound of grace going out to the Gentiles! For when Paul tells them how the Lord had said to him as he prayed in the temple at Jerusalem, “Depart, for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles, they heard him to that word; but it was more than their proud hearts could brook, and so they lifted up their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth: it is not fit that he should live.” But how will grace have changed and enlarged the narrow hearts of Israel, when they will themselves go forth with the invitations of mercy to the Gentiles who had insulted them in all their weary wanderings over the face of the earth, and who had trodden down Jerusalem during their appointed times

The Jews, like Cain, have the mark of the Lord on them that they shall not be utterly extinguished, in spite of their blood-guiltiness. But the Lord will give them repentance in the latter day, and thenceforward they will be the suited and blessed heralds of His grace to the uttermost parts of the earth.

This time of blessedness under the Messiah is what is found so often and so fully in the Old Testament scriptures. The gospels, too, open with similar expectations on the part of the Jewish saints. But farther light begins to dawn as the rejection of Christ becomes more decided, till at length, redemption being accomplished, the Holy Ghost was sent down from heaven, and He brought out the full mind of God. Then it was that the distinction between the kingdom and the eternal state was made plain. (1 Cor. 15:24-28.) It was shown that the earthly reign of Christ, which in the Old Testament might have appeared unlimited, will in reality come to a close when He shall have put down all rule, and all authority, and power.

There are many who think that the millennial state of things is to be gradually brought in by the preaching of the gospel, and other agencies that are now in operation. No doubt they look for God to bless them in a still greater degree; for no Christian, perhaps, would say that present appearances warrant such expectations. But they think that if, instead of the few, there were many servants of God, and that if it pleased God to bless the word to the conversion of multitudes everywhere, and if a spirit of greater love and union and devotedness prevailed among those that love the name of Christ generally, there and then would be the reign of Christ on the earth.

Now, I would ask, How do we know that there is to be a millennium at all? You answer, From the word of God. But how is the millennium to be brought about? Humility would answer, we must learn this too from the word of God. We all acknowledge that the earth is to be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea. How is this to be effected? It is remarkable that in the very scripture (Isaiah 11:9) where these. words occur, the Holy Ghost intimates that judgment must precede this time of blessing. (See verse 4.) In that passage the universal spread of the knowledge of Jehovah is made to follow His smiting the earth with the rod of His mouth, and His slaying the wicked with the breath of His lips — the very scripture that the apostle Paul applies in 2 Thess. 2:8 to the destruction of antichrist, the man of sin. The lord Jesus shall consume him with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy him with the brightness or manifestation of His coming.

It is perfectly true then and agreed, that there is to be a millennial time of blessing on the earth; and the answer to the question how it is to be introduced is this: the same scripture which reveals that blessed change tells us that it is to be brought in by the Lord’s coming and smiting the wicked one; in other words by judgment, and not by the preaching of the gospel, The gospel is of all importance for calling souls from earth to heaven; but it is not the means of dealing with the whole world, and filling it with blessing. It is the means of gathering the church out of the world to Christ. When judgment has had its full course, then the Lord will send out His servants. The Lord will give the word, and great will be the company of those that publish it. “Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem.” The present dispensation is one of gathering out in separation from the world. The gospel ought to be preached to all but not with the vain hope that all are ever to believe it. Thus the Lord, in Mark 16, while bidding His disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, takes pains to add, “He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” He prepares them for an individual and partial reception of it. Thus they would not be cast down, if they found but a few here and there who received the word of life. It might be but a Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them. And what were they to the crowds who listened to the apostle on Mars’ hill? It was a matter of joy and thankfulness to hear of any who believed to eternal life, for it is thus that God preserves His servants from being cast down. It is well to know that all are not going to receive the gospel, but that God is accomplishing His own purposes. Therefore, when the Lord blesses the word and awakens the conscience of a poor sinner here and there, it is a cause of rejoicing.

But we know that as a whole evil will increase, and “evil men and seducers wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” How can that be, if the millennial blessing is to be the result of the present or such like efforts of Christians in the gospel? But the Lord is to smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and to slay the wicked with the breath of His lips, which is said to be like a stream of brimstone. (Isaiah 30:33.) Is that like the gospel? It is the exact opposite — a figure of destructive judgment. The gospel delivers from Tophet, but the judgment of the Lord casts into it irrevocably. Clearly then it is a judgment from the hand of God Himself, and not one which man, much less the church, will execute. It is not the business of the church to cast into Tophet. No power but God’s can consign to hell.

But there is another thing that characterizes the millennium — the binding of Satan in the abyss. Can the church bind Satan? Will anyone tell me that Satan can be absolutely hindered from deceiving the world by men? But there can be no universal blessing for the world till he is bound; and every Christian must acknowledge that God alone can either bind or crush Satan. He may employ an angel, or associate the saints with Himself, as it is said in Rom. 16:20, “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” The church is united to Christ, and then will be actually with Him who, as the woman’s seed, is to bruise the serpent’s head; but the power is in Christ, and not in the church. He will put down all adversaries when that day of judgment comes; as it is said, “He will smite the nations, and rule them with a rod of iron.” (Rev. 19.) And we shall do the same in virtue of our association with Christ. (Rev. 2.) In the reign of peace (Rev. 20:4, 6) we shall still be associated with Him. It is by the church in its heavenly condition, not while we are on the earth, that Satan will be thus bruised.

But it is perfectly clear, on the other hand, that the millennium is not exclusively the reign of the glorified saints; the earth as such, with its inhabitants, will be brought into deliverance and blessing This we saw in Eph. 1:1.0, where the true key to its character appears — the union of heavenly and earthly glory under one and the same Head, in whom also we, the body, have obtained an inheritance. There will be Jews and Gentiles, blessed as such in their natural bodies on the earth, the subjects of the kingdom; while the glorified saints will be the instruments of blessing to the earth.

Now the earth is made miserable, and men hardly know how far they are gone in rebellion through sin. This is not all; for there is an unseen enemy, a dark and untiring adversary of God and man, who has his hosts of wicked angels subject to himself (Rev. 12), and uses them as the instruments of his seduction. All this will pass away; and those very scenes which are now filled by wicked spirits, the heavenly places (not of course the place where God dwells in His unapproachable glory, but the lower heavens that are connected with the earth) will be a part of the dominion of the church in glory, and the heavenly saints will be as much used to be the means of joy and blessing to the world as the wicked spirits are now the chief agents of all its misery. They may for a little season emerge from their prison after the millennium, to lead the distant nations of the earth into a last conspiracy against the Lord; but they will never regain their former access to the heavenly places, where their influence was the more subtle and dangerous.

Then will dawn the day of the greatest glory for the world. Of course, I am not speaking of the cross; for there is no exaltation Christ will ever have given Him that can be compared with the real, deep glory of His death. It has as it were put it into the power of God to show mercy according to His own heart; and therefore there is not a single joy of the millennium but what will flow from the cross of Jesus. Nay, it has eternal consequences, and not for the millennium only. But the age to come, or millennium, while very important, and a time of wonderful blessing, will be imperfect. And for this reason: there will be men still in their natural bodies upon the earth, many of whom will be unconverted. Accordingly, this chapter shows us that, after the termination of the thousand years, “Satan will be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together unto the wax; the number of whom is as the sand of the sea” (verses 7, 8). We do not read this in the Old Testament; for as it does not intimate the close of the reign, so neither does it show us the epoch when Satan will be let loose. The terms in which the judgment, upon the evil one is spoken of there might be construed into a single stroke, which made an end of the matter,

From Isaiah 24 we learn that the scene of the punishment of the high ones is to be on high, as the kings of the earth will be punished on the earth. It is evident that by the host of the high ones the Spirit of God does not refer to exalted men on the earth (for they are in contrast with the kings of the earth), but to the powers of evil in the heavenly places. (Compare Eph. 6:12.) This is exactly what we find, though with fuller detail, in Rev. 12, 19, 20. The kings of the earth meet with their punishment on the earth, while Satan and his minions suffer, the host of the high ones, on high. Satan is cast out to the earth, and his angels are cast out with him. Their place is found no more in heaven. The particulars are not given till the Revelation. That day will see the judgment of all foes above or below. For that this is the millennial day requires no proof.

Next in Isaiah 25:6 it is said, “And in this mountain shall Jehovah of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.” It is a time of blessedness never known before. Nor is it confined to a certain number gathered out as now, but “in this mountain shall Jehovah of hosts make unto all people a feast,” etc. “This mountain” is said of the land of Palestine, because it will be to the whole earth the spot where Jehovah will be exalted. Of course this is to be understood morally, not physically. Remark what we have in the next verse. “And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people.” The Lord will destroy the darkness that is over the face of all nations now, “and the veil that is spread over all nations.” But this era will be also characterized by the resurrection. “He will swallow up death in victory,” evidently referring to the first resurrection spoken of in the Revelation. Then only is the victory complete. (Comp. 1 Cor. 15.) “And the Lord Jehovah will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for Jehovah hath spoken it.” It is the time of blessing for the Jewish people, “And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us.” Here beyond a doubt it is persons upon earth that need to be saved. The church is saved already, and we do not wait for “that day” to come that our God should save us. They will be saved in the day of glory; we are saved in the day of grace. “This is our God: we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation. For in this mountain shall the hand of Jehovah rest, and Moab shall be trodden down under him, even as straw is trodden down for the dunghill.” There we have one of the neighbouring enemies of Israel trodden down; for it is to be a day of judgment as well as blessing

In Isaiah 26 it is written, “In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city,” etc. In the latter part of it, which I would refer to because of its importance, Israel says, “We have been with child, we have been in pain . . . . we have not wrought any deliverance in the earth,” etc. “Thy dead men shall live” (the words “together with” having no kind of business there), “my dead body shall they arise.” “Thy dead men,” that is the Jewish people, who are regarded in a figure as being dead; just as in Ezekiel, where they are represented as not only dead but in their graves. But as the Lord causes His wind to pass over those dry bones, and they live; so here, “Thy dead men shall live, my dead body shall they arise.” Not merely thy dead body, but mine. I own them — they belong to me. Jehovah appropriates them as His, dead though they may be. But they are to be so no longer; they shall “arise.” “Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee.” This is not like the church. The heavenly saints do not enter into their chambers on earth, but are taken away to be in the Father’s house in heaven. But here is a question of the Jewish people. They are comforted, and are told to arise out of their degradation; “for thy dew is as the dew of herbs.” “Come, my people . . . . . hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.” The indignation that God had so long against His people will be turned now into indignation against their enemies. The Assyrian, used heretofore as God’s rod for chastening Israel, must now meet with his own final doom. “For, behold, Jehovah 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.” And yet this is manifestly the time when He introduces the millennium, not after it is over. Jehovah comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth. Is this Eke the gospel, where instead of proclaiming the remission of their sins He comes to punish them? Not at all. Further, “In that day Jehovah, with his sore and great and strong sword, shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent: and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.” Doubtless there is a general reference to the wicked one, Satan the ancient serpent. Only here he is not viewed as having a place on high, but defeated and rejected here below. He is not spoken of with the same minuteness as in the Revelation, which gives us the full light of God on the subject and the details.

Moreover we find that at the end of the millennium God will show that the day of glory (the thousand years, which form the part of the day of Jehovah, when Satan is bound and the Lord Jesus reigns manifestly) will no more convert souls of itself than the day of grace and the publishing of the gospel to the ends of the earth. For if the day of grace requires the immediate power of God to save an individual soul, of course the same power will be requisite here below in the day of glory. Whilst the Lord is there, evil will be kept down; there will be no leader of man in his evil. But the moment Satan is allowed to come out of his place, and again exercises his power, we have plain proof that the heart of man is unchanged. He goes out to the four corners of the earth to deceive the nations, and gathers them together for destruction.

These nations are called by a symbolic name, which is a sort of allusion to the enemies of Israel spoken of in Ezek. 38, 39. But they are not the same, and must be carefully distinguished. For in Ezekiel Gog is literally an individual person — the prince of the vast north-eastern territories and peoples, known in our time as the empire of Russia. Gog is to be the then leader of that country, which is called in scripture “the land of Magog.” Indeed this is the positive meaning of the words rendered in our Bibles “chief prince.” It ought to be “prince of Rosh.” But when the scriptures were translated into Latin, which had a great influence on succeeding versions, the Russian empire did not exist, and could not be known by that name. For the north of Europe and Asia was then merely inhabited by hordes of wandering barbarians, called Sarmatians, Scythians, etc. So when the corrector of the old Latin, Jerome, came to the Hebrew “Rosh,” he thought it must be taken not as the name of a people, but as a common noun, meaning “head” or “chief;” just as the Franks, besides giving their name to a neighbouring country which they conquered, also meant “free men.” Hence probably in our version “Rosh” was translated chief, which the Hebrew word might equally well bear, if a proper name were not required by the context; for “prince of chief, Meshech and Tubal” makes no good sense. Therefore, I suppose the translators, not knowing what better to make of it, put the clause down vaguely as “chief prince of Meshech and Tubal.” However, it is well known that learned persons who had no light, or a very partial one, on prophecy — scholars who examined the subject a hundred years ago — concluded that Russia was meant. But what is much more important, the Greek version, or Septuagint, made nearly two centuries before Christ, left it as Ῥώς. They did not know what place or race was meant; but seeing that Meshech and Tubal were given as proper names, they understood the preceding word similarly. Thus Gog is really to be “the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal,” which will all be found in the Russian empire.117 Ezekiel then shows that, when God restores Israel and plants them in their own land, Russia is to be the last great enemy that comes up to attack them, and meets with its own demolition from the hands of God on the mountains of Israel. His prophecy, I think, does not bear on recent events, save as these may lead on to it; much less is it to be confounded with the gathering of Gog and Magog described in verses 8, 9. It cannot mean the same as these; for the Jewish prophet speaks of a vast confederacy before the millennium, or at least at the very beginning of it; while in the Revelation it is after the thousand years are past.

Gog and Magog here are symbolical expressions, founded, it is true, upon the prophet of the Chebar, but entirely distinct. The word by Ezekiel has its accomplishment when Israel is restored. (See Ezek. 36, 37.) Gog comes up when they are dwelling in their unwalled villages, and thinks to make them an easy prey; but the Lord interferes. Gog is put down, and Israel live and flourish quietly in their land. Here they are symbols borrowed from Old Testament circumstances, but applied to a time long subsequent. The last enemy which Israel had to encounter before the millennium was the literal Gog; the last rebellion after it derives its name from that well-remembered effort, of the outside nations. Countless swarms from the four quarters of the earth, under the guidance of Satan, will repeat (never to be repeated again) what the Russian chief will have done before them. They will go up on the breadth of the earth, and compass the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city. Of course the earthly people and city are meant; for Israel will then be a body of saints, a holy people, and Jerusalem will be the beloved city, not in mere name, but then in truth the city of the great King. These nations come up and surround them, and God will, if I may say so, be compelled to destroy them for ever. “Fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them” (verse 9). Fire is always the figure of God’s judgment. Thus do they perish. Their leader is not touched by this judgment: a worse fate is reserved for him. “And the devil that deceiveth them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where also [are] the beast and the false prophet; and they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” His followers are destroyed by a divine judgment upon earth, but the devil who had led them by his deceits is cast into the lake of fire and brimstone.

But there is another scene that follows — the most solemn for man where all indeed is solemn. “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sitteth on it, from whose face fled the earth and the heaven; and there was found no place for them” (verse 11). Mark it well. There are many persons who suppose this to be the time of the coming of Christ, and who consequently put the millennium before His coming. But this will not bear the light of scripture. Without going to proofs outside the chapter, I would just take another ground, which is short and simple, and to my mind perfectly conclusive of the question. When the Lord Jesus comes, He comes to the earth from heaven. This is the universal belief, as far as I know, of all persons who have any defined thoughts about the matter. But such is not the case here. For the Lord sits on a great white throne, and instead of His coming from heaven to earth, both earth and heaven are all gone. It cannot be His coming to the earth, for there is no earth to come to. The entire system of earth and heaven, as they now are, will have vanished out of the scene not annihilated but destroyed; for there is a great difference between those two thoughts. However, the earth is no longer found filling its own place; it has disappeared. The great white throne is not therefore on the earth at all; for from the face of Him that sat on it the earth and the heaven fled away, and there was found no place for them. Lest it should be thought that their fleeing away was a mere figure of speech, it is added that “there was found no place for them.” And it is said in 2 Peter 3 they shall be dissolved and their elements melt with fervent heat. Observe then that, when Christ is seen seated on the great white throne, the earth and the heaven are fled away. What are we to draw from it? Either the Lord Jesus Christ must have come before this, or He will never come to the earth at all; for it would not be the same thing to suppose that He merely comes to the new earth. after all judgment — even of the wicked dead — is over. Now we know that “the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son” — “ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.” The general faith of Christians is that He will come back to this earth. His feet shall stand in a day yet future on the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and which thenceforward is to be not destroyed, but divided in the midst as a witness of it. These circumstances cannot apply to what St. John calls the new heaven and new earth, but before the last physical change. When the great white throne is found the earth is gone, and therefore the coming of Christ to the earth must have been before that final scene of judgment. In point of fact, too, we have had the coming of Christ already described in Revelation 19, and His reign in the early part of Revelation 20. This gives distinctness to the character of the great white throne.118 Nothing can be more simple, if you take it in the order in which God arranges it. But man is ever perverse; and so he blots out the coming of Christ from chapter 19 where it is given, and imagines it in Revelation 20:11, where it is not and cannot be.

Observe also that the judgment of the great white throne is not a general judgment, any more than the resurrection spoken of here is a general resurrection. The idea of mixture then is mere imagination. I hold that every soul of man (i.e., of those that have died) must be in one or other resurrection. But scripture shows us that, the resurrection of the just is a totally different thing and at a different time from the resurrection of the unjust: they have nothing in common, save that in both cases soul and body must be reunited for ever. There is no scripture for an indiscriminate rising of all. A few passages are used to make out a show of proof. The Lord says in John 5:28, “The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,119 and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.” But this does not show that they will rise at the same time. The hour is coming in which both these classes shall rise; but instead of saying that they are all to rise in one common or indiscriminate resurrection, He takes pains to state that they that have done good are to come forth from their graves for a life-resurrection, and they that have done evil for a judgment-resurrection. There are two resurrections, then, not a common one. The very passage that men cite to prove a general resurrection teaches in fact the reverse. St. John’s Gospel shows their distinctness in character; his Revelation shows their distinctness in time.

Persons may say, “the hour is coming implies that all are to be raised much about the same time. But the word “hour” is often used in scripture (and indeed everywhere else) in a large sense. It might comprehend a thousand years or more; so that if one resurrection took place at the beginning of the millennium and the other at the end of it, it might still be the same “hour.” “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear it shall live.” (John 5:25.) This refers to what has been going on ever since Christ was on earth up to this very moment. “The hour” there takes in nearly two thousand years; and surely it is not too much to infer that “the hour” in verse 28 might embrace, if necessary, a period equally long. Scripture decides it. The same John who shows us the rise of all flesh from the grave, divided into two contrasted resurrections of men characterized by opposite moral qualities, shows us with no less plainness and certainty the interval between these resurrections. The chapter that we are now examining in the Revelation is the answer to the question, and proves that there will be an interval of at least a thousand years between the two.

But this is not all. There is a deep fundamental difference in the nature of the resurrections, as well as a distinction of time. In the gospel of John, the first is said to be a resurrection of life, the second is one of judgment. In the former are the righteous; all who are judged in the latter are the evil. Our translators call it the resurrection of “damnation” though the Teal meaning of the word is “judgment.” It is the same word that is used in a verse or two before (verses 21-27). “The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son . . . . . and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.” And it is necessary to bear this in mind, that Christ, while as the Son of God He gives life, as Son of man comes to execute judgment in His kingdom. He gives life to the believer, and executes judgment on the unbeliever. So there are two resurrections answering to these titles. There is the resurrection of life or the resurrection of the believer. It is the application to his body of that power of life which he has already in his soul. But those who have refused Christ, what will they have? The resurrection of judgment. They have despised Christ now; they cannot escape the resurrection of judgment then.

Looking then at Revelation 20, is not this what we have here? First there was the resurrection of life, of “those that have done good.” “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection.” What was said about them? They lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. It is a life-resurrection. But look at the others, the wicked — “they that have done evil.” “The rest of the dead lived not again till the thousand years were finished.” What have you here? “The rest of the dead lived not again till,” etc. So they do rise. “I saw the dead, small and great, stand before the throne.” None but dead are there, and how differently do they appear before the throne! “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” (ver. 12).

Now I fully believe that the saints of God will have all their works examined: what they have done in the body will come out. We shall have praise or censure according to our faithfulness or unfaithfulness, when the Lord Jesus takes His place on the judgment-seat, and we stand before Him and are manifested there. It is St. Paul that tells us this. (Rom. 14; 2 Cor. 5)

But the Holy Ghost’s object by St. John is to contrast the two resurrections. Therefore not a word is said in the account of the first resurrection about our appealing before Him, that each may receive the things done in the body, whether good or bad; but we are represented as judging others. Such is the way in which the life-resurrection is described. “I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them.” They do, of course, give an account of themselves to the Lord, and receive accordingly; but the Holy Ghost has His own wise reasons for omitting all allusion to it here. It is a resurrection of life in the gospel; and so it is in the Revelation. But when we come to the rest of the dead who have not done good, when they are raised and stand before the throne, what a contrast to a life-resurrection! They have only done evil; and when the book of life is opened, no name is to be found there; for this is not a resurrection of life but of judgment. They are to be judged according to their works, written in these other books; but their works are calling aloud for judgment. Their works being only and always evil, they are judged according to them; and what is the result? There might be a difference among them in some respects: there were great and small. But they were all alike in this — they were not found written in the book of life; and whosoever was not found written there, “was cast into the lake of fire.” Not a word is said or hinted that they were written there. This is a resurrection of those who have no part in that book, and they are cast into the lake of fire. It is, as if God were saying, The books of their works call for judgment: is there nothing to be said in defence of these wretched men? The book of life is accordingly opened; but they are not found there: the last hope is gone; and if “any one was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire” (verse 15). It is the resurrection of judgment. There is no life, no mercy there. Those that had their part in the life-resurrection had been raised long before, and never come into judgment at all; for it is said (John 5:24), “He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment [the same word as in verses 22, 27, 29]; but is passed from death unto life.”

Nothing then can be more certain than that this is a separate resurrection, distinct in character, and long severed in time. The resurrection of life had taken place long ago, and now comes the resurrection of judgment. “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it.” The depths which man could but imperfectly explore cannot hide for a moment longer. Nay, the unseen world, over which he has no control, is also forced to give up its miserable inmates. “Death and Hades delivered up the dead that were in them: and they were judged each according to their works” (verse 13). And their works condemn them Not a word is said about them in the book of life, and they are cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. They are raised from their first death to be cast for ever into that place of torment, whence there is no escape.

The, other scripture of most weight, often used for the purpose of proving a general resurrection, is the one in Daniel. What do we find there? It is written in Daniel 12:1: “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people [meaning Daniel’s people, the Jews]; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time.” Evidently, this is not the millennium. “And at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.” This is not the time when the church is delivered; for we have been delivered long ago through the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. But since the cross of Christ, the Jewish people have only been in misery: that cross was their guilt. They cried, “His blood be on us and on our children.” The time of their greatest suffering is to be immediately before the hour of their deliverance. (Jer. 30:7.) Our deliverance, as theirs, is through the sufferings of Another; but what we suffer is after our deliverance. For the Jews it is a different destiny. They have a tremendous tribulation to go through yet; and it is to be the worst they will have ever had. But immediately after this their final deliverance comes — “At that time thy people shall be delivered,” etc. They will not only be delivered as a people, but they will be saved and converted individually, according to God’s purpose — “every one that shall be found written in the book.” “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”

This is commonly applied to the resurrection; but I am persuaded that it does not apply to the rising of the body. It is a figure which is taken from it indeed, and which supposes that great truth to be known. But it is the same kind of expression, and applied to a similar subject and end, that I have referred to in Isa. 26:19, where Israel was described as “my dead body,” and was called on, as one dwelling in the dust, to awake and sing. So here it is said, “Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” This does not suit any scheme of interpretation, if it be applied to a literal bodily resurrection of good and bad at the same moment. You will observe that this is before the millennium. It is evidently before the time of deliverance and blessing. There is a time of trouble immediately after which Daniel’s people are delivered, and those who might have been forgotten (sleeping as it were among the Gentiles), reappear, but not all for the same end — some to shame, and some to everlasting life. (Compare also Isaiah 66:20, 24.) This does not answer the purpose of those who quote the text. For their idea is, that there is the millennium first, and then the resurrection of good and bad. This resurrection, literal or figurative, is before the millennium, and after it is a time of greater trouble than Israel ever knew.

My conviction therefore is that Dan. 12 refers to the Jews. First, in verse 1, those who are to be delivered are spoken of in connection with the land of Palestine. Then it is shown that many of them who have been sleeping in the dust of the earth will come out of their degradation, will awake, some to everlasting life, etc. Some of those Jews that are to come forward out of their hiding-places all over the earth would prove to be rebels and be treated accordingly; while others will learn that the Lord has wrought with them for His name’s sake. We may compare this with Ezekiel 37, where the dry bones set forth the house of Israel. No doubt can be left on any serious mind as to that passage; for the Lord Himself has interpreted it as the figure of the future resurrection of Israel. “Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves.” And if in Daniel it is said that some are to have everlasting life, Ezekiel says that the Lord will put His Spirit in them. It is a spiritual as well as a national restoration. So the passage in Daniel refers to a figurative resurrection of Israel, when some will awake out of their moral death.

We may now come back to Rev. 20 with the increased conviction that the doctrine of one general resurrection is a total mistake, and that God’s word teaches a resurrection of the just and another of the unjust. This which is spoken of at the close of our chapter is solely of the wicked dead; it is a resurrection of judgment. I appeal to you whether you could rest the salvation of your souls on your works. I admit that our works will be examined, and that we shall receive accordingly; but this is not the same thing as being judged according to them. In the one case the person is accepted, but his works are reviewed for praise or blame; in the other, the person is judged according to works that are not mingled, but altogether bad and only such. For a natural or unconverted man has no life towards God; therefore he can have nothing but evil works to be judged for. Not so with the believer. No doubt there are works sometimes mingled, sometimes even worse in him: but he has a standing beyond all that he is; else salvation were impossible righteously and in peace. He has the new nature that God has given and will not take away; he has also redemption, the forgiveness of sins — both in Christ. His works will be examined, and they have a most important bearing on the position that the Lord will assign him in His kingdom. To be saved or lost is never a question of reward, but of the grace and power of Christ. When we talk of reward, it is a debt due for work done; but when of salvation, it is never spoken of in scripture as a reward of works. It is the grace of Christ — the fruit of His work and suffering, which God has given us in sovereign love.

And when we stand before Christ, it will not be to take our trial for condemnation or acquittal: this would be to deny our justification and the value of His own work. All our ways will be manifested in God’s light, and the Lord will bring us triumphantly through; but He will not pass over a single deed, word, or thought that has been against Him. And as a Christian now can before God examine his ways, pass judgment upon them, and thank God for His faithful discipline; so it will be in a still brighter and more blessed and perfect way before the judgment-seat of Christ. It will then be no question of being saved only, but of vindicating the Lord’s glory and goodness. Solemn certainly; but is it a thing that we ought to dread? We shall have to be thankful for it through all eternity. For self-judgment even now is no small blessing — next perhaps in value to the joy of grace which leads to our worshipping God and serving Him faithfully in the Spirit. We shall not have a word to say in justification of any fault; but the Lord will have much to say for us. He will bring out all that we have done, and we shall receive according to it. For evil we shall suffer loss; for good He will give us reward.

But what a difference is here! The dead now stand before the throne: what an end! Not annihilation, but incomparably worse — destruction. They have no life — nothing but dead works. They refused Christ; they rejected whatever testimony God tried them by; and what do their works deserve? They are cast into the lake of fire. Death and Hades are now no longer needed; they are personified as the enemies of God and man, and as such are in the vision (verse 14) cast into the lake of fire also.120

We hear of none but unbelievers here. Only such indeed come into judgment, as we know from Him who assures us that believers do not come there; and none with whom God enters into judgment are or can be justified. It is the judgment of the dead after all the righteous who slept in Christ had been raised to reign with Him long before. The saints who lived do not enter this judgment, though no doubt they, like ourselves, shall render an account of all to God.

114 Daubuz notices another distinction well worthy of remark, but in a way which needs correction. “These thrones, whose number is not defined [as in Rev. 4], are to be very carefully distinguished from the twenty-four thrones here mentioned.” (Perp. Comm. p. 925.) So say I; but when he goes on to teach that the state of the Christian church and its primitive and militant institution were signified by the enthroned elders, I reject such an explanation, as do almost all Christians. Yet that there is a notable difference between that state of things and the millennial one before us now is manifest. The only satisfactory solution, I am satisfied, depends on the rapture of the heavenly saints, previous to the fulfilment of Revelation 4, and the interval spent before they appear with Christ in glory, as we ace in Revelation 19, 20.

115 There is no doubt that the earliest Christian writers show that a personal millennial reign of Christ was the early prevalent doctrine. But truth needs no exaggeration. It is painful that such a man as Mede (Works, book iii. p. 683, 4th edition) should have insisted on interpolating a negative in the statement of Justin Martyr (Dial. cum Tryph. § 80), where the father, after confessing the faith of himself and many others in a future rebuilding of Jerusalem and the literal reign and blessedness of risen saints with Christ, admits on the other hand that there are many holding the true and godly doctrine of Christians who do not acknowledge it. The fact is that there is not the slightest manuscript authority for the insertion, and the internal evidence is, in my opinion, decidedly against it. Thirlby has very properly pointed out that Justin distinguishes between two sets of the orthodox, as may be seen by comparing the close of the same section: one of them, in all respects ( κατὰ πάντα) right minded, has no doubt about the millennial reign, etc.; the rest were sound in general, but opposed to chiliasm. Nevertheless, Mede’s οὐ has been allowed by many in England from Tillotson down to Mr. Bickersteth, and Daillè’s μή (De Poenis et Satisfact. p. 493) has found favour abroad till recently. Even Mr. Jenour (Rat. Apoc. vol. ii. pp. 318, 319) continues to cite the passage in its corrupted form, and without remark.

116 “I cannot consent (says Dean Alford) to distort the words from their plain sense and chronological place in the prophecy, on account of any considerations of difficulty, or any risk of abuses which the doctrine of the millennium may bring with it. Those who lived next to the Apostles, and the whole church for 300 years, understood them in the plain literal sense; and it is a strange sight in these days to see expositors, who are among the first in reverence of antiquity, complacently casting aside the most cogent instance of consensus which primitive antiquity presents. As regards the text itself, no legitimate treatment of it will extort what is known as the spiritual interpretation now in fashion. If, in a passage where two resurrections are mentioned, where certain ψυχαὶ ἔζησαν at the first, and the rest of the νεκροί only at the end of a specified period after that first, — if, in ἔζησαν such a passage, the first resurrection may be understood to mean spiritual rising with Christ, while the second means literal rising from the grave; then there is an end of all significance in language, and scripture is wiped out as a definite testimony to anything. If the first resurrection is spiritual, then so is the second, which I suppose none will be hardy enough to maintain; but if the second is literal, so is the first, which, in common with the whole primitive church and many of the best modern expositors, I do maintain, and receive as an article of faith and hope.” (Vol. iv. part ii.) I have only to add, as to “chronological place,” that as the sitters on thrones, or first group in this vision, are not represented as souls, so they are not meant to be included in “they lived.” Their living and destiny to reign with Christ was plain enough from their session on thrones. Of the subsequent martyrs, and the confessors in the final crisis, it is now said, these join the others in resurrection, and share the reign just beginning.

117 So even Gesenius in the later results of his researches. It has been objected on the authority of Luitprand’s Chronicle, etc., that the only people then called Russians by way of distinction were the dynasty of Norsemen, who under Ruric acquired the throne of Muscovy. “Gens quaedam est sub Aquilonis parte constituta, quam a qualitate corporis Graeci vocant Russos; nos vero a positione loci vocamus Nordmannos.” (De Rebus Impp. et Regg. v. 6, p. 95, ed. Antverpiae, 1640.) But I do not see the force of the argument. If Ezekiel predicts that the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal shall come up to Palestine in the latter day, what has the mediaeval history of the people Rosh to do with it? If Cush or Phut is to suffer in Egypt or in the lower Euphrates, it matters little from what point they first migrated The prince of Rosh may have sprung from the Northmen, and acquired sway over the descendants of Meshech and Tubal: how does the coming of the Russi from Scandinavia hinder this? Besides there is no doubt of the emigration of a large part at least of the Northerns from the East. The Cushites, Goths, Scyths, are pretty nearly at bottom the same people, as the Druidical religion is of an Oriental source, the north of India having been one great settlement. It is too much to assume that this ecclesiastic nicely distinguished the men of the north who were beginning to make themselves felt and feared at Constantinople. The plain fact is before us that the Seventy translate this, ἄρχοντα Ῥώς, Μεσὸχ και Θοβέλ. Now Ῥως is the designation the later Greeks use for the Russians, as we see in the Byzantine historians.

118 Most extraordinary is the error for which the later editions of the Horae Apoc., vol. iv. pp. 210-218, are distinguished from their predecessors: the great white throne is now supposed to have been in exercise at the opening as well as at the close of the thousand years. The late Duke of Manchester and a few others had endorsed the same fancy. If Mr. E. “does not see anything in St. John’s description” of the blessed reign over the earth, in contrast with the fleeing away of heaven and earth in the subsequent picture, to negative the idea, reasoning, I fear, would be vain. The omission of a detailed account of the Lord’s throne in the previous verses is no real difficulty. His reign, and that of the glorified saints generally, we have seen to be distinctly implied in verse 4: they had been amply promised and predicted elsewhere. The needed revelation in this place is exactly what God provides — the comfortable assurance that those called to testify and auger, after the translation of the Old Testament saints and the church, would equally reign with Him during the thousand years, not to speak of eternal blessedness, which was a matter of course.

119 Not a syllable intimates that there will be one majestic uttered summons, as Dr. Brown assumes. (Christ’s Second Coming, 4th ed., pp. 193, 194.) Nor is the last trump, or the trump of God, connected with any save the righteous. This trumpet-sound, we know from scripture, is one. The voice of the Son of God, scripture with equal distinctness informs us, is to call from the grave both those that have practised good and those that have done evil; but the passage itself indicates two contrasted resurrections, which are separated by a distinction far deeper than, though confirmed by, the difference of their respective epochs. The question whether His voice is to be kept up through a thousand years is a mere cavil. There is nothing to forbid, but on the contrary everything, in my opinion, to strengthen the thought that the Lord will cause His glorious voice to be heard in closing judgment after the millennium, as in crowning grace before it.

120 Some will be startled to hear that Mr. E. (H. A., vol. iv. pp. 197-204) applies Matt. 25:31, etc., to the rapture of the living saints, the dead having been immediately before raised and caught up. Then follows, as he conceives, the catastrophe of an unprecedented disruption of the earth’s crust, as far as the Roman world is concerned, the risen saints being perhaps (!) the attendants of the Lord’s coming and judgment. In a note to page 291 it is said that, though there may be a primary reference to the judgment of the living at Christ’s coming, yet secondarily a more extensive judgment of the dead too may be included. The truth is that all is confusion. In fact the sheep are distinguished from the King’s brethren, as well as contrasted with the goats. Not a word implies resurrection or rapture to heaven. It is a glorious scene on earth, subsequent to Christ’s appearing, and therefore to the removal of the heavenly saints, and a judicial dealing not with the dead but the living; and not with all the living, but all the nations or Gentiles who are disposed of on the ground of their behaviour to the King, as presented by His brethren who had announced the kingdom (cf. Matt. 24:14) before the end came. There is not a trace of resemblance to the scene of the great white throne, nor any judgment of the dead. There is no issue beyond the solemn and final one, for those concerned, of honouring or despising the King in His messenger Besides, the insuperable difficulty for Mr. E and for most expositors is the place which the revelation of the first resurrection occupies, viz., after the destruction of the beast. The non-recognition of a previous rapture of saints, to whom the Apocalyptic sufferers are added just before the millennium, is the occasion of these errors, the denial of the true and proper character of the church being probably the grand source of all.