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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Revelation 19

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-16

SPECIAL DOCTRINO-ETHICAL AND HOMILETICAL NOTES (ADDENDUM)

Section Sixteenth

Second Special End-Judgment, or the Judgment upon the Beast (Antichrist) and his Prophet. a. Heavenly World-picture of the Victory. ( Revelation 19:1-16.)

General.—The heavenly post-celebration of the judgment upon the Harlot issues in a pre-celebration of the marriage of the Bride. For the Harlot and the Bride bear toward each other the indissoluble relation of a contradictory antithesis. Heaven, or the Church Triumphant, and not God’s Church on earth, celebrates, pre-eminently, the judgment of the Harlot; for an exalted stand-point is requisite for this celebration, and with lesser spirits, vulgar minds, it might easily degenerate into fanaticism. Even in the Heaven of consummate spiritual life, the positive result of that judgment is the thing which is first rejoiced over. The salvation and the glory and the power are our God’s. Not until after this, is the satisfaction of justice touched upon ( Revelation 19:2). The perfect fixedness of the judgment is next set forth ( Revelation 19:3). The whole heavenly post-celebration of the judgment is completed in an antiphony, in which the natural relations seem to be inverted, in that the twenty-four Elders and four Life-forms utter the Amen, which is supplemented by the third Hallelujah. Thus a three-fold heavenly Hallelujah is devoted to the rejoicings over the judgment. The Church of God on earth is now commanded to join in the celebration, and her rejoicing assumes the form of a pre-celebration of the marriage of the Bride. The delineation of the simple, yet august, adornment of the Bride, and the glorification of the imminent marriage, are followed by the appearance of the Bridegroom, coming from Heaven, on His warlike and victorious march against the Beast.

Special.—[ Revelation 19:1-4.] Three-fold Hallelujah of the Church Triumphant over the fall of Babylon. This feature is the more significant, since it is here only that the Hallelujah appears in the Apocalypse. The Hallelujah is also philologically significant; Jehovah, the Covenant-God, is glorified, because Babylon obscured His glory and power to the uttermost through her idolatry; in that she, on the one hand, corrupted the earth with her idolatry, and, on the other, killed the servants of God, who sought His glory. The rising of the smoke of her torment becomes a Hallelujah as an eternal visible assurance that the salvation and the glory and the power of God, in redeemed souls, are established forever.—[ Revelation 19:5.] The heavenly order for a general song of praise.—[ Revelation 19:6-7.] The song of praise: 1. The sound of it; 2. The contents of it.—The marriage of the Lamb. It will essentially consist in the fame of God’s glory.—The beholding of the glory of God constitutes the bliss of the beatified. The bliss of the beatified is the highest glorification of God.—Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.—[ Revelation 19:8.] The Bride in her adornment.—In antithesis to the Harlot in her gorgeous, but blood-colored, attire.—[ Revelation 19:9.] Blessedness of those who are called to the marriage of the Lamb.—Every previous beatitude has this for its end and aim. This is true, above all, of the beatitudes in Matthew 5.; and also of that in Revelation 14:13.—God’s words, pure essential facts: They will be manifested to be the most real realities.—[ Revelation 19:10.] Repeated repudiation of the worship offered by John to angelic beings—comp. Revelation 22:9.—The measure of inward devotion is the measure of the purity of the worship which we offer to God. This inward devotion, however, is not to be defined simply in accordance with our feeling; least of all, as a mere ecstatic sentiment; but also intellectually, and as an ethical readiness.—The witness of (concerning) Jesus, the real prophecy of this world’s history.—[ Revelation 19:11-16.] The Bridegroom, in His going forth for the final redemption and emancipation of the Bride: 1. His forth-going from Heaven; 2. His character; 3. His appearance; 4. His title; 5. His army; 6. His power ( Revelation 19:15); 7. His right.

Starke ( Revelation 19:1): Hallelujah. There is here, probably, an allusion to the six Psalm, from the 113 to the118, which were called the great Hallelujah, and were sung at high festivals, especially at the Feast of Tabernacles ( Psalm 104:35).

Revelation 19:2, from Deuteronomy 22:43. Splendor, power, subtlety, adherents—all cannot save when God wills to punish. He fears none of them.

Revelation 19:3, from Isaiah 34:10.

Revelation 19:4. The praise of God that issues from a heart that is full of God, fills and kindles other hearts to His praise.

Revelation 19:6. (This verse Starke interprets as holding forth the prospect of the conversion of the Jews.) Although there are diverse voices and powers, there is yet one Spirit, one faith, one consonance of the whole Church.

Revelation 19:7. The preparation of the Bride consists in her constantly becoming more qualified for the reception of all the treasures of salvation acquired by her Bridegroom.

[Write.] The Divine authority of the matter to be recorded and of this entire Book is the more strongly indicated, the more frequent the occurrence of this expression ( Revelation 1:11; Revelation 1:19; Revelation 2:1; Revelation 2:8; Revelation 2:12; Revelation 2:18; Revelation 3:1; Revelation 3:7; Revelation 3:14; Revelation 14:13).—[ Revelation 19:10.] John was not mistaken in the person of the Angel, for he well knew that he was no Divine person. (Starke here wrongfully assumes that not worship, but only an humble expression of reverence, is here denoted.)

Revelation 19:11. Heaven opens before Christ, both in the condition of His humiliation and in that of His exaltation.

Revelation 19:12. Christ has, not one, but many crowns, because He has gained many victories, and is the King of kings.

[In heaven] the faithful are resplendent in white linen, though here they may bear the cross.

Revelation 19:16. Kings cannot be happier than in yielding themselves subjects of Christ.

Spurgeon, Stimmen aus der Offenb. Joh., p132. [ Revelation 19:12. And on His head many crowns.] The Saviour’s many crowns. Oh, ye well know what a Head that is; its wondrous history ye have not forgotten. A Head that once reclined, lovely and infantine, on the bosom of a woman. A Head that bowed meekly and willingly in obedience to a carpenter. A Head that in later years became a well of weeping and a fountain of tears ( Jeremiah 9:1; Hebrews 5:7). A Head whose sweat was as it were great drops of blood, falling upon the earth ( Luke 22:44). A Head that was spit upon, whose hairs were plucked out. A Head which at last, in the fearful death-struggle, wounded by the crown of thorns, gave utterance to the terrific death-cry ( Psalm 22:1): Lama Sabachthani! (The death-cry was: Father, into Thy hands, etc.) A Head that afterwards slept in the grave; and—to Him Who liveth and was dead, and behold, He is living now forever-more ( Revelation 1:18), be glory—a Head that rose again from the grave, and looked down, with beaming eyes of love, upon the woman who stood mourning by the sepulchre.

[From M. Henry: Revelation 19:10. This fully condemns the practice of the papists in worshipping the elements of bread and wine, and saints, and angels.—From The Comprehensive Commentary: Revelation 19:1-4. All heaven resounds with the high praises of God, whenever He executes His “true and righteous judgments” on those who corrupt the earth with pernicious principles and ungodly practices, and when He avenges the blood of His servants on their persecutors. Who then are they that throw out insinuations, or openly speak of cruelty and tyranny, on hearing of these righteous judgments, but rebels who blasphemously take part with the enemies of God and plead against His dealings towards them? (Scott.)

Revelation 19:10. If the highest of holy creatures greatly fear and decidedly refuse undue honor, how humbly should we sinful worms of the earth behave ourselves! (Scott.)—From Barnes: Revelation 19:1. All that there is of honor, glory, power, in the redemption of the world, belongs to God, and should be ascribed to Him.—From Bonar: Revelation 19:10. The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. The theme or burden of the Bible is Jesus. Not philosophy, nor science, nor theology, nor metaphysics, nor morality, but Jesus. Not mere history, but history as containing Jesus. Not mere poetry, but poetry embodying Jesus. Not certain future events, dark or bright, presented to the view of the curious or speculative, but Jesus; earthly events and hopes and fears only as linked with Him.]

Section Seventeenth

Second Special End-Judgment. b. Earth-picture of the Victory over the Beast. The Parousia of Christ for Judgment. The Millennial Kingdom. ( Revelation 19:17 to Revelation 20:5.)

General.—We must distinguish here: 1. The premise of the last time, the features of which are to be gathered from other passages; 2. Christ’s war, in His Parousia, with the Beast and the False Prophet, and the judgment upon them and their Antichristian kingdom; 3. The chaining of Satan, and the Millennial Kingdom thus introduced.

The features of the last time, corresponding to its character as here pre-supposed, are visible throughout the eschatology of the Scriptures. See Matthew 24:22 sqq.; Mark 13:21 sqq.; Luke 17:26 sqq.; Revelation 21:26 sqq.; Romans 11; 2 Thessalonians 2:7 sqq.; 2 Timothy 3:1 sqq.; 2 Peter 3.; 1 John 2:18; Judges 14, 15. Compare especially the terminal points in the cycles of the Apocalypse itself: Revelation 3:20; Revelation 6:12 sqq.; Revelation 10:7; Revelation 11:7; Revelation 13,—beginning, particularly, with Revelation 19:11; Revelation 17:16. These traits are incipiently set forth in the Old Testament; comp. Isaiah 63. sqq.; Ezekiel 36:33; Ezekiel 37:21; Daniel 9:2; Hosea 14:6; Joel 3:1; Zephaniah; Haggai 2:6; Zechariah 12. It should be noted, that in Zechariah as well as in Ezekiel two judgments upon the nations are distinguished: viz. a more special one, followed by the restoration of Israel, and a general one, with which the end-time closes. Comp. Zechariah 12, 14, and also Ezekiel 36 with38,39.

The spiritual situation which superinduces the symptoms of the last time consists in the complete secularization of the Church—the carnal security of Christians, the spiritual Luke -warmness of congregations, an extinction of the old foci of Christendom, and a corresponding extension of the Kingdom of God amongst heathen and Jews.

The actual date at which the last time begins corresponds with the fall of Babylon. The consummate Antichristianity of the world has executed judgment upon the wavering Antichristianity in the Church; the former has, however, drawn an apostate of the Church—the False Prophet—into its service, and with his help it obtains a social victory, in that τὸ κατέχον is taken away ( 2 Thessalonians 2:6), or in that the two Sons of Oil ( Revelation 11) are killed.

Antichristian pseudo-Christianity, expressing itself not only in hierarchical, but also in sectarian announcements of Here is Christ and There is Christ, has turned into pseudo-Christian Antichristianity; practical atheism, or the negation of all faith, has begotten a lying positivism which prosecutes human deification even to the production of the deified man, the culmination point of the Antichristian tendency. For human deification is at this Juncture no longer a “worship of genius,” but the deification of the masses—nay, more, of the Beast, of the brutal power and carnal self-seeking of the masses, and this fundamentally depraved generalization must necessarily, through the worship of agitators, turn into the worship of the agitator κατ’ ἐξοχήν.

The actual mark of the last short, but grievous time, is a social terrorism which develops in company with the principles of Antichristianity. The perverted congregation of the Beast seeks to give itself a dogmatical and symbolical shape by its sign of recognition, the mark of the Beast: the faithful fall under the subtile social excommunication of the last time. The characteristics of this grievous time are: a great testing, a great temptation, a great trial of endurance, a great purging, all of which, however, result in a great development of the sealed. The traits of the oppressed Widow thus develop into the traits of the Bride, and the cry of the oppressed forces its way to Heaven ( Luke 18:1-7).

The Parousia of Christ for war and victory is here, as in the Gospels, heralded by signs in Heaven and earth. With the cosmical sign of the Angel standing in the sun and proclaiming the approaching judgment, the cosmical signs in the Eschatological Discourse of the Lord correspond. The ethical sign on earth is the consummate conspiracy of the kings, i. e., the supporters of Antichristianity, and their preparation for battle against Christ. Comp. Psalm 2. In respect of the day of rebellion, the following declaration holds good for ever: To-day have I begotten Thee—i. e., set Thee in royal dominion.

As to the battle itself, the Seer intimates that the same turn of affairs takes place here as in the building of the tower of Babel and in the Crucifixion of Christ, and, it might also be said, in the great persecution of the Christians under Diocletian. The point of an external combat is not reached; the Antichristian army seems to be smitten with absolute confusion ( Revelation 16:10). For the Beast is taken, like an individual malefactor; with him the False Prophet is seized, and both are cast into the lake of fire. That the slaying of the Antichristian army is expressive of a spiritual annihilation, is evident from the fact that they are slain with the sword which proceeds from the mouth of Christ.

In respect to the chaining of Satan and to the Angel who accomplishes it, we refer to the Exeg. Notes. We make the same reference in regard to the Millennial Kingdom. The idea of the coming of this pervades the whole of Sacred Writ (see Psalm 72; Isaiah 65, etc.).

The First Resurrection, as the blossom of the resurrection time, as the result of the resurrection of Christ ( 1 Corinthians 15.), as the foretoken of the general resurrection, is also a time of great spiritual awakening and resurrection; to this period, doubtless, belongs the prospect of a more general restoration of Israel, for it occurs between the penultimate judgment upon the heathen ([nations] (the οἰκουμένη) and the last judgment (upon Gog and Magog).

With the first resurrection, the first new heavenly order of things is connected: the rule of Christ, in the midst of His people, over the world—a spiritual and social governing and judging as a foretoken of the last judgment.

The abyss of the curse shut, the Heaven of blessing wide open: these are the characteristics of the great crisis which makes the σωτηρία visibly manifest throughout an entire æon.

Special.—The appearing of Christ in its two aspects: 1. The war ( Revelation 19:17-21); 2. The victory ( Revelation 20:1-5).—[ Revelation 19:17-18.] The Angel in the sun, and the meaning of his outcry.—[ Revelation 19:19.] The Antichristian revolt against the Lord and His army.—The spiritual combat in its form and results. [ Revelation 20:1-3.] The Angel who chains Satan (see Exeget. Notes).—Satan shall receive his full dues when he shall be let loose again at the end of the thousand years. In other words, evil must live itself out, or completely accomplish its self-annihilation.—[ Revelation 20:4-6.] Import of the first resurrection.—Traits from the picture of the Millennial Kingdom.

Starke ( Revelation 19:18): Those who apprehend this mystically, interpret thus: That ye may spoil the goods, etc.

Revelation 19:20. Those who apprehend this mystically, explain thus: The others, who were seduced [by the False Prophet], were more gently dealt with; they were either conquered and overcome by the sword of Christ’s mouth, His word, and willingly subjected their life and possessions to Christ, or they lay prostrate, proscribed and despised, as dead bodies. Those who, like birds of prey, have impoverished and devoured others, shall themselves be devoured ( 2 Samuel 12:9-11).— Revelation 20:3. Marginal note by Luther: The thousand years must have begun at the time when this Book was written. Starke, on the other hand: The thousand years are not past, but to come.—Satan has his certain time to be bound and to be loosed.

Revelation 20:4. Those who regard the thousand years as having already expired, apprehend the resurrection spoken of here as a spiritual resurrection. (Starke adduces another explanation, according to which the resurrection is a physical one, but the life of the risen is in Heaven [ 2 Timothy 2:11-12]. The difficulty here originates, probably, in a fear of the ill-understood Seventeenth Article of the Augsburg Confession. The Seventeenth Article, however, negatives the assumption of a millennium (a) before the Parousia of Christ and the resurrection of the dead; (b) as a secular kingdom of the righteous, based on the oppression and subjection of the wicked.)

Riemann, Die Lehre der Heiligen Schrift vom tausendjährigen Reiche oder vom zukünftigen Reiche Israel (in opposition to J. Diedrich, Schönebeck, 1858). It is only by caprice that the Millennial Kingdom can here be styled the future kingdom of Israel.—Flörke, Die Lehre vom tausendjährigen Reiche (Marburg, 1859). “Our view (of the Millennium) has its point of departure in a difference with the Augsburg Confession.” (On this misunderstanding, see the remark in the preceding paragraph.) Steffann, in his work entitled: Das Ende der Zeiten, Vorträge über Offenb. des heil. Joh. (Berlin, 1870), also controverts this misunderstanding and Hengstenberg’s interpretation: “Ebrard is right in saying that, in drawing up this Article, the Reformers rejected their own view of the Millennial Kingdom and thereby opened the way for a future correct view, etc. The rôles are changed, therefore; not those who reject the Millennial Kingdom on the basis of this Article, but we, who teach it in accordance with the permission given us in this Article, stand on the platform of the Augsburg Confession” (p336). Muenchmeyer, on the other hand, intimates with sufficient plainness, in his Bibelstunden über Offb. Joh. (Hanover, 1870, p186), that orthodoxistic exegetical tradition and the ill-understood Seventeenth Article have induced him to place the Millennial Kingdom in the past. Hebrews, however, does not reckon the thousand years from the time of John to Gregory VII, with Luther, nor, with others, from the time of Constantine, but from the conversion of Germany—“according to which interpretation the thousand years are now approaching their end, if we have not already entered upon the little lime” (in which view he resembles Hengstenberg).

Hebart, Für den Chiliasmus (Nuremberg, 1859), points to the profitableness of the doctrine of the Millennial Kingdom (p24).—Die chiliastische Doktrin und ihr Verhältniss zur christlichen Glaulenslehre, by Dr. Johann Nepomuk Schneider (see p73).—Das tausendjährige Reich (in opposition to Hengstenberg), Gütersloh, 1860, p98. In Ezekiel 37:1-14 the house of Israel is spoken of in precisely the same manner (as in chap36.), and there is nothing in the chapter which could indicate that in this section the house of Israel is not to be apprehended as the natural Israel, but that the prophecy relates to the Church. (See the further remarks on the subject, p99. Emphasis is judiciously laid upon the fact that the part which treats of Gog and Magog follows this promise.)

Christiani, Bemerkungen zur Auslegung der Apokalypse (Riga, Bacmeister, p28). “Empirical ecclesiasticity must be highly overrated by those who ascribe to such a Church-historical event as the constituting of Christianity the state-religion of the Roman world-kingdom, so high an import in the history of salvation [as to date the Millennial Kingdom therefrom], not. withstanding that the benefits of this event were accompanied by many evils attendant upon the externalization of the Church” (in opposition to Keil).

Rinck, Die Schriftmässigkeit der Lehre vom tausendjährigen Reich (in opposition to Hengstenberg, Elberfeld, 1866, p35). This expositor places the transformation of the faithful in this time. He also assigns the fulfillment of the following prophecies to the same period: Micah 4:1-4; Isaiah 65:17-25; Acts 3:19-21; Romans 11; Amos 9:9-15. Rinck likewise places the people of Israel at the head of the nations in the Millennial Kingdom, and makes them the leading missionary people of the earth. The Judaizing anticipations of Baumgarten, et al., do not, however, appear with any greater distinctness than attaches to them in the view just stated. It is in any case as one-sided to drop the symbolic element in favor of the historic, as to surrender the historic in favor of the symbolic element. Can the following words be understood of the Jewish people in the historical sense: “When the multitude of the sea is converted unto him?” Israel has already, in the person of the historic Christ, taken the leading place amongst the nations, and in the persons of the Apostles it has become the principal missionary people on earth—this might suffice. According to Romans 11, all Israel is to be saved, after the fullness [full number] of the Gentiles has come in. In the end, only dynamical distinctions can be of weight, and when Christ comes to earth with all the elect Gentile Christians of all ages, an external preponderance of the newly converted Jewish people is out of the question. The prospect of the more general conversion of Israel Isaiah, doubtless, rightly assigned to the Millennial Kingdom. A Christ in glory will remove the last hindrance of faith for all who have failed to accommodate themselves to the offense of the cross, not out of malice, but through weakness and an obedience to Jewish traditions. For the Israelitish view, moreover, the expectation of a time of the glorification of the Theocracy on earth lay at the door, although this did not involve an approximation to the Christian modification of this doctrine. Yet even Isaiah, viewing the power of evil in the light of the Spirit, perceived that a chasm would intervene between the time of the Messiah’s humiliation and sufferings and the time of His glorification. Again, Ezekiel, in distinguishing between the corruption of the central civilized world and that of the remote barbarian world, arrived at the foreview that the victory over anti-Messianism and Israel’s restoration should be followed by a late conflict with Gog and Magog.

Volck, Der Chiliasmus, seiner neuesten Bekämpfung (Keil, Kommentar über Ezechiel) gegenüber Dorpat, 1869). “It may now be seen what importance should be attached to the position of Lünemann, who affirms (commenting on 1 Thessalonians 4:14) that the idea of an intervening space between the resurrection of believers and that of other men ( Revelation 20.) is entirely foreign to the mind of the Apostle Paul. Precisely the contrary is true. That idea is perfectly familiar to him—a fact which is admitted by Meyer, who remarks on 1 Corinthians 15:24, that Paul, following the example of Christ Himself, has bound up the doctrine of a two fold resurrection with the Christian faith. Meyer here alludes to the ἀνάστασις τῶν δικαίων, mentioned by the Lord in Luke 14:14.”

Lavater, Aussichten in die Ewigkeit. Our Lord replies to the question of the Sadducees ( Luke 20.) in the following terms: “Those who shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world and the resurrection of [E. V.: from] the dead, can die no more,” etc. From this it is evident that our Lord, in this passage, speaks of the resurrection of the righteous as a felicity which pertains exclusively to them.

[From M. Henry: Revelation 20:1. Christ never wants proper powers and instruments to break the power of Satan, for He has the powers of heaven, and the keys of hell.]


Verse 17

B.—Earth-Picture of the Victory over the Beast. The Parousia of Christ for Judgment

Revelation 19:17 to Revelation 20:5

a. The Judgment upon the Beast

17And I saw an [one] 30] angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud [great] voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven [mid-heaven], Come and gather yourselves [om. and gather yourselves—ins., be gathered] 31] together unto the [ins. great][FN32] supper of the great [om. the great] God; 18That ye may eat the [om. the][FN33] flesh of kings, and the [om. the]4flesh of captains [ins. of thousands], and the [om. the]4flesh of mighty [strong] men, and the [om. the]4flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the [om. the]4flesh of all men [om. men], both19 [om. both] free and [as well as][FN34] bond, both [and] small and great. And I saw the beast [wild-beast], and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make [ins. the][FN35] war against [with] him that sat [the one sitting] on the horse, and against [with] his army 20 And the beast [wild-beast] was taken, and with him[FN36] the false prophet that wrought miracles [the signs] before him [in his presence], with which he deceived [seduced or misled (ἐπλάνησεν)] them that had [om. had] received the mark of the beast [wild-beast], and them that worshipped his image. [:] These both [the two] were cast alive into a [the] lake of [ins. the] fire burning [that burneth] with brimstone 21 And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat [the one sitting] upon the horse, which sword proceeded [goeth forth] out of his mouth: and all the fowls [birds] were filled [satiated] with their flesh.

b. The Millennial Kingdom [ Revelation 20:1-5)

1And I saw an angel come down from [descending out of—ins. the] heaven, having the key of the bottomless [om. bottomless] pit [abyss] and a great chain in [upon] his hand 2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that [or the] old [ancient] serpent,[FN37] which [that] is the Devil [or Slanderer], and Satan [or the Adversary][FN38], and bound him a thousand years, 3and cast him into the bottomless [om. bottomless] pit [abyss], and shut him up, and set a seal upon [om. him up, and set a seal upon—ins. and sealed over][FN39] him, that he should [might] deceive [seduce or mislead (πλανήσῃ)][FN40] the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled [finished]: and [om. and][FN41] after that [these] he must be loosed a little season [time]. 4And I saw thrones, and they sat [ins. down][FN42] upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were [had been] beheaded for [on account of] the witness of Jesus, and for [on account of] the word of God, and which [who] had not [om. had not] worshipped [ins. not] the beast [wild-beast], neither [nor yet][FN43] his image, neither had [om. neither had—ins. and] received [ins. not] his [om. his—ins. the] mark upon their [the][FN44] foreheads, or in [om., or in—ins. and upon] their hands [hand]; and they lived and reigned with Christ a[FN45]5 thousand years. But [om. But][FN46] The rest of the dead lived not again [om. again] 47] until [till] the thousand years were [should be] finished. This is the first resurrection.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

SYNOPTICAL VIEW

a. The Judgment

The judgment upon the Beast is accomplished, not in a manner purely of this world and in a form purely historical, like the judgment upon the Harlot, but in a more spiritual form, which is based upon the appearance of Christ from the other world, and which introduces the cosmical transition-form between time and eternity, the Millennial Kingdom.

The first point for consideration is that cosmical change itself, which proceeds from the sun and summons all the birds under the Heaven, all the forces of earthly metamorphosis, to consume all the dead flesh, the exanimate materials which shall be the issue of the great defeat of the Antichristian world—to consume them, in order to convert them into new life.

The second point is ethically mysterious. A decisive act of judgment takes the place of the battle contemplated by the Beast and the Kings. The two leaders and misleaders of the infatuated Antichristian host, the Beast and the False Prophet, are seized. That which seizes them seems to be a judgment of madness, for they are cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. For them, hell begins in this life; the fire of the fuel in which they have wrapped themselves, surrounds them on all sides—a flame of infinitely wild, fanatical agitation, doomed, in consequence of its absolute worthlessness, to form the pool of a mortal and dead stagnation—the unprogressive and eternally monotonous movement in a circle, or the fiery whirlpool of phrases and curses. In the case of the False Prophet, his guilt is once more noted, in explanation of his judgment; the most bitter reminiscences cling to the perfidy of his apostasy.

The third point is the judgment upon the followers of the Beast. They are not immediately cast into the fiery lake, but are for the time only killed. They are killed by the sword issuing from the mouth of Christ. They are morally judged and annihilated. What remains of them is a world of shadows, a sort of realm of the dead on the surface of this earth itself. All the birds become satiated with their flesh; i. e., all their sensuous and earthly possessions have lost their value and are decayed like the flesh strewed over a field of dead bodies. All the birds are satiated with their flesh; i. e., all the forces of metamorphosis are laboring for their transformation into a new shape. The fullness and manifoldness of the flesh to be devoured by the birds is vividly described in Revelation 19:18. A complete end is to be made of all this.

Though it might with reason be said that because the sun is the symbol of the revelation of salvation, the Angel of judgment, standing in the sun as the angel of the whole salvatory development of Revelation, indicates the hour when the work of the revelation of salvation is entirely completed, when the world clock of the history of salvation in this world has run down—we must not overlook the fact that this moment must coincide with the perfect ripeness of our cosmical system, and that, consequently, a catastrophe must start from the centre of our cosmical system, as well as from the focus of our religious moral system. The harvest of the earth and the harvest of the Kingdom of God coincide, in accordance with the parallelism between spirit and nature, as is declared in the Eschatological Discourse of our Lord ( Matthew 24:29), although the Day of the Harvest, the Last Day, stretches out into an æon of a thousand years in a symbolical sense.

The birds of the heaven have, in typical preludes, often been invited to similar feasts upon the slaughter fields of history ( Deuteronomy 28:26; Jeremiah 7:33; Jeremiah 16:4; Ezekiel 39:17). In this fact there is not only an expression of irony concerning the vanity of earths glory, but also an expression of the triumph of life over death. The Kingdom of God is acquainted with a transformation of matter; it Isaiah, however, of another and higher sort than that of which modern materialists talk; it does not lie under the curse of an eternal rotation, but Isaiah, on the contrary, under the law of the highest life, which changes this lower world of becoming into the eternal world of the City of God.

b. The Millennial Kingdom

The prophecy of the thousand years of Christ’s reign on earth Isaiah, in and for itself, a true pearl of Christian truth and knowledge, because it throws light upon an entire series of difficult Christian conceptions.

In the first place, it mediates an understanding of the Last Day, in that it shows how the latter expands into a Divine Day of a thousand years, in a symbolical sense, i.e., a specific æon; and thus it also casts light backwards upon the import of the days of creation.

Secondly, it mediates the understanding of a catastrophe which is to divide between this life and the life to come, time and eternity, the world of becoming and the world of consummation, in that it shows how the great and mighty contrast is harmonized by an æonic transition-period, in perfect accordance with the laws of life and vital development, as was clearly explained by Irenæus (see Dorner, Geschichte der Christologie, p243).

Especially does it mediate the fact of the resurrection, in that it represents a first resurrection as preceding the general resurrection, in harmony with the Apostle Paul ( 1 Corinthians 15:23). Thus the resurrection is characterized as an affair of growth or progress, conditioned upon spiritual circumstances. In accordance with this, we apprehend the fact that even in this life the believer advances towards the resurrection ( Philippians 3:11); that a resurrection-germ gradually develops within him ( Romans 8.); that the beginnings of the resurrection commence with his removal into the other world ( 2 Corinthians 6.); that believers, in their ripening towards the resurrection, are, as blossoms of the general resurrection, a whole æon in advance of the rest of mankind—a fact which is also indicative of a higher form of resurrection; and that Christ must needs have been the firstling and the principle of the whole resurrection ( Ephesians 1:20).

Thus also the great antithesis is explained which must necessarily exist between the original transruption (Durchburch) of sin or the curse in humanity and the final transruption (Durchburch) of salvation and blessing. As, in the primitive age, pneumatic corruption was for a long time hindered in its outbreak by the resistance of healthy vital substance in the psychical, somatic and cosmical sphere, so in the New Testament time, pneumatic salvation in humanity has had to struggle long with the resistance of evil in the psychical, somatic and cosmical sphere. With the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom, however, begins the transruption of the blessing, in opposition to the old transruption of the curse.

Whilst, on the one hand, the communication of believing humanity with Heaven and its pure spirit-world is spiritually consummated by the Parousia of Christ, and destined to be also physically consummated, the communication between the spiritual sphere of earth and the Satanic sphere of the abyss, on the other hand, is discontinued:—in the first place, because the organic mediators of Satanic operations, the Beast and the False Prophet, as also Great Babylon, are judged and destroyed. Though at the close of the great transition-æon Satan again obtains a foot-hold on the earth, it is the last convulsive struggle of the serpent-nature manifesting itself in a brutal mutiny, which, for the very reason that it is veiled under no spiritual pretexts, like former Satanic efforts, but is the issue of consummate boldness and insolence, is blasted, not by Christological weapons, but by the fire of the Almighty from Heaven.

But of this great effulgent picture of the Millennial Kingdom, the lack of patience and hope in the Christian sphere ( Romans 8:24-25) has made the most manifold caricatures.

We distinguish the caricatures of real Song of Solomon -called Chiliasm; the caricatures of the spiritualistic denial of Chiliasm, even to the misapprehension of its primal type—according to this class, the Apocalypse itself is chiliastic, and the same character is finally attributed to the concrete Christian hope; finally, the caricatures of the Millennial Kingdom which were produced by placing it in the past or the present (see the Introduction).

True Chiliasm existed, so far as its element was concerned, long before the doctrinal forth-setting of the χίλια ἔτη, whence it takes its name. It is based upon the great family failing of all Judaizing Christianity; to such Christianity, the cross of Christ is still, more or less, an offence; to such Christianity, the redemption accomplished in the first Parousia of Christ is unsatisfying, and the centre of gravity of the redemption is consequently regarded as situate in the second Parousia, when Christ shall appear in His glory, and shall also promote His people to the state of glory. This Judaizing Christianity has no understanding of the principial completion of redemption in its depth and inwardness; hence, only in the final, peripheral redemption does it behold the true redemption. According as its ideals of glory are nobler or more base, its eschatological hopes assume a purer or an impurer form, so that a perfect scale of Chiliasms is formed, stretching from an anticipation of the sensuous glorification of Israel to the most carnal orgies in pre-celebration of the return of Christ. This is material Chiliasm proper. It has been rejuvenated in three Anglo-American sects of our own time. The element of truth which is perverted into falsehood and extravagance in it, is the Christian and Biblical expectation of the real, and in a religious sense ever near, coming of Christ. 48]

But material Chiliasm early sought and found a formal supplement, in that it boldly converted the words of the Apostle Peter ( 2 Peter 3:8)—words which, spoken with reference to Psalm 110:4, were designed as a counteraction against chiliastic impatience—into a chronological article of doctrine, in which it believed that it had discovered the key to the computation of the time of Christ’s coming. A Judaizing presupposition was here involved—viz., that God’s historical work of salvation would arrive at completion in a Divine week, reflected in the human week. To this was added later the further assumption, that at the first coming of Christ the world had been in existence for about four thousand years. Upon these bases men reckoned, and determined the time of the second Advent. Here another arbitrary assumption arose, converting the Millennial Kingdom into the real Sabbath of God, though the latter is to last forever, whilst the Apocalyptic æon appears as a mere transition-period. In many respects, this formal Chiliasm, whence the system has its name, was subservient to material Chiliasm; in many other respects, however, especially in more modern Theology, formal Chiliasm, as a theological subtilty, detached itself entirely from material tendencies, although it continued to be afflicted with the material infirmity of a somewhat superficial and extravagant conception of the history of salvation.

In face of all these Judaizing conceptions, the spiritualistico-ethnical conception has always considered itself bound, not only to combat true, sensuous Chiliasm, but also to controvert, or at least cast a shade upon, its assumptions—the expectation of the real coming of Christ, for instance; and it has especially felt itself obliged to cast the reproach of Chiliasm upon the putative originator of the same, the Apocalypse. And this, particularly, on account of the thousand years, the χίλια ἔτη. The Tales of a Thousand and One Nights might, with about equal justice, be denominated a chiliastic composition.

A turbid mixture of both one-sided views is formed by the placing of the Millennial Kingdom in the course of Church History. In reference to this mixed form, we can distinguish two species. Mediæval Catholicism beheld in the Romish Church the actualized Kingdom of God itself, especially in respect of the papal system. The Old Lutheran orthodox dating back of the Millennial Kingdom into the Middle Ages—a view recently revived by Hengstenberg—was a fruit of the stunting of Eschatology in the era of the Reformation, especially in adherence to utterances of Luther’s. We here refer partly to the history of the interpretation of the Apocalypse, as already presented by us, partly to the following exegesis in detail.

The singular opinion of Stier and others, that there is to be a double Parousia, one at the beginning and the other at the end of the Millennial Kingdom, seems desirous of conjoining Song of Solomon -called “Chiliasm” with the older orthodoxy. 49]

With the judgment upon the spiritual motive powers of the Beast, with the destruction of his powerful lies, Satan has lost his foot-hold within the infatuated human race—his right of naturalization, we might say, in this earthly sphere. He is therefore cast into the abyss. An Angel descends from Heaven to execute God’s sentence upon him. The office of this Angel reminds us of the offices of Michael; his name, however, is not mentioned. He has the key to the abyss—not simply to the pit of the abyss; this key he has in order that he may shut the abyss, i. e. entirely shut off Satanic influences from men for the time of the thousand years. This power, however, is connected with the moral fact that all the spiritual pretences contained in the Satanic illusive promise, eritis sicut deus, are destroyed by the beauteous reality of the great appearance of the Kingdom. All that Satan falsely promised concerning the path of impatience and guilt, is here attained in the path of pious patience: fullness of blessing, happiness, glory of life of every sort. Thus Satan has come to the end of his Latin, and needs, agreeably to the serpent’s tenacity of life, a thousand years to contrive the last desperate stroke of senseless heaven-storming—a procedure which is reported to have been the first act of the revolted Titans of Grecian story. 50] And for this last rebellion a further existence is granted him, for the judgment upon him must be complete. His existence during the thousand years, however, consists in a sojourn in the abyss, betwixt death and damnation (the Realm of the Dead [Hades] and Gehenna), fastened to the chain which the Angel brings with him from Heaven. He has now made an open show of his entire nature, and is therefore called by his various forms and titles, except that the appellation of Accuser is no longer given to him—although even this name is contained in the διάβολος. The condemnatory sentence is executed in four acts which follow each other in rapid succession. He is seized, cast chained (not chained to any object external to himself, but hand to hand, 2 Peter 2:4) into the abyss, shut in, and sealed. The seal is the symbolic expression for the appointed Divine doom upon him, and is more powerful in its effect than the seal with which the grave of Jesus was sealed. The purpose of all this is that he may not prematurely seduce the heathen, the remnants of heathenism which still constitute the old border of the new world that is in process of becoming.

This, then, is the negative side of the Millennial Kingdom. The positive side appears in three features: 1] The first resurrection, 2] the first judgment of restitution, 3] the first period of imperishable triumphal rest and rejoicing and unfading glory in the fellowship of Christ. The first resurrection is represented as a special reward of the faithfulness of Christ’s martyrs—above all, the martyrs of the last time, who have not worshipped the Beast; hence these latter constitute a particular class by the side of those slain at an earlier period. They stand in the fore-ground, as representatives of the Victorious Church (see 1 Corinthians 15:23); but we must recollect that this Church is itself of greater extent than here appears. For Christ has come with the hosts of Heaven, according to Revelation 19:14; according to the Epistle of Jude ( Revelation 19:14), He is to come with His myriads of saints. With the sphere of this resurrection, the full liberation of the life-power on the sanctified earth is expressed (see Isaiah 65:13 sqq.). The second sphere is the sphere of the preliminary judgment. For the Seer, this occupies the foreground, since Christian longing cries for the removal of all the shame and wrong which, in this world, weigh upon the name of Christ and Christians; hence the Seer first sees the thrones of judgment set. If we consider that the judgment upon the Antichristian host has already been held, and that the last judgment upon the last revolt, which is as yet but germinating deep in the darkness, cannot be anticipated, there results, as a middle domain of judgment, an instruction (Pädagogik) and discipline exercised by Heaven upon the human race, as extant at the Parousia, and thus sharing in the cosmical metamorphosis. It is that process of elimination and sanctification which must take place before the perfect appearing of the City of God on this earth; it is a judgment of peace, in accordance with Psalm 72and Matthew 19:28. The third sphere is the living and reigning with Christ in the glory of a spiritual life which dominates and clarifies all creaturely essence—the organization of earth for its union with Heaven. There is no trace here of an external restoration of Israel in the sense of a privileged people of God, or of a restoration of the Old Testament cultus in an inconceivable New Testament sublimation; unless we should apply the subsequent words, they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and the words the beloved City, to the support of such a theory—in which case the symbolism of the expression must necessarily be di-carded. We cannot suppose that there is to be a two-fold heavenly Jerusalem; and the one true Jerusalem is still in Heaven, whence, according to Revelation 21:2, it does not descend to earth until the end of the thousand years.

[THEORIES CONCERNING THE MILLENNIUM[FN51]]

By the American Editor

[The word Millennium means, etymologically, a thousand years, and may with propriety be used in reference to any period of that length. By common consent, however, the specific term The Millennium is employed to denote the period mentioned in Revelation 20:4-7. The theories on this subject that have been held in the Church are divisible into two classes—the Preterist and the Futurist—the former of which set forth that the origin of the Millennial period was in the past; the latter, that it is in the future. Each of these classes consists of two or three generic theories, the respective upholders of which differ amongst themselves on many specific points. It is proper to remark that in the following statement the writer has been greatly indebted to the work of Elliott.

a. Preterist Theories

I. The Augustinian. This theory is so styled as it was first propounded by the great Augustine in his Civitate Dei, Revelation 20:7-9. It has been upheld in all ages of the Church since its first promulgation, and in modern times by Wordsworth. Its main elements are—1. The period began at the first Advent, when Satan was bound and cast out of the hearts of true Christians and their reign over him (regnum militiæ) began: 2. The Beast symbolizes the wicked world, and its image a hypocritical profession: 3. The first resurrection is that of dead souls to spiritual life, 52] a resurrection continued in every true conversion throughout the period: 4. The thousand years is a symbolical expression of completeness appropriately indicating the entire period of the Messiah’s reign: 53] 5. This period to be followed by a new persecution of the Saints under Antichrist; the destruction of whose hosts by fire from heaven would be followed by the universal resurrection of the good and bad, and the general judgment; after which will begin, in heaven, the glorious period of the New Jerusalem.

II. The Grotian. This theory was first propounded by Genebrard in the 16 th Century; it found its chief advocates, however, in Grotius and Hammond. 54] It differs principally from the preceding in that it makes the reign of Saints to be, not that of the individual Christian in the domain of his own heart, but that of the Church in the world. The elements of this theory are—1. By the Beast is denoted Pagan Rome, whose destruction under Constantine was predicted in Revelation 21:2. The power of Satan was then broken, as was manifested in the establishment of the Christian religion as the religion of the State: 3. The Millennial period began in that establishment, it was continued through a thousand years to the 14 th Century, and closed with the attack on Christendom by the Ottoman Turks: 4. Gog and Magog denote the Mohammedan power, at the close of whose gradual destruction is to take place—the universal resurrection, the general judgment, and the eternal blessedness of the Saints in heaven. 55]

III. The Gippsian. This view, suggested by Mr. Gipps in1831, makes the beginning of the period synchronous with the rise of Papal Antichrist. It represents (according to Elliott) “ those who lived and reigned with Christ to be men endowed with the spirit of the early Antipagan martyrs, now revived, as it were, to testify for Christ: after which, at the end of the Beast’s and witnesses’ concurrent (!) Millennial reign, the second and glorious resurrection of the rest of the dead is to be fulfilled in the Jews’ conversion and restoration.”

b. Futurist Theories

IV. The Pre-Millennial. This theory, as to its general features, is the most ancient. It was held by the primitive Fathers, and has been taught with various specific modifications in all ages of the Church. Amongst its most prominent English speaking advocates, in modern times, are Mede, Caryll, Gill, Noell, Elliott, the Bickersteths, the Bonars, Alford, Lord, etc. The elements are that—1. The Millennium is to begin in a glorious personal advent of Christ, immediately after the destruction of Antichrist: 2. The binding of Satan is to be “an absolute restriction of the powers of hell from tempting, deceiving, or injuring mankind:” 3. The duration is to be one thousand years (literal or symbolical): 4. The resurrection is to be a literal resurrection of Saints of the preceding æon (either the martyrs, or the specially faithful, or the entire body): 5. The entire government of the earth is to be exercised by Christ and His risen and transformed Saints, the latter being ὡς ἄγγελοι ( Mark 12:25): 6. Under this government, all false religion having been put down, the Jews and all nations having been converted to Christ, Jerusalem being made the universal capital, righteousness, peace and external prosperity shall prevail throughout the earth: 7. At the close of this period, Satan having been loosed, there shall be a great apostasy, followed by (1) the destruction of the apostates, (2) the universal resurrection of the remaining dead of all dispensations, (3) the general judgment, (4) the consummation.

The principal variation amongst those who hold this theory are as to—1. The continuance of Christ on earth;—some holding that it is to be only for the establishment of the Kingdom; others that it is to continue more or less uninterruptedly throughout the whole period: 2. The duration, some holding that the thousand years are literal; others that they are symbolic: 3. The subjects of the resurrection;—some holding that they are all the saints; others that they are only the martyrs; others still, that they are the specially faithful, including the martyrs: 4. The relation of the Jews to the other nations;—some contending that they are to occupy a position of superiority; others denying or modifying this opinion.

V. The Post-Millennial. This theory, which is the one most generally adopted by English speaking Protestant Theologians, was first fully developed by Whitby. 56] Faber, Brown and Barnes have been amongst the most prominent of its advocates. The scheme as set forth by Whitby is as follows:—

“I. I believe that, after the fall of Antichrist, there shall be such a glorious state of the Church, by the conversion of the Jews to the Christian faith, as shall be to it life from the dead; that it shall then flourish in peace and plenty, in righteousness and holiness, and in a pious offspring; that then shall begin a glorious and undisturbed reign of Christ over both Jew and Gentile, to continue a thousand years during the time of Satan’s binding; and that, as John the Baptist was Elias, because he came in the spirit and power of Elias,—so shall this be the church of martyrs, and of those who had not received the mark of the Beast, because of their entire freedom from all doctrines and practices of the Antichristian Church, and because the spirit and purity of the times of the primitive martyrs shall return. And therefore—

1. I agree with the patrons of the Millennium in this, that I believe Satan bath not yet been bound a thousand years, nor will he be so bound till the time of the calling of the Jews, and the time of St. John’s Millennium.

2. I agree with them in this, that the true Millennium will not begin till the fall of Antichrist; nor will the Jews be converted till that time, the idolatry of the Roman Church being one great obstacle of their conversion.

3. I agree both with the modern and ancient Millenaries, that then shall be great peace and plenty, and great measures of knowledge and of righteousness in the whole Church of God.

I therefore only differ from the ancient Millenaries in three things:

1. In denying Christ’s personal reign upon earth during this thousand years; and in this both Dr. Burnet and Mr. Mede expressly have renounced their doctrine. 57]

2. Though I dare not absolutely deny what they all positively affirm, that the City of Jerusalem shall be then rebuilt, and the converted Jews shall return to it, because this probably may be collected from those words of Christ, Jerusalem shall be trodden down till the time of the Gentiles is come in, Luke 21:24, and all the prophets seem to declare the Jews shall then return to their own land, Jeremiah 31:38-40; yet do I confidently deny what Barnabas and others of them do contend for, viz.: that the temple of Jerusalem shall be then built again; for this is contrary not only to the plain declaration of St. John, who saith, I saw no temple in this new Jerusalem, Revelation 21:22, whence I infer there is to be no temple in any part of it; but to the whole design of the Epistle to the Hebrews, which is to show the dissolution of the temple-service, for the weakness and unprofitableness of it; that the Jewish tabernacle was only a figure of the true and the more perfect tabernacle which the Lord pitched, and not man; the Jewish sanctuary only a worldly sanctuary, a pattern, and a figure of the heavenly one into which Christ our High Priest is entered, Hebrews 8:2; Hebrews 9:2; Hebrews 9:11; Hebrews 9:23-24. Now, such a temple, such a sanctuary, and such service, cannot be suitable to the most glorious and splendid times of the Christian Church; and therefore the Apostle saith, The Lord God omnipotent, and the Lamb, shall be their Temple.

3. I differ both from the ancient and the modern Millenaries, as far as they assert that this shall be a reign of such Christians as have suffered under the heathen persecutors, or by the rage of Antichrist; making it only a reign of the converted Jews, and of the Gentiles then flowing in to them, and uniting into one Church with them.”

With the above presentation, post-millenarians, in the main, agree. The chief point of difference is as to the return of the Jews to their own land—some holding, with Whitby, that it is to take place; others, denying it. There are also differences as to—1. The nature of the Second Resurrection implied in Revelation 20:5,—some, with Vitringa, identifying it with the general resurrection of Revelation 19:12-13; others, as Whitby, Faber and Brown, explaining it as the uprising of Antichristian principles in the confederacy of Gog and Magog: 2. The New Jerusalem,—some, with Whitby, regarding it as relating to the Millennial condition of the Church; others, as Brown and Faber, understanding by it the post-millennial condition of blessedness and glory.—E. R. C.]

EXPLANATIONS IN DETAIL

Revelation 19:17. One angel standing in the sun.—“In the sun, because from this stand-point, fitted, as it also was, to the glory of the Angel, he can best call to the birds, flying ἐν μεσουρανήματι (Ewald I, De Wette, Hengstenberg, Ebrard, Volkmar).” Duesterdieck. If this were the motive for the position of the Angel, he might much better have taken his stand in the moon. His position in the sun has an import relative at once to the Kingdom of God and to the Cosmos. The sun, as Revelation, is the principle of the spirit-realm of this present life; the sun, as a celestial body, is the domain of this present Cosmos (see Syn. View; comp. Revelation 1:16; Matthew 24:29). Come, be gathered together.—See the citations above; comp. also Matthew 24:28. According to Düsterdieck, the slain λοιποί of Revelation 19:21 are the whole mass of the inhabitants of the earth. But whence, then, would come the mutineers at the end of the thousand years? The Eastern kings should also be distinguished from the ten kings. Gog and Magog have not yet joined the conflict. The λοιποί are, manifestly, the Antichristian host, from which the mass of earth’s inhabitants are still to be distinguished. Unto the great supper of God.—Antithesis to the Marriage-Supper of the Lamb. At the former, all the flesh of the fleshly-minded becomes a prey to the birds; at the latter, believers, as heirs of God, become heirs of all things.

Revelation 19:18. That ye may eat.—The prospective complete destruction of the hostile host is set forth in detail.

Revelation 19:19. And I saw the wild-beast.—The war-making, on the part of the Beast, is entirely of this world; it is a march, a drawing up in order of battle, the combatants being provided, perhaps, with the most terrible material weapons. But, opposed to them, stands an army of God, partially and predominantly as a host of spirits. And yet more, the στράτευμα of Christ stands contrasted, in its perfect unity, with the internally confused and divided στρατεύματα of the Beast. The attempt at an external conflict is immediately frustrated. The prophetic chiaroscuro resting upon this double array and battle cannot be brushed aside. It may only be gathered from the nature of the armies, that upon the side of Christ all the dynamic forces of spiritual humanity are concentrated, whilst upon the side of Antichrist demonic excitement may summon to its aid all the contrivances of craft and violence.

Revelation 19:20. And the wild-beast was taken.—In what way, is reserved for the future to make known. Since there is no mention made of any preceding battle, a spiritual process of dissolution is pre-supposed as taking place in the hostile army—especially a separation between the ringleaders and the Antichristian host, mediated by Divine terrors. And with him the false prophet.—In the crisis of the disunion between Babylon and the Beast, the False Prophet has espoused the side of the Beast; a view which is prepared by the general description in Revelation 8. It is a result of a failure to distinguish between the general judgment-picture of chap8. and the three subsequent pictures of judgment, when Ebrard seeks to distinguish between the pseudoprophet “in the sixth world-kingdom” and an analogous lying power in “the eighth world-power” (p507).

Cast alive into the lake of the fire.—See Revelation 20:10; Revelation 20:14 and chap Revelation 21:8. It is equally incorrect to apprehend Gehenna or the lake of fire as a mere internal condition of the damned, as to apprehend it purely as a cosmical region of punishment. A remark which is true concerning the Apocalyptic Heaven—viz., that it has the import of a spiritual region as well as a corresponding cosmical region—applies also, in antithesis to Heaven, in the first place to Hades, in the second place to the Abyss, and in the third place to Gehenna. Hengstenberg advances a marvellous view. “The term alive, without bodily death (comp. Revelation 19:21), confirms the idea that the Beast and the False Prophet are not human individuals, but purely ideal forms. A human individual cannot enter hell alive.” Against which Ebrard: “If the Beast and the lying Prophet be emblems of mere powers, we do not rightly know what the emblematic trait of being cast alive into the lake of fire can mean,” etc. “In Revelation 20:12 (comp. John 5:29) the wicked are raised from their graves and Revelation -united to their bodies expressly to the intent that they may be able to endure the flames of eternal torment ( Revelation 20:15) in their bodily natures as well as in their spirits.” But, little congruity as there is between purely ideal forms and the lake of fire and brimstone, there is as little necessity to make the possession of a body a preliminary condition of Gehenna suffering. When the lake of fire is called “the second death” ( Revelation 20:14), this fearful conception stretches, on the one hand, beyond ideal forms, and on the other, beyond a corporeal suffering by fire. De Wette judiciously remarks, in respect of the distinctions between the punishment of the two Antichristian forms and the punishment of Satan: “They are judged earlier than Satan—who, Revelation 20:3, is bound but for a thousand years—because their existence and activity have attained their end, whilst, on the other hand, Satan, by virtue of the course of development of things, still has a root in the world and must again make his appearance.” De Wette has, moreover, not apprehended the term alive as corporeally as Hengstenberg most strangely takes it in express connection with ideal forms. That the Beast and the False Prophet may be apprehended as collective personalities, is not to be denied; but neither is it to be denied that they converge into symbolically significant units. In the statement that they were cast alive into the lake of fire, it is doubtless intimated that they could fall under the judgment of Gehenna whilst still on earth. “Fire and brimstone,” remarks Hengstenberg, “as designations of hell torments, have already appeared in Revelation 14:10-11. The lake of fire and brimstone is first mentioned here, and then again spoken of in Revelation 20:10; Revelation 20:14-15; Revelation 21:8. As the fire and brimstone are suggestive of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha (comp. the remarks on Revelation 14:10), the inference is obvious that the Dead Sea is referred to as the earthly reflection of hell.” The term γεέννα, he further observes, is found neither in the Apocalypse nor the Gospel of John, whilst the first three Gospels have it. Ebrard remarks, in opposition to this, that though the Dead Sea owed its origin to a rain of fire and brimstone, it does not burn with brimstone, but consists of brackish water. As it is as little possible to doubt the identity of the two terms, lake (or, to use a word which seems to us more applicable, pool) of fire and Gehenna, as it is to doubt the distinction between Gehenna and Sheol, our next task must be to inquire into the origin of the idea of Gehenna. See Comm. on Matthew, p114 [Am. Ed.]; Mark, p90 [Am. Ed.]. If the Dead Sea were the foundation of this figurative principle of doctrine, distinct traces of the fact would necessarily be found in the Old Testament. Besides the fire of Gehinnom, we have, Isaiah 30:33, a stream of brimstone, equally without reference to the Dead Sea. Comp. the article Tophet in the Lexicons; also in Winer; see also Psalm 11:6. The marshes and sloughs by the side of the river of salvation ( Ezekiel 47:11) have also, doubtless, contributed to the completeness of the image. That the figure as a whole is an original idea of John’s, as a pool of fire, is evidenced by the opposite figure of the crystal sea. Moreover, the Dead Sea could not well have been employed as an image of hell, without giving rise to the idea that the people of Sodom fell under the judgment of damnation on the very occasion of their destruction—an idea which the Spirit of Scripture has avoided presenting. Comp. Matthew 11:23; 1 Peter 3:19; see our Introduction, p34. [See the Excursus on Hades, p 364 sqq.—E. R. C.]

Revelation 19:21. And the remnant.—The Antichristian host itself—not the whole remaining human race. They were slaini. e., according to Hengstenberg and Ebrard, they were not cast body and soul into the lake of fire, but they suffered only bodily death, whilst their souls went into Hades. “They are sent into hell,” observes Hengstenberg, “only at the universal judgment (comp. Revelation 20:12-15), that Isaiah, if they do not in the meantime, whilst they are in the intermediate state, attain unto salvation ( 1 Peter 3:19-20) as those who have committed only the sin against the Son of Prayer of Manasseh, and not that against the Holy Ghost.” It is questionable, however, whether the slaying of the whole Antichristian host should be apprehended literally or not. They are slain with the sword of the One sitting upon the horse.—As this sword goeth forth out of His mouth, we should, apprehending the words literally, have to assume that they were all stricken down by the word of Christ, like Ananias and Sapphira ( Acts 5). But if this were the case, it would be necessary that they should all have passed through the spiritual experiences of those two. This, however, is by no means supposable; on the contrary, great masses of them are seduced, infatuated, pitiable people—portions of them having even been impressed into the service of the Beast and the False Prophet. We therefore assume that they are slain in that they are, in a social respect, rendered absolutely null by that new order of things in the Millennial Kingdom which is instituted by the word of Christ, and, furthermore, that all those properties of theirs that have become utterly valueless (their flesh) become subjects of a metamorphosis in order to their incorporation into the new order of things. According to Düsterdieck, the slaying by the sword of Christ is but significant of a perfectly toil-less conflict [on the part of Christ]. According to Ebrard, the sword slays them as the word of omnipotence.

De Wette remarks on the entire section: “This grand picture of the downfall of Antichristianity has been much weakened by the historical exegetes.” Grotius finds here depicted the abolishment of idolatry by the Christian emperors of Rome, and refers Revelation 19:18 to the fall of Julian in the Persian war. The interpretation of Wetstein is the most petty and insignificant: “Vespasianus cum familia in Domitiano extincta, uti prius familia Cæsarum.” Ulrich refers this judgment to the unnatural death of persecutors of the Christians. Herder: “The leaders of the insurrection, Simon, the son of Gorion, and John, met with the fate here depicted.” For additional particulars see Düsterdieck, p545. From amongst other items we quote the following: “Corn. à-Lapide cites authors who relate concerning Luther that he killed himself, and that his funeral was attended not only by a multitude of ravens, but also by devils that came from Holland.”

Revelation 20:1-5

The Millennial Kingdom

This section is by Düsterdieck assigned to the third judgment. Manifestly, however, the Millennial Kingdom is the result of the second judgment. Apart from this, Düsterdieck has a remark which is well worthy of notice—viz.: that the order of succession of the individual acts of judgment is the reverse of that in which the Antichristian forms appear. Sequence of the manifestations of Antichristianity: Satan, the Beast with the False Prophet, the Woman. Sequence of the judgments: The Woman, the Beast with the False Prophet, Satan himself. This antithetic parallelism must not, however, be reckoned amongst the organic relations of the Apocalypse, unless we behold the revelation of evil in the corruption of the Woman sketched in the features of the False Prophet; a view which does, indeed, pass muster, insomuch as the False Prophet in the form of a lamb seems to represent the Woman herself.

Revelation 20:1. I saw an angel descending out of, etc.—Opposed to the spirit-form of Satan there must be a spirit-form from Heaven, just as Christ, the God- Prayer of Manasseh, stood opposed to Antichrist, the Beast. This spirit-form of the Angel has been most diversely interpreted (as Christ; the Holy Ghost; the Apostolate; Constantine the Great; Calixtus II.; Innocent III.; see De Wette, p183). As the fallen angel or star of remorse ([Verzweiflungsbusse] chap9) opens the pit of the abyss, so it is the Angel of consummate evangelic peace, the Angel of the developed bliss of justification, of blessedness in the Parousia of Christ, who, descending from Heaven, can cast Satan into the abyss, because he has destroyed all his points of appliance in humanity, with the exception of the one consisting of the suppressed rancor of mob-nature, which finally breaks out in Gog and Magog. We have here, therefore, an angelic form representative of the polemical victorious operation of the peace of Christ—a Michaelic form. This is evident from the further fact that he has the key of the abyss.—In accordance with Revelation 1:18, Christ has the key of death and the realm of the dead [Hades]. We have already seen that the abyss forms the deepest border-region of the realm of the dead; it is contiguous to Gehenna, which latter is not ready for the reception of its guests until the time of the universal judgment. Consequently, Christ possesses the key to the abyss likewise, and hence it is evident that the Angel is significant of a fundamental form of the operation of Christ. And a great chain.—The concrete means of fettering Satan—and that, completely, and for a very long time. This is the power of the Spirit of grace and truth, making the genius of malice and falsehood powerless to injure for a whole æon. The key to the pit of the abyss ( Revelation 9:1) must not be confounded with the key to the abyss simply. Nothing is more erroneous than, with Ewald, to identify the fallen star ( Revelation 9:1 sqq.) with this Angel. We translate in his hand, instead of on his hand (ἐπί), for it is not good German to say, a chain on his hand. 1] As a matter of course, the chain is not all contained within the closed hand.

Revelation 20:2. And he laid hold on the dragon.—Great and irresistible turn of sentiments in the spirit-world, concretely expressed—the more so since the consummate spiritual operations likewise become real dynamic operations. That [or the] ancient serpent.—See Syn. View. Comp. Revelation 12:9. And bound him a thousand years.—The thousand years are a symbolic number, denoting the æon of transition. The millennial binding of Satan is the preliminary condition of the Millennial Kingdom. Those who deny the demonic origin of sin, deriving sin exclusively from the sensual or material nature of Prayer of Manasseh, here meet with a mighty contradiction to their theory. But, on the other hand, those who refer all evil to Satan cannot explain the loosing of the latter.

Revelation 20:3. And cast him into the abyss.Revelation 9:1; Revelation 11:7; Revelation 17:8. A more general idea, is presented in 2 Peter 2:4, where it is declared that the fallen angels have been cast down to Tartarus, in chains of darkness, held fast or preserved unto judgment. For, first, Tartarus is a more general term for the whole sub-terrestrial region; secondly, the term ταρταροῦν is indicative of a hurling away with a constant tendency toward Tartarus; thirdly, the bonds of darkness are those self-perplexings, self-enchainings of evil which impel toward Tartarus; fourthly, the judgment is in prospective here only as a certain future. The various statements concerning the abode of the Devil and bad spirits may readily, if pressed as to the letter of the Scripture, be involved in contradictions, as has been evidenced by Strauss, for instance (see the author’s Positive Dogmatik, p572). But as we must needs distinguish between the dwelling-places and spheres of operation of spirits, so likewise is it necessary to distinguish between the different stages of their history. The abyss may indeed be regarded as the proper dwelling-place of Satan and the fallen angels, inasmuch as it, as the specific region of God-estranged rancor and grief, or despair, denotes the transition from the realm of the dead to hell, or from the sadness of death to damnation. The realm of the dead is only more tormented through the operations of demons than the human world (brooks [E. V.: floods] of Belial [ Psalm 18:4]); but hell is prepared for the Devil and his angels as the region of final punitive suffering ( Matthew 25:41). But as Satan is not at home with himself, neither does he stay at home ( Judges 6); by nature he is excursive and rambling ( Job 2:2), given to appearing and disappearing, fond of roving about (hence Azazel)—i. e., modes of existence and spheres of operation are to be distinguished especially here. In this relation, Scripture distinguishes Heaven as the pure domain of spirits ( Job 1, 2; Revelation 7; Luke 10:18); earth, especially the atmospheric sphere, as the sphere of sympathetic and antipathetic worldmoods,—and in reference to this sphere of operation, it distinguishes the forms of the serpent, or hypocritical craft ( Matthew 4; 2 Corinthians 11:14), and the roaring lion of terroristic might ( 1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 8). The import of the judgment upon Antichrist is that Satan is cast entirely out of the sphere of earth for a thousand years, and shut up in his true home, the abyss.

Shut and sealed over him.—Expressive of the inviolable Divine determination, manifest in the equally unshakable Divine operation. Likewise an antitype of the impotent sealing of Christ’s grave on the part of hell and the world.—After these he must be loosed.—This also is a Divine decree—a decree, however, conditioned by the ethical design of causing the remnants of evil, of heathenism, in the sphere of Christ’s Kingdom, to appear, and thereby destroying them.—A little time.Little from the stand-point of triumphant faith. See Revelation 17:10.

Revelation 20:4-5. Fundamental Traits of the Millennial Kingdom.

And I saw thrones.—According to Düsterdieck, the θρόνοι “do not come under consideration as kings’ thrones (Eichhorn, Züllig), but only as judges’ seats (Heinrich, Ewald, De Wette, Hengstenberg, etc.),” as is shown (he declares) by the prefigurement of Daniel 7:9, 2] 22, and the κρίμα, expressly mentioned in our passage also. But what then is the force of the words: They shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him [ Revelation 20:6]? Christ Himself also is amongst the sitters on the thrones as their centre. Moreover, the κρίμα can be understood only in the Old Testament sense, as significant of a princely judicial rule, since the special judgment upon the Antichristian world has been previously executed. It is highly characteristic that the thrones constitute the foreground of the picture. They are significant of the beginning of the Church Triumphant in this world—the visible appearance of the Kingdom of God. Distinct as is the presentment of the thrones themselves, of their occupants it is indefinitely said: and they sat down [seated themselves] upon them. Who are meant by they? According to Beza, Eichhorn, Ebrard, et al., the martyrs mentioned further on; this view is opposed by De Wette and Düsterdieck. The context also is against it. First, John saw the thrones and those who seated themselves upon them, and then the beheaded ones who revived and reigned with Christ. We must not forget, however, that Christ has not come alone from Heaven, but that He was accompanied by a chosen army ( Revelation 19:14). Without doubt, the occupants of the thrones are those who form the peculiar escort of the Lamb ( Revelation 14:4); who even in this world, as sealed ones, constituted the kernel of the Church of God ( Revelation 7), the proper centre of which is formed by God’s men of revelation [i. e. God’s revealers], particularly the Apostles (ch Revelation 21:14). In considering their position toward Christ, however, something more than mere martyr faithfulness or even mere historic dignity as Prophets or Apostles comes in view—namely, the endowment and destination of the Father, the special electness lying at the base of the special glory. These mysterious co-regents of Christ (comp. also Matthew 5:9) have been very variously interpreted (God and Christ; the Angels; the Apostles; the Martyrs; the saints, Daniel 7:22; the twenty-four Elders [De Wette and Düsterdieck]; Hengstenberg, “the twelve Apostles and the twelve Patriarchs”). Here, however, we have no longer to do with forms that are partially typical [the Elders]; we will simply say: those who in a special sense have been inwardly endowed as joint-heirs with Christ, seated themselves upon the thrones.

And judgment was given unto them.—This κρίμα cannot possibly refer to Revelation 20:1-3 and Revelation 19:20-21, as Ebrard maintains, since in those passages the sentence of judgment was decided by war, and the execution of judgment was a very brief process. We should hardly expect that Antichrist or Satan himself would have to be sentenced through a trial by jury.

The judgment may be regarded primarily as a two-fold decision—a decision concerning those who are still living (who were not in the Antichristian army), as to whether their lives shall be preserved throughout the thousand years; and a decision concerning those who were beheaded, as to how far they are worthy of being called to the first resurrection. Nevertheless, the antithesis of life and death is now, in a high degree, dynamically, psychically and ethically modified (see Isaiah 65:20), i. e. dying and reviving are effects which proceed from within. In general, however, the entire æon is to be conceived of as an æon of separations and eliminations in an ethical and a cosmical sense, separations and eliminations such as are necessary to make manifest and to complete the ideal regulations of life. Of judgments of damnation between the judgment upon Antichrist and the judgment upon Satan, there can be no question; the reference can be only to a critical government and management, preparatory to the final consummation. The whole æon is a crisis which occasions the visible appearance of the Heaven on earth; the whole æon is the great Last Day. We may even conceive of the mutiny which finally breaks out as a result of these separations, for a sort of protest on the part of the wicked was hinted at by Christ in His Eschatological Discourse ( Matthew 25:44), and the most essential element of the curse in hell is the continuance of revolt, the gnashing of teeth. To the degree in which this can decrease, torment can approach indifference. Opinions concerning this judgment are marvellously at variance.

According to Augustine, the reference is to a judgment upon the old earth: Sedes Præpositorum et ipsi Præpositi intelligendi sunt, per quos ecclesia gubernatur. According to Hoë, on the other hand, the judgment relates to Heaven itself, as a theological disclosure as to the fate of the souls of the martyrs and others in Heaven, during the thousand years. According to Piscat, De Wette, et al., “the probable idea is that the judgment now held has to decide as to who are worthy to have part in the first resurrection and the Millennial Kingdom.”

And (I saw) the souls of them, etc.—Two main points modify the entire picture: a. The thrones; b. The souls of the martyrs. As these were cut off from the most lively life by a violent death, they abode nearer to life than other dead persons; their more intimate communion with Christ produced the resurrection principle within them; and as men upon whom the ban of the world pre-eminently fell, they must be pre-eminently honored in the Kingdom of God [als die vorzugsweise Geächteten müssen sie die vorzugsweise Geachteten des Reiches Gottes sein]. As beheaded, they also accompany Christ from the other world, and though it cannot be said that their category precisely coincides with that of the occupants of the thrones, neither can it be affirmed that they may not be amongst those enthroned ones. The Seer distinguishes three categories of the participants in the first resurrection, or those “that are Christ’s in His Parousia” ( 1 Corinthians 15:23). First, the sitters on the thrones; secondly, the martyrs generally, who were beheaded for Christ’s sake; thirdly, all the faithful of the last time, who have worshipped neither the Beast nor his image, nor have assumed his mark. These are the macrobii of the last time, who sleep not, but are changed ( 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 2 Corinthians 5:4-5; 1 Thessalonians 4:17). Over and above these, as a fourth category, are the remnants of the old humanity that have not belonged to the Antichristian army; the inhabitants of the domain of Gog and Magog, who find themselves only in the periphery of the renewing crisis. It was perhaps on account of the third class that the Seer employed the term ἔζησαν. But even if this Isaiah, with reason, made emphatic: they revived—lived again (=ἀνέζησαν, De Wette), it does not prove that we should regard the last [third] class (consisting of those who are alive at the time of Christ’s appearing), with Düsterd, et al., as having likewise died in the mean time. The expression, [ Revelation 20:5] but the rest of the dead, finds its antithesis in the martyrs; and the transformation, as well as the awakening, shall lead to the first resurrection.

Revelation 20:5. The rest of the dead, etc.—That Isaiah, those not pre-eminently animated by the principle of the life of Christ, not led toward the first resurrection ( Romans 8:17 sqq.; Ephesians 1:19; Philippians 3:11), and therefore a whole æon deeper under the power of death.

This is the first resurrection.—With these words the Seer constitutes that entire resurrection-process which begins with the Parousia of Christ, a distinct dogmatical conception. We have already discussed the gloriousness and naturalness of this conception. The manifold evasions of this idea, this Christian hope, seem like a general horror—not, however, a horror vacui, but a horror vitæ et spiritus.

In regard to the thousand years, the number, as has already been observed, is symbolical, like all other apocalyptic numbers; it denotes an æon, and is specifically the transition-æon between this present world and the world to come. “The Jews indicate the duration of the Messianic Kingdom by different numbers; according to R. Elieser, however, the days of the Messiah amount to a thousand years; this opinion is based upon the statement, Isaiah 63:4, ‘the day of vengeance was in my mind’ [E. V. is in mine heart], and the further declaration, Psalm 90:4, ‘a thousand years in Thy sight are as yesterday,’ etc. The weightier reason of the Ep. Barnab. c. xv. might be added to this, that as God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day, so in six thousand years all things would be consummated and in the last chiliad a great world-Sabbath would be celebrated.” (De Wette.)

The slavish dread of Chiliasm felt by the Old Catholic Church and the mediæval Theology, amounting to an avoidance of the misunderstood Apocalypse itself and a dread of the historical sense of its text, whilst the Old Catholic Church and mediæval Theology were themselves sunk deep in material Chiliasm, has found expression in the most diverse interpretations, from Augustine down to Hengstenberg; there is a maximum of excuse for the beginning of the series, but scarcely a minimum for the end of it. On the course of the exegeses see pp 63 sqq. Likewise Düsterdieck, pp 554 sqq. In this exegetical party, the elder Lutheran Theology continues most involved in the toils of mediæval tradition. The slavish Theology of the letter has found a support in the view of John Gerhard in particular (Düsterd, p556). The Apocalypse, Gerhard declares, is a deutero-canonical book—the Kingdom of Christ will never on earth, not even at the end of the days, be one of external sovereignty (a sentiment dictated, doubtless, by a misunderstanding of Article XVII. of the Augsburg Confession)—all the dead are to arise in one day—there is to be but one general resurrection of the dead at the Parousia of the Lord. Accordingly, it is further stated, the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom probably falls in the time of Constantine—Gog and Magog are to be regarded as significant of the Turks. A partiality for this prejudiced tradition can in general be regarded only as the sad fruit of partyism. In regard to the view of Hengstenberg in particular, we refer primarily to the notices of Apocalyptic Literature, pp69 sq, 71.[FN3] The starting point of Hengstenberg’s view is by Rinck (Die Zeichen der letzten Zeit, p333) declared to be the assumption that the Beast can be understood only as the Pagan, not as the Christian, State. This assumption is a proof that Hengstenberg had no just conception of the idea of Antichristianity—which cannot possibly be a product of pure heathenism[FN4]—and no idea of the fall of an external State or Church. And yet according to the same commentator, Satan himself is at last to break forth—or rather has broken forth—immediately, (in a worse mode, therefore, than in the form of the Beast) in the midst of Christendom.

Many arguments employed by Hengstenberg in his article entitled, “The Song of Solomon -called Millennial Kingdom,” to be found in the second volume of his commentary, have a very ad hominem sound; for instance, the argument from the inscription on the dome of the royal castle. We are justified in assuming that Hengstenberg was more concerned for the credit of Christian Rome than for the credit of the Christian State (which appears not merely in German, but also in French, Romance, and Slavonic forms), in declaring that the Woman also should be apprehended exclusively as Pagan Rome. Furthermore, the text of the Apocalypse constantly suffers violence at the hands of Hengstenberg. The chaining of Satan ( Revelation 20:1-3) ill admits of an assignment to the Middle Ages—hence he explains: “Satan is able to ensnare individual souls during this time, but not the nations as a whole.” As if the individual souls of many princes and popes had not had a highly decisive influence in the working of their political and hierarchical systems—Machiavellism, the Inquisition, Dragonnades and the like. Again, the first resurrection, according to the same expositor, can not be apprehended as a bodily resurrection; it merely denotes the translation of the souls spoken of into that glorious intermediate condition in the other world, where they lived and reigned with Christ. ̔̀Εζησαν, he affirms, is not equivalent to ἀνέζησαν. But, manifestly, this coming to life is distinct from the blessed living-on in the other world (chs 7,14), and prominence is given to it as antithetic to the condition of the dead who did not become alive again during the thousand years. Hengstenberg arrived at a much wished-for result by dating the thousand years from Charlemagne; the loosing of Satan might thus be assigned to the time of the French Revolution and the movements connected therewith (see Hengst2, pp367,375 sqq. [Ger.]). A series of kindred and opposite constructions of the Millennial Kingdom see noted in De Wette, p189; Düsterd, p555.

According to Düsterdieck (pp 554 sqq.), the unbiased determination of the exegetical result of the text, and the theological estimate of it, based Upon the analogy of Scripture, are two different things. The Millennial Kingdom falls, according to him also, in the time immediately preceding the universal judgment—but he seems to be unable to reconcile the developed Apocalyptic Eschatology with the less developed Eschatology of the other Scriptures of the New Testament. If, however, the one day of the resurrection be regarded as a literal day, rather than as the symbolical term for a period; if one general resurrection of all the dead, in one day, as an immediate wonder of omnipotence, be regarded as more credible than the profound, organically modified idea of the gradational and hence double resurrection; and if a sudden annihilation of all evil at once, be considered more probable than the abolition of it by a succession of judgments;—the same method of interpretation should, if consistency be at all regarded, be employed in the case of the other portions of Holy Writ, though this would involve a reduction of the living Scripture either to the orthodoxy of the Seventeenth, or the rationalism of the Eighteenth Century—or a taking up with a compound of positive elements and ideal descriptions.

[NOTE ON THE FIRST RESURRECTION]

By the American Editor

[The writer believes that he cannot better begin this note than by the presentation of the views of two distinguished writers on the subject,—the one advocating the doctrine of a literal resurrection, the other defending the Song of Solomon -called spiritual view.

Alford, on Rev 20:4-5, thus comments:

“It will have been long ago anticipated by the readers of this Commentary, that I cannot consent to distort 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 for300 years, understood them in the plain literal sense; and it is a strange sight in these days to see expositors who are amongst 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 ἕζησαν at the first, and the rest of the νεκροὶ ἔζσαν only at the end of a specified period after that first,—if in 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;[FN5] but if the second is literal, then 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.”

Brown, whose work on the Second Advent Isaiah, confessedly, one of the ablest that has ever been published on his side of the question, devotes an entire chapter to the discussion of the Millennial Resurrection. It is of course impossible to reproduce the entire argument. The following, however, is presented as a perfectly fair synopsis thereof:

“If the question then be, Was this celebrated passage ( Revelation 20:4-6) designed to announce A literal and general resurrection of the Saints? The following appear to me to be strong

PRESUMPTIONS AGAINST IT

1. It is very strange that the resurrection of the righteous a thousand years before the wicked, if it be a revealed truth, should be directly and explicitly announced in one passage only.

2. If this was to be the chosen place for announcing such a prior resurrection, it is surely reasonable to expect that a clear and unambiguous revelation of it would be made. (Such a revelation he denies was made in the passage.)

3. If a resurrection of the righteous in general—as distinguished from the wicked—be the true sense of this prophecy, the description is very unlike the thing to be described. It is not in the least like any other description of that event in the New Testament. Every other description of the resurrection and glory of the saints as such is catholic in its character, while this is limited.

NINE INTERNAL EVIDENCES THAT THE MILLENNIAL RESURRECTION IS NOT LITERAL BUT FIGURATIVE[FN6]

1. If the first resurrection mean rising from the grave in immortal and glorified bodies, we do not need the assurance that on such the second death hath no power (v6), or in other words, that they shall not perish everlastingly. Can it be believed that the Holy Spirit means nothing more than such a truism? But suppose that the first resurrection signifies a glorious condition of mortal men, and the promise becomes intelligible.

2. There are but two alternatives in the prophecy—either to ‘have part in the first resurrection,’ or to be under the ‘power of the second death.’ Into which of these classes are we to put the myriads of men who are to people the earth, in flesh and blood during the millennium?

3. The express mention of how long this ‘life and reign with Christ’ will last, viz.: a thousand years, if meant to inform us what a long period of earthly prosperity the Church is yet destined to enjoy, is intelligible and cheering. But to say that the risen and glorified Church is to live and reign with Christ for a period of a thousand years, is totally unlike the language of Scripture in every other place.

4. By making the party that ‘live and reign with Christ a thousand years’ to he the entire Church of God risen from their graves, we are forced to do violence to the whole subsequent context. Thus—(1) The rest of the dead must be expected to live again in the same bodily sense ‘when the thousand years are finished.’ But we read of no bodily resurrection at all on the expiring of this period. Satan shall then be loosed out of prison, and when we consider the work he has to do, the little season of his deceiving the nations can hardly be overstretched by extending it to a century or so. This first millennial period is to be filled up with something else than bodily resurrections. It will indeed be employed in the raising of a wicked party. We read of no bodily resurrection until after its expiration: (2) None but the wicked would remain to be judged in the last judgment, which is inconsistent with the implication of the opening of the Book of Life ( Revelation 5:12).

5. (This argument is given in the language of Gipps, substantially as follows): The opening of the Book of Life ( Revelation 5:2) signifies the manifestation of those who are written in it. It is inconceivable that this manifestation can take place one moment before what is called the opening of the Book of Life. But the manifestation of the Sons of God will take place at their (bodily) resurrection, Romans 8:19; Romans 8:23. Their bodily resurrection, therefore, will not take place until the general resurrection of ( Revelation 5:2).

6. (Also in the language of Gipps): The omission of any declaration as to the sea, death and the grave, giving up the dead at the first resurrection, and the making such a declaration respecting ‘the dead’ in Revelation 20:13, convinces me that ‘the first resurrection’ is not that of the Saints, and also that the ‘dead’ in Revelation 20:12-13, include all mankind, both the saints and the ungodly. In every other part of the Word of God the information given concerning the resurrection of the saints is not only much more frequent, but also much more explicit, than concerning the resurrection of the ungodly. I feel convinced, therefore, that in this portion of the Scripture, if it were intended to foretell a resurrection of the saints distinct from that of the ungodly, much more explicit information would be given concerning the former than concerning the latter.

7. The clause ‘This is the first resurrection’ ( Revelation 20:5), which is thought to prove it literal, seems to me, if it prove anything, to prove the reverse. It is reasonable—say the premillennialists—to suppose that if the second or last resurrection be literal, the first will be so also—differing from the second only in time. Unfortunately fur this way of reasoning, what is said in the verse immediately following contradicts it: ‘Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second death hath no power’ ( Revelation 20:6). Here ‘the first resurrection’ and ‘the second death’ are intentionally brought together and contrasted. Is the first death, then, of the same nature with the second? Does one merely precede the other? No: the first death is that of the body, the second that of both body and soul; the first death is common to the righteous and the wicked, the second is the everlasting portion of the wicked and of them alone. To suffer the first death for Christ in made the ground (not, of course, the meritorious ground) of exemption from the power of the second death (see Revelation 2:10-11). Now as exemption from the power of the second death is here made to rest upon a certain character, namely, fidelity to Christ even to death, and in our millennial chapter exemption from the power of the same second death is made to rest upon participation in the first resurrection, is it not reasonable to conclude that this ‘first resurrection’ is meant to signify a certain character in the present life, and not the possession of bodily resurrection and glory? … To my mind this view of the first resurrection is put beyond doubt by the following words: ‘Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection.’ I cannot see what important information is conveyed by these words if ‘the first resurrection’ mean a restoration to bodily life. To tell us that saints risen from the dead, and reigning in glorified bodies with Christ, are holy, seems to me to be very unlike the language of Scripture every where else, and very superfluous.

8. It is a fatal objection to the literal sense of this prophecy, as announcing the bodily resurrection of all dead, and the change of all living saints, that it is exclusively a martyr-scene—the prophet beholding simply a resurrection of the slain, whereas this very circumstance eminently favors the figurative sense. The literal sense is utterly inadequate to express the resurrection of the whole Church of God bodily from the grave; the figurative sense is in consonance with the figurative language of Scripture (comp. Revelation 11:11; Ezekiel 37:12-14; Hosea 6:2; Isaiah 26:19; Isaiah 26:14), with that of the best writers in every language and age, and expresses a conception worthy of the Spirit of God to dictate.

9. The literal sense offers no consistent explanation of the ‘judgment that was given unto’ the slain martyrs. This judgment was clearly that referred to in Revelation 6:9 to Revelation 11:7 If this be correct, of course the slain and those who slew them, must be taken in the same sense. If the judgment is to be given to the martyrs personally at the millennium, their blood must also be personally avenged on them that dwell on the earth. If the martyrs are to rise bodily from their graves in order that judgment may be personally given to them, then their persecutors must be raised that vengeance may be rendered to them.”

The writer adopts the view of this celebrated passage that is advocated by Alford—the view that has been held in the Church from the earliest ages. It seems to be undeniable that this is the view that results from the normal interpretation of the passage,—a view that should not be set aside but for most cogent reasons. Whilst it is admitted that there is much apparent force in many of the considerations urged by Brown, it is submitted that they are not of sufficient force to overthrow the normal interpretation.

In continuance it should be remarked that the normal interpretation is in line with, and gives special and beautiful significance to, many otherwise inexplicable declarations in the word of God. An anonymous writer in a work entitled Creation and Redemption (Edinburgh: Thomas Laurie1866. Second Ed.) thus comments:

“It is incumbent on us here to say a few words on the subject of the First Resurrection, for there is a general impression that the belief in it rests solely upon this passage, ( Revelation 20:6). But this is a great mistake. The truth of a resurrection of some at a different time from that of the general resurrection, is evident from Scripture, independent of this passage in the Apocalypse. Omitting the passages from the Old Testament Scriptures, sustained by the promises of which the Old Testament worthies, as St. Paul says, suffered and served God in the hope of obtaining ‘a better resurrection’ ( Hebrews 11:35), we will state as briefly as may be the conclusion to which we are led by the words of the Lord and His Apostles.

Our Lord makes a distinction between the resurrection which some shall be counted worthy to attain to, and some not, Luke 20:3; Luke 20:5. St. Paul says there is a resurrection ‘out from among the dead’ (ἐξανάστασις) to attain which he strove with all his might as the prize to be gained, Philippians 3:11. He also expressly tells us, that while as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive; yet it shall not be all at once, but ‘every man in his own order; Christ the first fruits; afterwards they that are Christ’s at His coming.’ It is particularly to be remarked, that wherever the resurrection of Christ, or of His people, is spoken of in Scripture, it is a ‘resurrection from the dead;’ and wherever the general resurrection is spoken of, it is the ‘resurrection of the dead.’ This distinction, though preserved in many instances in the English translation, is too frequently omitted; but in the Greek the one is always coupled with the preposition ἐκ, out of, and the other is without it; and in the Vulgate it is rendered by à mortuis or ex mortuis, as distinct from resurrectio mortuorum. In Romans 8:11, ‘The Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead,’ it is ἐκ νεκρῶν, à mortuis. So in Romans 10:7; Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 1:3; 1 Peter 1:21. So Lazarus was raised ἐκ νεκρῶν, John 12:1; John 12:9. Our Lord, in His reply to the Sadducees, made the distinction between the general resurrection of the dead, and the resurrection which some should be accounted worthy to attain to. The children of this age (αἰῶνος) marry, but they who shall be accounted worthy to attain that αἰῶν, and the resurrection from the dead (ἀναστάσεως τῆς ἐκ νεκρῶν), shall not marry ( Luke 20:34-35). St. Paul, when he spoke of a resurrection to which he strove to attain ( Philippians 3:8; Philippians 3:11), and to which he was with all his might pressing forwards, as the high prize to gain which he was agonizing, and for which he counted all else loss, as if one preposition was not enough to indicate his meaning, uses it doubled, εἰς τὴν ἐξανάστασιν τὴν ἐκ νεκρῶν. ‘Si quomodo occurram ad resurrectionem, quæ est ex mortuis.’ If St. Paul had been looking only to the general resurrection, he need not have given himself any trouble, or made any sacrifice to attain to that; for to it, all, even Judas and Nero, must come; but to attain to the First Resurrection he had need to press forward for the prize of that calling. And thus in his argument for the resurrection in 1 Corinthians15 ( 1 Corinthians 15:12; 1 Corinthians 15:21), when he speaks of the resurrection generally, he speaks of the resurrection of the dead, (ἀνάστασιςνεκρῶν); but when he speaks of our Lord’s resurrection, it is ἐκ νεκρῶν, from the dead. And he marks the time when Christ’s people shall be raised from the dead, namely, ‘at Christ’s coming,’ ‘every man. in his own order;’ 1st, Christ; 2d, Christ’s people; 3d. all the remainder, at some other period, which he terms ‘the end,’ when the last enemy, death, is to be destroyed, put an end to ( 1 Corinthians 15:23-26). And it follows as a matter of course, that if those who are Christ’s are to be raised from the dead at His coming, and if He comes previous to the destruction of Antichrist, and to the millennium, this first resurrection must be at least a thousand years before the general resurrection.”—E. R. C.]

Footnotes:

FN#1 - In the text of the translation, the form of the Greek (επὶ τὴν χεῖρα αὐτοῦ=upon his hand) is preserved. The idea seems to be that the chain was, not held the hand, but looped over it.—E. R. C.]

FN#2 - The E. V. has here ( Daniel 7:9) “till the thrones were cast down;” the Germ. has “bis dass Stühle gesetzt wurden,”=until seats (or thrones) were set.—Tr.]

FN#3 - On Kraussold (Das tausendjährige Reich) see Düsterdieck, p658. Lutharde, in his work entitled, Die Offenb. Joh., recognizes the futurity of the Millennial Kingdom. Grau, on the other hand, in his lecture on the Contents and Import of the Revelation of John (in Zur Einführung in das Schriftthum N. T.), deals in generalities previous to Revelation 20.

FN#4 - Hengstenberg it is manifest, has entirely lost the idea of Antichristianity by his Eschatology. If Antichristianity is summed up in the Beast, it is also abolished in company with the Beast. Consequently, there can no longer be any Antichristianity. And therefore, according to Hengstenberg, the final outbreak of Satan results in a new heathenism in the original sense of the term. But the world can not fall back into pure heathenism at the end of the days; Antichristianity can be formed only from elements of decomposed Christianity—Christianity that is converted into mighty lies ( 2 Thessalonians 2).

FN#5 - Whitby, Faber and Brown, all distinguish between the second resurrection implied, Revelation 20:5, in the words the rest of the dead, etc., and the general resurrection brought to view in Revelation 20:12-13. Whilst they admit that this general resurrection is literal, they contend that both the first and second millennial resurrections are spiritual,—the former signifying a resuscitation of the martyr spirit at the beginning of the thousand years: the latter, the Revelation -vivification of the spirit of evil in the hosts of Gog and Magog.

Barnes agrees with these commentators save in the last particular. He understands, however, by the rest of the dead the ordinarily pious. He writes: “But the rest of the dead. In contradistinction from the beheaded martyrs, and from those who had kept themselves pure in the times of great temptation. The phrase ‘rest of the dead’ here would most naturally refer to the same general class which was before mentioned—the pious dead. The meaning Isaiah, that the martyrs would be honored as if they were raised up and the others not; that Isaiah, that special respect would be shown to their principles, their memory, and their character. In other words, special honor would be shown to a spirit of eminent piety during that period, above the common and ordinary piety which has been manifested in the church. The ‘rest of the dead’—the pious dead—would indeed be raised up and rewarded, but they would occupy comparatively humble places, as if they did not partake in the exalted triumphs when the world should be subdued to the Saviour. Their places in honor, in rank, and in reward, would be beneath that of those who in fiery times had maintained unshaken fidelity to the cause of truth, ¶ Lived not. On the word lived, see Notes on ver4. That Isaiah, they lived not during that period in the peculiar sense in which it is said ( Revelation 20:4,) that the eminent saints and martyrs lived. They did not come into remembrance; their principles were not what then characterized the church; they did not see, as the martyrs did, their principles and mode of life in the ascendency, and consequently they had not the augmented happiness and honor which the more eminent saints and martyrs had.”—E. R. C.]

FN#6 - Brown thus disposes of a common objection (first urged by Whitby) to the literal view: “It is frequently urged that because ‘souls’ (ψυχαὶ) were seen in this vision, and no mention is made of bodies, it cannot be a bodily resurrection that is meant. But this is to mistake what the Apostle saw in the vision. He did not see a resurrection of souls. He saw ‘the souls of them that were slain:’ that Isaiah, he had a vision of the martyrs themselves in the state of the dead—after they were slain, and just before their resurrection. Then he saw them rise: ‘They lived’—not their souls, but themselves.”—E. R. C.]

FN#7 - Is it not rather probable that κρίμα was used in the sense in which it was employed, Matthew 7:1; John 9:39; Romans 2:2-3; and that the sentence means, that to he saints, as kings, was given the authority to judge?—E. R. C.]

FN#30 - Crit. Eds. give ἔνα with A. P1, et al; it is om. by B.*—E. R. C.]

FN#31 - Crit. Eds. read συνάχθητε with א. A. B*. P, et al., instead of καὶ συνάγεσθε—E, R. C.]

FN#32 - Crit. Eds. give τὸ δεῖπνον τὸ μέγα with א. A. B*. P. instead of τοῦ μεγάλου with1, 36, 49, 79.—E. R. C.]

FN#33 - These articles do not occur in any Cod, nor are they required by the English idiom.—E. R. C.]

FN#34 - Crit. Eds. generally give ἐλευ. τε καί with א. A. B*. P. et al.—E. R. C.]

FN#35 - The reference, doubtless, is to the war predicted chs. Revelation 16:14; Revelation 17:14.—E. R. C.]

FN#36 - Lach, Treg, Tisch. (8th Ed.) read καὶ μετ̓ αὐτοῦ with א. P.; Alf. brackets οἱ before μετ̓ with A.; Tisch. (1859) reads καὶ μετ’ αὐτοῦ with B*.—E. R. C.]

FN#37 - Revelation 20:2. Cod. A. gives the nominative ὄφις ἀρχαῖος. Codd. B, et al. give the accusative, which is more in accordance with the text. [Lach, Alf, Treg, Tisch. give the nom. with A.; the acc. is supported by א. B, et al—E. R. C.]

FN#38 - Revelation 20:3. Lach. [Alf, Treg.] and Tisch. 1859] give ὅς ἐστιν διάβολος καὶ σατανᾶς in acc. with A. B. et al. Cod. א gives the article both times with perfect propriety. [Tisch. (8th Ed ) gives εστιν διάβολος καὶ Σατανᾶς; the pronoun before ἐστιν, and also the article before διάβολος, with א—E. R. C.]

FN#39 - Revelation 20:3. Codd. א A. B, et al. omit αὐτόν after ἔκλεισεν.

FN#40 - So read Lach, Alf, Treg. Tisch. (8th Ed.), with א. A.; Gb, Sz, Tisch. (1859) give πλανᾷ with B*.—E. R. C.]

FN#41 - Crit. Eds. omit καί with א. A. B*.—E. R. C.]

FN#42 - The force of ἐκάθισαν can be presented only by the phrase sat down. Lange translates seated themselves.—E. R. C.]

FN#43 - Crit. Eds. read οὐδέ with א. A. B*. et al.—E. R. C.]

FN#44 - Crit. Eds. generally omit αὐτῶν after μέτοπον in acc. with א. A. B*., Vulg, et al.—E. R. C.]

FN#45 - Revelation 20:4. The article τά before χίλια should be omitted. [The article occurs in B*.; it is omitted, however, by Crit. Eds. with א. A. et al.—E. R. C.]

FN#46 - Lach, Alf, Tisch, omit the copula with A, Clem, Amos, Fuld, Tol, Lips.; Treg. reads καὶ οἱ λοιποί with B.* 1, 38, 91, 95, Memph.—E. R. C.]

FN#47 - Crit. Eds. read ἔζησαν with A. B, Vulg, et al.; ἀνἐζησαν is without authority.—E. R. C.]

FN#48 - See foot-notes on pages3, 58, and62.—E. R. C.]

FN#49 - See Note on the Future Advent of Christ, pp339 sqq.—E. R. C.]

FN#50 - The slowness of invention which Lange here attributes to the Devil is more in harmony with the character attributed to that personage in numerous popular German tales,—in which he appears as a sort of Deutscher Michel, being frequently outwitted and imposed upon by sharp practicers of earth—than with the exalted intellect with which we usually conceive of him as endowed.—Tr.]

FN#51 - The Am. Ed. deems it inexpedient to continue in this portion of the work his “ Abstract of Views.”—E. R. C.]

FN#52 - Wordsworth explains the ἔζησαν of Revelation 19:4 as the glorified life with Christ after martyrdom, and the ἀνάστασις of Revelation 19:5 as spiritual life begun in baptism and completed at the death of the body.—E. R. C.]

FN#53 - Augustine himself, probably, held the view that the thousand years were literal, to terminate with the sixth chiliad of the world’s existence.—E. R. C.]

FN#54 - A similar theory, indeed the same with specific variations was propounded by Prof. Bush in a work on the Millennium published in New York in1832.—E. R. C.]

FN#55 - The elder Turretin, P. Mastricht, J Marckius, Light foot, Brightman, and Usher, all teach that the Millennium is past. The continental Theologians suggest as possible eras of its beginning, without deciding which is correct, the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, the destruction of Jerusalem, the era of Constantine. Marckius thinks that it may have begun in increased measure at each one of these in succession. These Theologians seem to regard the binding as a general weakening of the power of Satan. Lightfoot adopts the view that the origin is to be placed in the first proclamation of the gospel to the Gentiles by Paul and Barnabas, and that the binding refers, not to the power of Satan over the Church, but to his influence over the nations. He writes: “There is not a word here of the devil’s binding that he should not disturb the Church, but of the devil’s binding that he should not deceive the nations.” These all agree that the duration of the period was (or was about) one thousand literal years.—E. R. C.]

FN#56 - Elliott writes: “Vitringa, however, who alludes to Whitby’s as a work just published, makes brief citations from two earlier writers, Conrad of Mantua and Carolus Gallus, as expressive of the same general view.”—E. R. C.]

FN#57 - Bush judiciously remarks on this declaration of Whitby: “ This may be questioned. These writers have modified the creed of the ancients on this subject, without renouncing it.” The views of Mede, as expressed by himself, are as follows: “What the quality of this reign should be, which is so singularly differenced from the reign of Christ hitherto, is neither safe nor easy to determine, further than that it should be the reign of our Saviour’s victory over His enemies, wherein Satan being bound up from deceiving the nations any more, till the time of His reign be fulfilled, the Church should consequently enjoy a most blissful peace and happy security from the heretical apostasies and calamitous sufferings of former times; but here (if any where) the known shipwrecks of those who have been too venturous should make us most wary and careful, that we admit nothing into our imaginations which may cross or impeach any catholic tenet of the Christian faith, as also to beware of gross and carnal conceits of Epicurean happiness misbeseeming the spiritual purity of Saints. If we conceit any delights, let them be spiritual. The presence of Christ in this Kingdom will no doubt be glorious and evident, yet I dare not so much as imagine (which some ancients seem to have thought) that it will be a visible converse on earth. Yet, we grant, He will appear and be visibly revealed from heaven; especially for the calling and gathering of His ancient people, for whom in the days of old He did so many wonders.” Mede believed that Christ would appear literally and gloriously for the establishment of the Millennium, and that in a special sense He would reign throughout the period. In so believing, he held the essential elements of the pre-millennial hypothesis.—E. R. C.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Revelation 19:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/revelation-19.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, July 10th, 2020
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
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