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Chap. xx. 1–6. We have now been led through two series of prophecies, each of which has conducted us from the period when the Apostle received the visions of the Almighty, to the sounding of the seventh trumpet, which introduces the glorious era when the kingdoms of this world are to become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ. The first series is contained in the sixth and following chapters, to the eleventh, inclusive. In the tenth chapter, however, a little opened book is introduced, either the seventh volume of the roll with seven seals, or, according to Mr. Mede's scheme, a separate, independent, open volume; which, after having taken us back to predict some important events omitted in the regular order of the chronology, brings us to the sounding of the seventh trumpet in the eleventh chapter. It must be observed, that the peculiar character of this opened book is to complete what had been omitted in the first series of the prophecies: which, in fact, could not have been introduced there without making the whole vastly more complicate, as well as much more difficult to be analyzed than it is in its present form. In the twelfth chapter, therefore, this book carries us back to the time when the Apostle received the Revelation, and leads us through another series of predictions, contained in that and the succeeding chapters, where we are brought to a period subsequent to the sounding of the seventh trumpet; and, in fact, to the introduction of the millennium, or the reign of Christ with his saints upon the earth for a thousand years. The destinies of the Church, as predicted under the seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven vials, have now received their fulfilment. Some commentators consider the opened book of the seventh seal as including the whole of the remaining predictions to the end of the Revelation; and, consequently, as embracing the millennium, the general judgment, and the heavenly state. Mr. Mede's diagram exhibits the book of seven seals and the little opened book as both leading us through two collateral series of prophecies to the sounding of the seventh trumpet; and views the seventh trumpet as comprising the seventh vial, some additional time previous to the millennium, and the millennium itself. The remaining visions, comprehending the final judgment and the description of heaven, he considers as subsequent to the predictions contained in the seventh trumpet. I do not think it of any importance to enter into arguments on this subject. But as the predictions of the trumpet are clearly fulfilled by the effusion of the last vial, and by the introduction of the millennium, I judge it preferable to view the remaining visions as independent of the imagery of the book of the seventh seal, or of the seventh trumpet, as necessarily contained in it. It may, however, here be remarked, that the seven vials can by no means be regarded as a subdivision of the seventh trumpet, as the seven trumpets are of the seventh seal; since, upon every hypothesis, the seventh trumpet cannot possibly receive its grand and final accomplishment in the establishment of Christ's kingdom upon the earth, till a period subsequent to the effusion of all the vials. To this it may be added, that facts and historical events plainly demonstrate that five of the vials have been actually effused, that facts and events equally shew that we are still under the sixth trumpet, and that the absence of facts and events fully proves that the seventh has not yet sounded.— Let us now proceed to the consideration of the millennial vision.
1. And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, 3. 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.
The removal of the beast and false prophet, as predicted in the close of the last chapter, is followed by the capture and confinement of the dragon, that ancient enemy of God and man, who, under the disguise of a serpent, had beguiled our first parents, and, by their fall, had introduced into the world sin and all our woe. The preceding chapter describes the termination of all open opposition to the Gospel and the dreadful punishment of all those who had supported the idolatrous corruption of true religion. But while the instruments have been cut off, the prime agent is stlll at liberty. Satan, the great · dragon, if not prevented, would excite fresh disturbances, or create new delusions. It is remarkable that no mention is made of him in the battle before described. Hence, though he had not been expressly called that “old serpent, the devil, and “ Satan," we might have concluded that he was not of an order of beings to be crushed by the hand of man. The dragon here spoken of is, without doubt, the devil himself. Elsewhere he is represented as “ a “ great red dragon, having seven heads and ten “ horns.” This signifies the persecuting power of the Roman beast under the idolatrous emperors previously to the general establishment of Christianity in the empire, who were, as far as they opposed the Gospel of Christ, the vicegerents of Satan, bare his
name and style, and acted by his agency. But in this prophecy, the great mover of the human agents is himself personally intended. But who shall check his power, and prevent him from doing further mischief? He must be restrained; but who can achieve the work ? In this vision the Apostle is emblematically shewn how it would be effected. An angel having the key of the bottomless pit, with a great chain in his hand, seizes him, binds him, casts him into the abyss, and there confines him for a thousand years, that he should deceive the nations no more. How can we be at any loss to discover who this angel is? Is it not evidently Christ? For who besides Christ is endued with such authority and power? Who besides Christ has “ the keys of hell cs and death?” Who besides Christ “ shutteth and “ no man openeth ?” By his permission the bottomless pit had been opened, and by his power it is now closed and sealed. The dragon being at length confined in the abyss, shut up, and a seal set upon him to prevent him from deceiving mankind again for a thousand years, the kingdom of Christ will be established over the whole world, “ the know“ ledge of God shall cover the earth as the waters o cover the sea," the true Israel of God - shall “ blossom and bud and fill the face of the world “ with fruit," and the reign of Messiah will universally prevail in piety, peace, righteousness, and purity. At length, however, at the conclusion of the thousand years, Satan shall be loosed and come forth again for a little season. But this will be short compared with his former dominion, and with the thousand years of his confinement; and the issue of his destined liberty will tend to his own augmented confusion, and to the greater glory of the almighty Saviour.-We now come to the emblematical description of the millennium.
4. 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. 5. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
In discussing the subject of the millennium, as described in these verses, for the sake of order it may be proper to consider, First, its commencement; Secondly, its duration; Thirdly, its nature. In the elucidation of these particulars, opportunities will occur of explaining the terms and phrases made use of in this passage by the Apostle who saw the vision. It may, however, be proper here to premise, that the term appropriated to the doctrine contained in these verses is the millennium, which literally signifies the thousand years. The word itself, therefore, cannot be objected to by any, in whatever view they may consider the doctrine implied by it.
First, a few remarks shall be offered with respect to the commencement of the millennium.-Time is, indeed, a circumstance which is the least distinctly marked in the system of prophecy; and nothing is said specifically of the period when this blessed era will commence. Our judgment, therefore, on this subject, must be formed by comparing it with the preceding victory over the beast and the false prophet. The order of the visions, as well as the nature of the subject, evidently demonstrate that it is subsequent to that period; but there is nothing in the prophecy to determine what time may intervene between these interesting and important events. It cannot be known, before it shall