« EdellinenJatka »
straiten us in the assignation of the chronological futurities of the kingdom of Christ on earth. We feel ourselves at full liberty to give their utmost latitude to the expressions of the prophet :—“The God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed : and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. “But the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.”+ The prosperous and glorious state which we are taught to anticipate for the church on earth is not, that we can learn, limited or defined by any boundaries of time whatever. An immeasurable lapse of ages stretches before us, offering ample room and verge enough' for the physical, intellectual, and moral improvement of the hu
A new and brighter career is yet to be run by the regenerated family of man ; nor is the prospect, as we read the revelations of heaven, clouded by those portentous Magellanic shadows which to the mass of the Christian world gather round the closing period of their Millennium. But this is a point to be proved, and not barely asserted. The idea will be expanded in the sequel.
“ 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, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” We are fully aware that upon the sense ordinarily attributed to this passage will be founded the most formidable objection which can be urged against the views of the Millennium advocated in this treatise. It has been so common to regard the Millennial period, announced in the Apocalypse, as but another name * Dan. 2: 44.
+ Dan. 7: 18.
for every species of temporal and spiritual prosperity to be enjoyed on earth during that extended term of years, that the attempt to shake this throned opinion' will doubtless have
very much the air, and perhaps the effect, of undertaking to controvert a self-evident proposition. If the language of the prophet-it will be said—in the vision before us, does not point to a positively and preëminently blissful state of the church and the world, when wars, and discord, and bloodshed shall cease, when truth shall have supplanted error, and righteousness sin, and the whole human race shall have been moulded into one grand fraternity of love, where, in the entire compass of revelation, is the promise of any such blessedness contained? And as to the hypothesis of the Millennium being already past, where, in the annals of history, has any such period occurred? What are the events which, by any stretch of ingenuity, can be made to answer to the grand and glorious predictions of this chapter ? When and where in the ages past have the thrones been set, and the souls of the beheaded martyrs lived and reigned with Christ in the triumphs of the first resurrection? These, we readily admit, are imposing questions, presenting difficulties in the way of our interpretation of a very plausible character. Still we do not despair of meeting them all with a satisfactory reply. But in doing so, we must discard every arbitrary construction, and adhere rigidly to the laws of symbolical interpretation, the neglect of which, if we mistake not, will be found to have given all its force to the objection now stated. Bringing then the common theory of the Millennium to this standard for trial, what is there, we ask, in the nature of the symbols employed, which imperatively requires us to regard them as shadowing forth a state of things peculiarly and transcendently prosperous? We have already seen that the act of the binding of Satan,' as far as the interests of the church are concerned, is merely a negative act,
denoting simply the withdrawment of his influences, exerted in a peculiar form, from the precincts of Christendom; but as to the actual state of the Christian world in the mean time, we derive no information from this circumstance. Whether it were in reality prosperous or adverse we are to learn from other sources. This however is a matter on which it was obviously very important that the prophet, as the representative of the church, should be particularly instructed. While Paganism was banished from its primitive seats, and shut up among the idolatrous tribes of northern and eastern Asia, what, in the mean time, was the condition of Europe, the theatre of the fortunes of Christianity? The banishment of the Dragon had cleared the stage for the transaction of a new series of events, which were to run parallel with the term of his imprisonment, and the scope of the Holy Spirit in the passage before us is unquestionably to portray, under appropriate imagery, the most remarkable occurrences of that period. He accordingly in this verse makes a transition froin the realms of Paganism to those of Christendom, and gives us the leading features of the state of the Christianized world during the thousand years that elapsed from the binding of Satan, and while the Beast held his baneful ascendancy over that portion of the globe. But the times of the Beast were preëminently disastrous times, and consequently we look in vain for a season of general prosperity and happiness during the true era of the Apocalyptic Millennium. We speak confidently on this point, for it follows as an irresistible conclusion from what we have already determined respecting the period of Satan's binding. So surely as we have rightly fixed the chronology of that event, so surely does it coincide with a thousand years of the reign of the Beast, and consequently cannot designate that halcyon Millennium which is usually anticipated. There is no possible way that we can conceive of over
throwing this conclusion, but by first disproving our interpretation of the main symbol, the Dragon. For if the Dragon be Paganism, the binding of the Dragon is the suppression of Paganism within the limits of the Roman world, and as history makes it evident that that event has long since transpired, the prevailing expectation on that subject as of something yet future is altogether fallacious.
But what were the objects presented to the prophetic ken of the apostle in this part of the vision? They were such, indubitably, though clothed in a mystic dress, as to correspond with the actual state of things as described by the pen of history. Upon recurrence then to the records of the times we find, that during the greater portion of that period the several independent kingdoms, from which the modern despotic states of Europe are descended, denoted by the ten horns of the Beast, were subsisting and continually acquiring more vigor, and exercising a wider sway. We term them 'independent;' for although they submitted to the spiritual jurisdiction of the Pope, yet, politically considered, they were governed by laws and constitutions of their own framing, and were wholly independent of any foreign power. They are said indeed to have agreed to give their power and strength to the Beast; or, in other words, to have devoted their service and support to the upholding of the interests of that vast fabric of secular dominion adumbrated by the Beast, and they are elsewhere termed 'the kings (kingdoms) of the earth' over which the great city,' represented by the mystic Woman, bare rule; yet they were nevertheless, as viewed in relation to each other, and to every other mere civil power, strictly independent. It is accordingly, we suppose, to these several independent sovereignties, as the most prominent objects of prophetic vision on the European platform, that the words of John distinctly refer. "I saw thrones, and they
them (a Hebraism for 'they were sat upon”), and
judgment was given to them (i. e. to their occupants).” The meaning we apprehend to be, that he saw thrones erected and occupied in England, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Germany, where there had been but one throne before; and those who sat upon them were, in the counsels of Providence, invested with royal authority to order at their pleasure the affairs of the nations which they governed.
As this however is an interpretation of the phrase judgment was given to them,' upon which much depends in our general expos: of the meaning of the passage, it behoves us to endeavor to confirm it from the usage of the sacred writers. The original Heb. Dez mishpot, of which the Greek xvium, judgment, is a translation, is a derivative from the verb oppshapat, signifying to judge, discern, determine, order, regulate, direct, and is in several instances equivalent to reigning, or exercising authority as a ruler and a prince. Thus Judg. 16:31, 'And he bow judged Israel twenty years;' i. e. governed. 1 Sam. 8: 20, “That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king 70Dy may judge us; i. e. may rule over us. As to the substantive apun, to which the Greek xpium or xplois answers, Lowth remarks, that it is taken in a great latitude of signification. It means rule, form, order, model, plan, rule of right, or of religion; an ordinance, institution; judicial process, cause, trial, sentence, condemnation, acquittal, deliverance, mercy,' etc.* Thus Ps. 72: 1, "Give the king thy judgments, O God;' Gr. rò xoiua cou To Buordeidos, i. e. grant to the king commission to execute thy judgments, in punishing offenders, and discerning between the faithful and the false among thy people. Ps. 119: 84, 'When wilt thou execute judgment (Gr. xpiowv) on them that persecute me? i. e. inflict punishment. Numerous passages to the
* Lowth on Is. 42: 1.