Isaiah 66:1. The heaven is my throne. This chapter applies to Isaiah’s time, as well as to future times; and though the Lord rejected the impure worship of the temple, yet he would dwell with the contrite and with the tremblers at his word. It seems from the connection to import, that God would forsake his sanctuary, and dwell with those who worship him in spirit and in truth.
Where is the house that ye build unto me? These words are spoken to designate the grandeur and immensity of the supreme Being; and by consequence, to shame and condemn the degenerate Jews, who joined the worship of God with their abominable idols.
Isaiah 66:2-3. To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and contrite. But if these dispositions be wanting, he who kills an ox is as offensive as he who slays a man. The heathen have said that the sacrifices of men are not acceptable to the gods, unless their lives be agreeable. The ox, a rich man’s sacrifice, was rejected, while the poor man’s tears were accepted.
Isaiah 66:6. A voice from the city, crying and bewailing its most calamitous situation, when surrounded by the Roman armies. This is followed by a voice from the temple; for voices were then heard in the holy place, saying, Let us go hence. Josephus’s wars of the Jews, book 7. chap. 12.
Isaiah 66:8. Shall a nation be born at once? The prophet foresaw the sudden spread of the gospel, rising like the sun on the gentile world. We have equal ground of hope, that the conversion of the jews will be a spontaneous work, as “life from the dead.” See on Psalms 19. Isaiah 2.
Isaiah 66:15-16. The Lord will come with fire—by fire and sword will he plead with all flesh. It is ridiculous to attempt an application of these words to the return from Babylon, or to Judas Maccabeus. No doubt they associate with the destruction of the last enemies of the church, as in chap. 63. Ezekiel 39. Revelation 19.
Isaiah 66:17. המתקדשׂים והמשׂהרים אל הגנות אחר אחד בתוךְ They sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the gardens, behind one tree, or behind every one, or one after another. Every biblical critic seems dissatisfied with the numerous readings of the Versions. Emendations of the Hebrew seem also to be irrelevant. The learned Professor Michaelis, who has admirably relieved many texts, contends here that one tree is a mistake for Ahad or Adad, as appears from a passage in Iamblicus. “Before all things that exist,” says this Egyptian philosopher, “and before the first origin of beings, there is but one God, θεος εισ, who continues in the solitude of his unity.” Dr. William Stukeley, quoting as above, notes here, This only God they worshipped all over the east, under the name of Adad or Ahad—One. Macrobius saturn, lib. 1:23. Euseb. Præp. Evang. 10:38. “From this One,” continues Iamblicus, “that God, who is his own original, αυταρκης, kindled himself, εαυτον εξελαμψε. Wherefore he is also called his own Father, and his own origin; for he is the origin of beings, and the God of gods. One of One, before any thing existed, προυστιος, and before the beginning of existence. For from him comes the possibility of being, and being itself, νοηταρχης.” Iamb. de Myst. Ægyp. § 8:2.
“The above,” continues Dr. Stukeley, “may be regarded as a fragment of the true patriarchal faith. The Egyptians believed that Ahad, or the true God, never approached his worshippers, without being attended with a train of inferior spirits, who were also to be worshipped with sacrifice and prayer.” Iamb. 5:21. This then is the worship of Ahad in the midst of idols, or in their imaginary train of other spirits, against the worship of which idols or angels, Isaiah here denounces a curse.
Isaiah 66:19. I will send those that escape—to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud. That is, to Egypt, Ethiopia, or the countries of Africa, To Tubal, or Spain; and to Javan, or Greece. Jeremiah 46:9. Ezekiel 35.
Isaiah 66:21. I will also take of them for priests. This the law of Moses did not allow; therefore in the christian church, only the converts made a royal priesthood, or kings and priests unto God. 1 Peter 2:9. Revelation 1:6. Isaiah 61:6.
Isaiah 66:23. From one new moon to another. There were mysteries in the levitical law not yet unfolded.
On the Glory of the Latter Day.
Glorious things are spoken of thee, oh city of God. Unto Jesus thy Messiah gave all the prophets witness, searching diligently what the Spirit did signify, which spake in them of the salvation which is come unto us. Thy towers shall rise, and thy glory shall shine forth, when the glory of the nations shall vanish away.
In the illustration of these prophecies, the rabbins who lived before our Redeemer appeared on earth, the new-testament writers, and the fathers of the primitive church, are all agreed in referring them to the Messiah. Hence while resting our faith on those unspeakable glories promised to the christian church, we have only to combat a few unprincipled critics, who either secretly or openly deny the Godhead and glory of Christ. They would fain restrict all those promises to the prosperity of the Jews after their return from Babylon, and absolutely expound the ministry of those holy men, as referring to wine and the good things of this life. Their system is however considerably embarrassed by the positive assurances, that Jerusalem should no more be defiled and trodden down of the heathen; that she should be the joy of the whole earth, and an eternal excellency. This long and most instructive dispersion of Israel by the Romans disconcerts their theory, and throws a gloom of embarrassment on plans secretly designed to destroy the credid of prophecy, and to rob the church of her hope.
As the prophecies of the Messiah’s kingdom and glory lie scattered throughout the psalms, the prophets, and the new testament, and as the largest collection of them is found in the latter part of Isaiah, it is proper to review them here. They form a regular series; they rise in order, and terminate in the glory of a celestial day. The deity and humanity of Christ— his descent in the line of David—the atonement for sin—the issuing forth of the gospel law from Jerusalem—the effusion of the Spirit, with all his graces and gifts—are all most amply laid down in a grand scale of luminous predictions.
But it is the conversion of the gentiles to the faith and worship of Christ, as mentioned in a hundred places, to which our attention shall be first directed. During the dark ages of the church, we must confess that zeal has slumbered; but now heaven seems to have roused the energies of the faithful; and we have a more encouraging prospect than ever, that the kingdoms of the gentiles shall be converted to the Lord. It is only possible in this place barely to enumerate the extraordinary labours of Francis Xavier for ten years, on the coasts of Indostan; the success of Ricci, who laboured alone for eighteen years in China; and the success of the Jesuits in South America. A larger account may be seen in my Introduction to Christianity. But the whole protestant church seems now alive, and glowing with desire for the conversion of the heathen. The Moravians have done what they could in corners of the earth. Dr. Coke in the West-India mission, and Dr. Vanderkemp in Caffraria, discovered great perseverance, and were singularly owned with success, while younger men are completing their work.
The grand object of our hope is, the efforts made in London, and in India, to diffuse the holy scriptures in every language of the earth, so far as it is in the power of the societies established for that purpose. Dr. Buchanan, in his sermon on the Star in the East, informs us that there are editions of the new testament, and some of the old testament, circulating in fifteen languages of Indostan, of Tartary, and Cochin China; and that they are received with an avidity which cannot be described. These are most hopeful preparations for missionaries to follow, and rescue the poor heathens from the gross darkness of gentile superstition. The sacred volume is now circulated in almost two hundred languages and dialects.
It is of importance also to remark, that the political changes which have recently taken place in the earth, seem highly favourable to the enlargement of the Redeemer’s kingdom. The great Russian empire exhibits a very favourable appearance for the Greek church to spread the gospel in the east. That empire has extended itself to the Caspian sea, to the confines of China, and to the northern and eastern extremities of the continent. Including all variety of soil and climate, of vegetable and mineral productions, it has a vast commerse within itself. The way is therefore open for civilization, literature, and the gospel of peace, to go hand in hand through all the provinces of northern Asia.
The Mahomedan empire, so long the scourge of the church, is now crumbling to pieces, and likely to be divided by christian powers. Many of the pachas, by asserting their independence, have so enfeebled the body, that it cannot move its enormous limbs. The fall of this empire will have a happy tendency to emancipate the long captive church, and the diffusion of knowledge, to raise it above superstition, that the candlestick may once more give light to the oriental world.
The commercial and colonial influence of the European nations, which annually encreases, is another inviting circumstance to send missionaries to the heathen. The way is as open as we could reasonably expect it, and the work is opposed by none of the sovereigns of Europe. The colonies enrich us with their best productions; and if we make no efforts to impart to them the true riches, we shall be altogether inexcusable in the sight of God, and prove to the infidel at home that we do not believe the religion we profess.
It is true that soberminded christians would not wish to go before the Lord, but like prompt and faithful servants, they would acquiesce in the intimations of his will. It is quite evident, not only from the preseding considerations of the favourable state of the world for this work, but from the apparent accomplishment of several prophecies, that this is really the time for the enlargement of Christ’s kingdom. The two thousand three hundred days, that is years of Daniel, for the God of heaven to cleanse the sanctuary, are expired, or nearly so. Daniel 8:13-14. Likewise, the fall of the tenth part of the city by a great earthquake, and the slaughter of the seven thousand men, seem to have been strikingly accomplished by the French revolution. Their bidding defiance to the powers of the Pontificate was sudden and unexpected as an earthquake, and attended with the slaughter of more than a million of men. The aggrandisements of this empire are declarations to the world, that the temporal powers of the pope exist no more. There are now no disputes about the doctrine of the two swords. The reformed churches have uniformly considered this empire as that tenth part of the city, and it is sufficiently evident they were not mistaken, for none of the protestant nations were agitated with such great political commotions. This great empire, situate in the centre of the catholic community, having abolished all persecution for religious sentiments, having annihilated the tyrannical parts of the papal power, and exposed relics, images, and every priestly artifice, to the utmost degradation and contempt, must thereby have applained the way for the total destruction of idolatry, and afforded a favourable moment for christianity in France, Italy, and Spain, to assume her primitive character of purity and love. It fully appears that the Roman catholic communion shall ultimately be purified from idolatry and superstition.
We proceed to illustrate two more prophecies, which seem farther to indicate, that this is the time for the universal spread of the gospel. The Son of man shall send his angels, (or ministers) with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Matthew 24:31. I saw an angel, says John, fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation and kindred, tongue and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory unto him; for the hour of his judgment is come. And worship him that made heaven and earth, the sea and the fountains of water. And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen. Revelation 14:6-8. From these and other corresponding passages, we derive information of a very important and consolatory nature.
(1) That the gospel shall he preached in every nation and language.
(2) That it shall be preached amidst the four winds, or commotions and wars which shall agitate the whole world.
(3) That the holy angels shall superintend the missions, and influence the pagans to renounce their idols, and to worship Him who made the heavens and the earth.
The ways and means by which religion shall be revived at home and propagated abroad, are also predicted. The Spirit of life from God shall enter into his two faithful witnesses, and they shall be exalted to heaven in presence of their enemies. Revelation 11:1-12. They are called God’s two witnesses, because that number is competent for evidence in courts of justice; but they comprehend the great cloud and succession of witnesses who have prophesied in sackcloth during the ages of antichrist. They have been massacred in every country of Europe, and their dead bodies treated with horrible indignities. The extermination of heretics has been celebrated by jubilees at Rome, and by great rejoicings amongst the papal princes. Their situation however shall be completely reversed. After three days and a half, that is, about the expiration of the twelve hundred and sixty years, the Lord shall raise up abundance of ministers in the spirit of the holy martyrs; and they shall be exalted to heaven, or exceedingly honoured for their wisdom, piety, and labours. From ministers so peculiarly endowed with the spirit of faith and love, we may expect a success in the propagation of the gospel, correspondent to the prophecies concerning the latter-day glory of the church. The work at first will of course be arduous and slow, but having once obtained the “handful of corn,” it will multiply to an abundant harvest. Psalms 72:16.
The missionaries will not have proceeded far with their work among the heathen, before God will afford his church extraordinary consolation and aid by the call and conversion of the Jews; or as Dr. Thomas Burner thinks, a remnant of the Jews. All their hopes are founded upon prophecy, and from prophecy alone will they receive conviction. Whenever they have a prospect that the gentile world will receive the faith of Christ, they will perceive that providence is about to establish the christian expositions of those prophecies, and to refute the expositions of their rabbins. In evidence so divine and strong they cannot but acquiesce, and be ashamed to be the last to do homage to their king. Hitherto this work has been obstructed by the immorality of the christian world. But being wearied, on the one hand, with their misguided expectations of a temporal Messiah, and perceiving on the other, the success of the gospel among the heathen, their ancient prejudices will vanish. The veil which is upon their hearts, when Moses and the prophets are read, shall be taken away. They will see their scriptures full of this important truth, that the Messiah was to be cut off, and his soul made an offering for sin, before he was to see his seed, to prolong his days, and before the pleasure of the Lord was to prosper in his hand: chap. 53. Thus Jews and Gentiles shall be joined in one: Isaiah 54:55.
The dispersion of the Jews, and their preservation as a distinct people, exhibit a grand and instructive scheme of providence. According to the prediction of Moses they are scattered on the face of the whole earth, from under one end of heaven to the other. Deuteronomy 28:64. They have rejected the Prophet of whom he spake, and therefore the Lord hath cut them off from the land which he gave to their fathers. They demonstrate, among all nations, the sad consequences of making light of the gospel and rejecting the Messiah. But the judgments of God have mercy for their object. The tedious winter shall be succeeded by a reviving spring. If they abide not still in unbelief, God is able to graft them in again. Blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fulness of the gentiles is come in: and so all Israel shall be saved in the day of the Lord. Romans 11:25-26.
From the manner in which God has preserved his ancient people, we cannot but think that he designs them to contribute their share in the establishment of his kingdom of righteousness. Resident or wandering among all commercial nations, and perfectly acquainted with their habits, religions and languages, they want only “the residue of the Spirit,”
Malachi 2:15, to constitute them an army of missionaries. Their situation too is peculiarly happy for promoting the conversion of many nations on the shores of Asia and Africa. When that is the case, Ethiopia, the country of black people, shall soon stretch out her hands unto God. Psalms 68:31. Of this we may be confident, that whenever it shall please the Almighty to pour out his Spirit upon his servants and handmaidens, their sermons will not be lukewarm, but animating and powerful, like those of St. Paul. The whole christian church will be revived by the work, and filled with acclamations of joy and thanksgiving. If the casting away of Israel were the reconciling of the world, by the conversion of the gentiles, what shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead? Romans 11:15.
The difficulties of the work are assuredly very great, but not too great for Omnipotence. Having begun a divine work in the earth, he will not leave it unfinished, but will carry it on to the day of Christ. The age of righteousness shall succeed the ages of wickedness. His work shall be revived, and his gospel propagated with a power which shall bid defiance to the sneers of infidelity, and the wide influence of hoary idolatry. Every valley shall be exalted, every mountain and hill shall he made low; the crooked places shall be made straight, and the rough places plain; and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. Isaiah 40:4-5. All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord, and all the kindred of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the Lord’s, and he is the governor among the nations. Psalms 22:27-28. The creature itself, made subject to the vanity of idols, shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. Surely those engaged in the divine work cannot want support for their faith.
But reason also, detached from revelation, affords now a brighter prospect than it afforded at any former period, that the religion of Jesus shall become the religion of the whole world. It is so benevolent in principle, so simple and sublime in its worship, so glorious in its expectations, and so well adapted to the present state of man, as to harmonize every moral difficulty, to captivate every candid enquirer, and to confound every system of error and idolatry. Indeed, if we except the apostate ages of the church, nothing as yet ever could resist effectively its beauty and force. It brought destruction on the Jews, by their wilful blindness; it captivated the enlightened Greeks; it softened the ferocious Romans, and converted the barbarous nations who once inhabited the north of Europe.—Among the polished Chinese, it carried all before it, until the idolaters opposed its progress by the sword. Hence, from past experience, and from the success of present feeble essays, little doubt can be entertained, if a well-conducted mission was established in every pagan nation, the time would fast approach, when the kingdoms of this world would become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ. But let us rejoice with trembling; for in that eventful day, God will awfully punish the unbelieving world. There is scarcely a text which speaks of the kingdom of Christ, but it either expresses or implies the destruction of the powers and states who resist the progress of the gospel. When he shall take the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession, he will destroy his enemies, as a potter’s vessel is broken with a rod of iron. Psalms 2. The nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted. Isaiah 60:12.
It is apparent from several of the prophets, but we must not speak with confidence, that the Jews, when partially returned to their own land, shall be assailed with trouble. Their riches, commerce and prosperity, may excite the envy and avarice of the unbelievers, and the defenceless state of the country embolden their passion for military enterprizes. This will probably be the eventful moment, when the lying spirit shall go forth out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet, to the mahomedan kings of the earth, and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. Revelation 16:13-14. The ostensible plea for this allied invasion of Judea may be, (for those who engage in war are careful to justify themselves) that the aggrandisement and prosperity of the Jewish Theocracy threaten to subvert their kingdoms, and monopolize their commerce. Be that as it may, these hardened princes shall combine, and enter the holy land with vast multitudes of their ungodly hosts, and exceedingly alarm and terrify the Jews. “In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadad-rimmon in the valley of Megiddon; and the land shall mourn, every family apart. And they shall look on him whom they have pierced.” Zechariah 12. Their expectations of deliverance shall be in the crucified Messiah; and by some manifestation of himself he will come and deliver them. In that day shall the Lord defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and he that is feeble among them shall be as David. Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judea and against Jerusalem. All that burden themselves with it shall be cut to pieces, though all the people of the earth were gathered against it. Zechariah 12:2; Zechariah 12:8. Ezekiel, in his views of this awful destruction of the infidel world, seems to have been more favoured than any of the ancient prophets. In the thirty eighth and thirty ninth chapters, we are informed at large, that the allied hosts of Gog and Magog shall assemble from Persia, Ethiopia, and the countries which surround Judea; that taking advantage of the unfortified state of the country, they shall combine to ravage it; that the Lord shall destroy them with hail and flames of fire, leaving but a sixth part to escape, and that the burying of their dead bodies shall continue seven months. Ezekiel 39:11-12. Revelation 20:8-9.
The most sublime description of Christ’s coming to destroy those who will not have him to reign over them, is found in the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation. I saw heaven opened, says John, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called faithful and true, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and be had a name written that no man knew but himself; and he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood, and his name is called the Word of God. The armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean; and out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations. He shall rule them with a rod of iron, and shall tread the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.—And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come, gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men; and the flesh of horses, and the flesh of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both bond and free, both small and great.—And I saw the BEAST, and the kings of the earth, gathered together to make war against Him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone; and the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat on the horse, and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.
This extraordinary passage cannot refer to the day of judgment. In no sense will the fowls then feast on the wicked. It speaks unquestionably of that day in which he will come to destroy the enemies of truth and righteousness, and to establish his kingdom in all the earth. It is highly probable that it solely refers to the last efforts of mahomedanism to oppose the spiritual reign of Christ. John having described the rise of that empire in chapter the ninth, it was proper he should also describe its destruction. Mahomedanism in the east, and the Pontificate in the west, have both been considered as antichrist, and the scourge of God to the apostate church. The former seems to be denominated the false prophet, and the latter the beast. But others are of opinion that the beast signifies the temporal powers, and the false prophet the spiritual errors of Mahomed’s antichristian empire.
The succession of great and good men, who have distinguished themselves in the cause of christianity, have generally agreed that the age of righteousness shall succeed that of wickedness. Barnabas affirms, that after six thousand years, the Lord will introduce the sabbatical millennium of righteousness and peace. He assures us that the six days employed in the creation are typical of the six thousand years of labour and sorrow which should afflict mankind; and that the seventh day is expressive of the repose which God will grant his church in the latter day. Hermas, who is mentioned by St. Paul, intimates that God will purify his church from all hypocrisy and vice, and that he will unite the hearts of all men in faith and charity. But the testimony of Papias, the disciple of St. John, conferred the greatest sanction on the doctrine of the millennium, because it was supposed that he best understood the mind of his master on this subject. After these, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Irenæus, Nepos, Origen, Victorinus, Lactantius, and Sulpicius Severus, have borne their testimony to this consolatory doctrine.
It is however presumed, that as these holy and venerable fathers were mistaken in some circumstances respecting the antichrist, they are mistaken also with respect to the personal reign of Christ on earth, for a thousand years, previously to the general resurrection. This notion placed the doctrine of the millennium quite too high. It has given great offence to learned men, and induced them to explain the prophecies concerning it in a very absurd and childish manner. It is plain enough, from several passages in Isaiah, that mankind will always be born in sin, and have need of regeneration; that human life will ever be attended with labour and sorrow, and that sin and death will not be entirely abolished during the age of righteousness. Hence we may fairly conclude, that a world in which these evils are not removed, cannot be the residence of the Lord of life and glory for a thousand years.
On this subject, further notice of the opinions of the primitive fathers is not immediately requisite, since they very judiciously express themselves, for the most part, in the language of the sacred scriptures. In this we shall endeavour to imitate them, and class the predicted blessings under proper heads. May the Almighty, in great condescension, grant us the wisdom and comfort which these exalted and glorious predictions are calculated to inspire! There is no doubt but that the evidences of revelation shall be renewed in such a way as to be pleasing to the Redeemer, and proper for the church.
The happy age before us, which has been so long the cheering theme of prophecy, and the support of the church in all her struggles with the pagan and the papal beast, shall be ushered in by a personal, though transient, manifestation of the Son of God. Behold, says John, he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him; they also who have pierced him shall wail because of him. Revelation 1:7. This passage has an evident allusion to the twelfth chapter of Zechariah: “and they shall look on him whom they have pierced.” Hence it is the more proper to apply it to the manifestation of the Son of God at this eventful period. Whom the heavens, says Peter, must receive until the times of the restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. Acts 3:21. Then shall the Lord go forth and fight against those infidel nations, as when he fought for Joshua in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day on the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof towards the east, and towards the west, and there shall be a great valley; and half the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. And the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear nor dark. But it shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord, not day nor night; but it shall come to pass at evening time it shall be light. Zechariah 14:4-8. Those who apply this passage to the darkness at our Saviour’s crucifixion, assume a liberty not permitted to the Evangelists; and they forget that he did not then slaughter his enemies, and rend the mountain with his feet.
The glorious manifestation of the Son of God shall, at the same instant, be accompanied with happy events, both in the kingdom of nature and of grace. The bodies of all the holy martyrs, who during the pagan and antichristian persecutions, were beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the word of God, shall be raised up from the dead. Their useful lives were shortened on earth, and therefore God shall honour them with an earlier resurrection; and it seems, with an angelic ministry in his kingdom: they shall live and reign with Christ a thousand years. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. Revelation 20:4-6. Where this reign of Christ and the holy martyrs shall be, we are not permitted to know: it is said only, “I saw thrones, and they sat upon them.” It is also said by the twenty four elders, Thou hast made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth. Revelation 5:10. Our Lord said that the children of the resurrection are equal to the angels; and St. Paul has distinguished their offices by the dignified appellatives of thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers. It is therefore not improbable but the holy martyrs will be raised to an angelic ministry in the kingdom of heaven, and to superintend the church in all that glorious prosperity which they so often prayed for and desired while on earth. The Lord will create upon every dwellingplace of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies a cloud and a smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence. Isaiah 4:5. Should this application of these prophecies be admitted, it by no means follows, that those who sit on the thrones, and the reigning martyrs, will visibly converse with mortals; therefore, all the objections which have been made against their reigning with Christ on earth fall to the ground. This is a moderate opinion, and was embraced by the learned Lactantius.
To the victory of our Lord over the infidel world, shall immediately succeed the binding and imprisonment of Satan in the bottomless pit for a thousand years. “After that, he must be loosed for a little season.” Revelation 20:3. How glorious will be the state of the church, and flourishing the work of grace upon the soul, when the host of demons are chased away from this lower region, and their places supplied with the holy martyrs; when we shall have every spiritual aid, and no spiritual obstruction.
The manifestation of our Lord is also represented as attended with “a great and mighty earthquake.” Zechariah 14:5. This, with other changes which will then take place in the kingdom of nature, may produce the most benignant effects on the elements, and on the fertility of the earth. The barrenness of the ground, and the obstructions to husbandry, were designed to punish and restrain the wickedness of the nations; and when the wickedness shall be diminished, we have a moral certainty, that the righteous God will proportionably diminish the difficulties of agriculture. The holy scriptures put this beyond a doubt, and assure us that the produce of the earth shall then exceed all possible calculation. So luxuriant shall be the harvest, that it shall continue till the vintage, and the vintage shall continue till the seedtime. The mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk. The rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come out of the house of the Lord, and shall water the valley of Shittim. Joel 3:18. Then shall the earth yield its encrease, and God, even our own God, shall bless us. Psalms 67:6.
The encrease of population shall correspond with the abundance of vegetation, and with the agricultural industry of the husbandman. A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation. They of the city shall flourish and multiply like grass, and the strangers that dwell among them shall be as the dust of the earth. The city is to be greatly enlarged, from the tower of Hananeel to the gate of the corner, and the measuring line is to go forth to the hill Gareb, and compass about unto Goath. All the waste and desolate places shall be inhabited, and the holy land enlarged to the original extent promised to Abraham, and far beyond what the tribes of Israel formerly possessed, for the accommodation of its numerous inhabitants. Genesis 15:18-21. Ezekiel 47:13-21. Disease and death are no longer to prevail as they have done, since the day of provocation in the wilderness; the voice of weeping shall no more be heard, nor the voice of crying. Human life shall be extended to the age of the patriarchs, and peace and joy shall be the portion of God’s people. Isaiah 65:17-25.
Great and inestimable are the blessings already enumerated, but they are very inconsiderable, if compared with the graces and talents which God shall communicate to the saints, and with the unction of the Spirit which shall rest on all religious assemblies. The pentecost will then extend to all the earth, and every nation exhibit primitive christianity, arrived at a vigorous maturity. The superabundance of knowledge, graces and gifts, will in some sort constitute the whole church a royal priesthood to the Lord. They shall all be righteous; and they shall no more teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for they shall all know him from the least to the greatest. The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. The public worship of that age will have a striking resemblance of heaven, and the immense congregations be overshadowed with the divine presence. All hardness and obduracy shall be removed from the mind, all iniquity forgiven; and the laws of Christ shall be written on every heart. His glory shall enter the holy temple in Judea by the east gate, and dwell on the mercyseat. He will make the place of his feet glorious in the midst of them, and he will beautify the house of his glory. His dominion also shall be from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth. The kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. Amen.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 66". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany