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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary


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"a thousand years;" generally employed to denote the thousand years, during which, according to an ancient tradition in the church, grounded on some doubtful texts in the Apocalypse and other scriptures, our blessed Saviour shall reign with the faithful upon earth after the first resurrection, before the final completion of beatitude. Though there have been no age of the church in which the millennium was not admitted by individual divines of the first eminence, it is yet evident, from the writings of Eusebius, Irenxus, Origen, and others, among the ancients, as well as from the histories of Dupin, Mosheim, and all the moderns, that it was never adopted by the whole church or made an article of the established creed in any nation. About the middle of the fourth century the Millenarians held the following tenets: 1st, That the city of Jerusalem should be rebuilt, and that the land of Judea should be the habitation of those who were to reign on the earth a thousand years. 2dly, That the first resurrection was not to be confined to the martyrs, but that, after the fall of Antichrist, all the just were to rise, and all that were on the earth were to continue for that space of time. 3dly, That Christ shall then come down from heaven, and be seen on earth, and reign there with his servants. 4thly, That the saints, during this period, shall enjoy all the delights of a terrestrial paradise. These opinions were founded upon several passages in Scripture, which the Millenarians, among the fathers, understood in no other than a literal sense; but which the moderns, who hold that opinion, consider as partly literal and partly metaphorical. Of these passages, that upon which the greatest stress has been laid we believe to be the following:

"And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit, and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the devil and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled; and, after that, he must be loosed a little season. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them; and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, nor in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again till the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection." Revelation 20:1-6 . This passage all the ancient Millenarians took in a sense grossly literal, and taught, that, during the Millennium, the saints on earth were to enjoy every bodily delight.

The moderns, on the other hand, consider the power and pleasures of this kingdom as wholly spiritual; and they represent them as not to commence till after the conflagration, or the present earth. But that this last supposition is a mistake, the very next verse but one assures us; for we are there told, that, "when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth;" and we have no reason to believe that he will have such power or such liberty in "the new heavens and the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." We may observe, however, the following things respecting it:

1. That the Scriptures afford us ground to believe that the church will arrive to a state of prosperity which it never has yet enjoyed, Revelation 20:4; Revelation 20:7 . Psalms 72:11 . Is. 2: 2, 4. 11: 9. 49: 23. 60: Can. 7: 27.

2. That this will continue at least a thousand years, or a considerable space of time, in which the work of salvation may be fully accomplished in the utmost extent and glory of it. In this time, in which the world will soon be filled with real Christians, and continue full by constant propagation to supply the place of those who leave the world, there will be many thousands born and live on the earth, to each one that has been born and lived in the preceeding six thousand years; so that, if they who shall be born in that thousand years shall be all, or most of them saved (as they will be, ) there will, on the whole, be many thousands of mankind saved to one that shall be lost.

3. This will be a state of great happiness and glory. Some think that Christ will reign personally on earth, and that there will be a literal resurrection of the saints, Revelation 20:4; Revelation 20:7; but I rather suppose that the reign of Christ and resurrection of saints alluded to in that passage, is only figurative; and that nothing more is meant than that, before the general judgment, the Jews shall be converted, genuine Christianity be diffused through all nations, and that Christ shall reign, by his spiritual presence, in a glorious manner. It will, however, be a time of eminent holiness, clear light and knowledge, love, peace, and friendship, agreement in doctrine and worship. Human life, perhaps, will rarely be endangered by the poisons of the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms. Beasts of prey, perhaps will be extirpated, or tamed by the power of man. The inhabitants of every place will rest secure from fear of robbery and murder. War shall be entirely ended. Capital crimes and punishments be heard of no more. Governments placed on fair, just, and humane foundations.

The torch of civil discord will be extinguished. Perhaps Pagans, Turks, Deists, and Jews, will be as few in number as Christians are now. Kings, nobles, magistrates, and rulers in churches shall act with principle, and be forward to promote the best interests of men: tyranny, oppression, persecution, bigotry, and cruelty, shall cease. Business will be attended to without contention, dishonesty, and covetousness. Trades and manufactories will be carried on with a design to promote the general good of mankind, and not with selfish interests, as now. Merchandise between distant countries will be conducted without fear of an enemy; and works of ornament and beauty, perhaps, shall not be wanting in those days. Learning, which has always flourished in proportion as religion has spread, shall then greatly increase, and be employed for the best of purposes. Astronomy, geography, natural history, metaphysics, and all the useful sciences, will be better understood, and consecrated to the service of God; and I cannot help thinking that by the improvements which have been made, and are making, in ship-building, navigation, electricity, medicine, &c. that "the tempest will lose half its force, the lightning lose half its terrors, : and the human frame not near so much exposed to danger. Above all, the Bible will be more highly appreciated, its harmony perceived, its superiority owned, and its energy felt by millions of human beings. In fact, the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

4. The time when the Millennium will commence cannot be fully ascertained; but the common idea is, that it will be in the seven thousandth year of the world. It will, most probably, come on by degrees, and be in a manner introduced years before that time. And who knows but the present convulsions among different nations; the overthrow which popery has had in places where it has been so dominant for hundreds of years; the fulfilment of prophecy respecting infidels, and the falling away of many in the last times; and yet in the midst of all, the number of missionaries sent into different parts of the world, together with the increase of Gospel ministers; the thousands of ignorant children that have been taught to read the Bible, and the vast number of different societies that have been lately instituted for the benevolent purpose of informing the minds and impressing the hearts of the ignorant; who knows, I say, but what these things are the forerunners of events of the most delightful nature, and which may usher in the happy morn of that bright and glorious day when the whole world shall be filled with his glory, and all the ends of the earth see the salvation of our God?

See Hopkins on the Millen.: Whitby's Treatise on it, at the end of the 2d Vol. of his Annotations on the New. Tes.; Robert Gray's Discourses, dis. 10; Bishop Newton's Twenty- fifth Diss. on the Proph.; Bellamy's Treat. on the Millennium. There are four admirable papers of Mr. Shrubsole's on the subject, in the 6th vol. of the Theol. Miscellany; Lardner's Cred. 4th, 5th, 7th, and 9th vols.; Mosheim's Eccl. Hist. cent. 3, p. 11, ch. 12; Taylor's Sermons on the Millennium; Illustrations of Prophecy, ch. 31.

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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Millennium'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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