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resurrection of the souls of men, by the renovation of the Holy Ghost.
That this important passage of Scripture is to be understood in the figurative sense, last mentioned, is very probable, if not certain. And the following considerations are thought sufficient to support it:
1. Most, if not all, the prophecies in this book, are delivered in figurative language, referring to types and events recorded in the Old Testament, and in imitation of the language of the ancient prophets.
And this was proper
and even necessary in the best manner to answer the ends of prophecy, as might easily be shown, were it necessary. The first part of this passage, all must allow, is figurative. Satan cannot be bound with a literal, material chain. The key, the great chain, and the seal, cannot be understood literally. The whole is a figure, and can mean no more than that when the time of the millennium arrives, or rather, previous to it, Jesus Christ will lay effectual restraints on Satan, so that his powerful and prevailing influence, by which he has before deceived and destroyed a great part of mankind, shall be wholly taken from him for a thousand
And it is most natural to understand the other part of the description of this remarkable event to be represented in the same figurative language, as the whole is a representation of one scene; especially, since no reason can be given why it should not be understood so. And there are reasons against taking it in a literal sense, which will be mentioned in the following particulars :
2. To suppose that Christ shall come in his human nature to this earth, and live here in his whole person visibly a thousand years, before the day of judgment, appears to be contrary to several passages of Scripture.
The coming of Christ, and his appearing at the day of judgment in his human nature, is said to be his second appearance, answering to his first appearance in his human nature on earth, from his birth to his ascension into heaven, which was past. “ And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment, so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them who look for him shall he appear the second time, without sin, unto salvation." (Heb. ix. 27, 28.) The appearance here spoken of is the appearance of Christ at the day of judgment, to complete the salvation of his church. This could not be his appearing the second time, were he thus to appear and be bodily present in his human nature on earth, in the time of the millennium, which is to take place before the day of judgment. The coming of Christ does not always intend his coming visibly in his human nature ; but he is said to come, when he destroyed the temple and nation of the Jews, and appeared in favor of his church. So his destruction of heathen Rome, and delivering his church from that persecuting power, was an instance of his coming. And he will, in the same way, come to destroy antichrist, and the kingdom of Satan in the world, and introduce the millennium; and in these instances, and others, he may be said to appear. But his coming to judg. ment, and appearing to complete the final destruction of all his enemies, and to perfect the salvation of his church, is his last coming and appearance. And though this will not be his second appearance and coming, in the sense now mentioned, and with reference to those instances of his coming; yet, as he will then come and appear visibly in his human nature, this will be his second coming and appearance in this way and manner, having never appeared on earth in his human nature more than once before, or since his first ascension to heaven, after his incarnation. Therefore, when the final judgment shall take place, Christ is represented as being revealed and coming from heaven, and this is often called, by way of eminence, his appearing; meaning his appearing and coming from heaven in visible splendor and glory, in his whole person, in both natures, divine and human. But if he were here on earth, visible in his human nature, and reigning in his glorified body, during the millennium, he would be already nere to attend the last judgment, and he could not be properly said to come from heaven, and to be revealed from heaven, because this was done a thousand years before. Therefore that Christ should come from heaven, and appear and reign in his human nature and presence before the day of judgment, seems to be contrary to the following Scriptures: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God," etc. " When he shall come to be glorified in his saints.” (1 Thess. iv. 16. 2 Thess. i. 7, 8, 10.) This is evidently his appearing the second time for the salvation of all them that look for him; but were he on earth before this, in the human nature, during the time of the millennium, how could he be said to be revealed, to descend, and come from heaven to judge the world?
3. As it seems to be contrary to the above-mentioned Scriptures to suppose that Christ will appear on earth, and reign a thousand years in his human nature, so it appears contrary to all reason. Jesus Christ is now on the throne of the universe, having all power in heaven and earth given to him as God-man and Redeemer, being made head over all things to the church. He is in the most proper, agreeable, and convenient situation to govern the world, and take care of his church. It does not appear agreeable to his station and office, as king and head over all things, for him to descend in the human nature, and erect a throne on earth, which, so far as can be conceived, would be no advantage to his person, design, and work, but very much to the contrary. He is gone to heaven in the human nature, that he might reign there till his enemies are made his footstool, and all things shall be subdued under him. And his church on earth will enjoy him to as great a degree, and as much advantage, as if he were personally on earth in the human nature, and more, and will have as great enjoyment of his presence. He is now in the best situation to be adored and worshipped by his church on earth. Though they do not now see him, yet, believing and loving him, they rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory; and it would not tend to increase this faith, love, and joy, to have bim come from heaven, and live in some place on earth in his human nature, but the contrary; for but few, compared with the whole inhabitants of the world, could have access to him, or see him more than they now do. And when the human nature is in heaven, all may equally have access to him, love and worship him. His church and kingdom on earth will be as happy, splendid, and glorious as if he were on earth as he is now in heaven, and much more so; for these will consist in his spiritual presence and influence, which may be as great while his human nature is in heaven, as if it were on earth; and in their holy conformity to Christ, which would not be increased by his being in that sense on earth. It hence appears in no respect advantageous or desirable, but the contrary, that Jesus Christ should come personally in the human nature from heaven to earth to reign here with his church, or that he should thus appear, till he shall come to judgment. It is, therefore, unreasonable to expect or suppose he will thus come, unless it were expressly asserted in Scripture, which it certainly is not; but there are some, if not many, passages which seem to be inconsistent with it.
It may be proper to observe here that the question respecting the manner in which Christ will reign on earth in the millennium has no concern with the question concerning the literal or figurative meaning of this passage, as the former does not depend upon the latter; for no man will suppose that
Christ's reigning on earth is to be understood in a figurative
If he shall reign on earth in the hearts of men by their voluntary subjection to him, he will reign as literally as if he were present on earth in his humanity. The question whether this passage is to be understood literally or figuratively, respects the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, etc., their living and reigning with Christ a thousand years. This, therefore, leads to other observations.
4. The apostle Paul in his writings does not appear to expect to have his body raised from the dead to live here on earth again after he died, or say any thing to lead the Christians of this day to expect any such thing, but the contrary.
“ It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment,” and leads Christians to look forward to the second coming of Christ, when he will come to judgment, as the next great event that will immediately respect them, which seems to be inconsistent with the saints' having their bodies raised, and living in this world again, a thousand years before the day of judgment. He addresses Christians in the following words : " If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory." (Col. iii. 1-4.) He directs them to expect and seek enjoyment in heaven where Christ is, and not to expect that he will leave his throne there, till he shall appear the second time to receive his saints to glory in heaven; for appearing with Christ in glory means appearing with him in heaven, as that is the place of glory where the redeemed are brought to be glorified — to be where Christ is, to behold his glory. The apostle Peter, speaking of the dissolution of the heavens and earth, says,
« Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (2 Pet. iii. 13.) have supposed that this is the millennial state, which shall take place after the general conflagration, by which the earth will be renewed — in which a perfectly holy and happy state shall commence, to which all the saints who had died shall be raised, etc. But such a notion cannot be reconciled to other passages of Scripture, in which, as has been observed, the millennium is represented as taking place before the general conflagration and the day of judgment. And after these are over, and the wicked are cast into endless punishment, (Rev. 20,) the apostle John says, " And I saw a. new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were
passed away, and there was no more sea.” (Chap. xxi. 1.) By which the heavenly state is chiefly if not wholly meant, where redemption and the church will be perfected. By the new heaven and new earth is meant the work of redemption, or the church redeemed by Christ. This is the new creation, infinitely superior to the old creation, the natural world, and more important, excellent, and durable; of which the latter is a faint type or shadow.
The renovation of the hearts of men by the Spirit of God, by which they become true Christians, is in Scripture called a new creature, or as the original words raiva urlois may as well be rendered, a new creation. « Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new.” (2 Cor. v. 17.) “For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” (Gal. vi. 15.) Therefore, every true member of the church belongs to the new creation, and is part of it; and this new creation of the new heaven and new earth goes on and makes advances as the church is enlarged and rises to a state of greater prosperity, and proceeds towards perfection.
The new heavens and new earth, the redeemed church of Christ, will be brought to a very happy and glorious state in the millennium, and greater advantages will be made then in this new creation than were ever made before. Therefore, to this event the following prophecy of Isaiah does chiefly refer, if not wholly : “ For behold, I create new heavens, and a new earth. And the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be you glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.” (Isa. Iv. 17, 18.) It appears from the preceding and following context, that this prophecy refers to the millennium, in which the new creation, the church of Christ, will come to the most perfect and happy state to which it will be brought in this world; from which it will pass to a perfect state, and be completely finished, after the general resurrection and judgment. Then the old creation, the heavens and the earth, shall pass away, and be burnt up, and the new creation shall be finished and brought to a most perfect, beautiful, happy, and glorious state. To the new heaven and new earth, thus completed, wherein that righteousness or true holiness, which is the beauty, happiness, and glory of the new creation, will dwell, i. e., continue and flourish forever, the apostles Peter and John have chief reference in their words, which have been transcribed above. 5. It does not appear desirable, or to be any advantage to