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Will they live among the glorified saints? Or if the living be all righteous, will they not die? If they die, will they be raised again before the general resurrection? Or will there be three resurrections ? one, of the righteous before the millennium; another, of the righteous after it; and finally, another of the wicked? These are questions (to which many others might be added) that are not to be resolved upon the supposition of a literal resurrection of the saints, and a personal reign of the Saviour. The resurrection is always spoken of as one grand event, occurring nearly at the same time, except that the righteous will be first raised, and so prepared to sit with Christ, as assessors with him in his judgment upon the wicked. In two passages of Scripture it is expressly asserted that all the dead in Christ will rise together before the living will be changed. But if this resurrection take place a thousand years before the general judgment, will the righteous at that period be changed and the wicked destroyed, or not? Or, in other words, will there be a termination of the race of men as to their present state of existence, or not? If the former hypothesis be adopted, what will become of all the faithful promises of God respecting the future increase and glory of his church upon earth? If the latter, how can we conceive it possible that human beings, with mortal bodies composed of flesh and blood, however eminently pious · and holy, can live with risen and glorified saints?
It may still farther be remarked, that we cannot conceive how it can add to the happiness of those, who, being “ absent from the body are present “ with the Lord,” to come again and dwell on the earth; which must, in some degree, be a scene of pain, suffering, and death, till the present state of things is fully ended. But this is an issue which will not take place till the morning of the general resurrection, as the circumstance of the loosing of
Satan and the effects of it, after the millennium, clearly demonstrates.
In fine, the literal interpretation stands in opposition to the generally figurative language of the whole book; and it is clogged with so many and such insuperable difficulties, that we cannot be surprised that it is now generally abandoned. The Book of Revelation was very little understood by the ancients; the lapse of ages was necessary to afford the Church the true exposition, as far as it is at present known; and a still farther protracted period is necessary fully to understand some of its remaining predictions. The explanation of these, therefore, must be bequeathed to the future ages of the Church.
Having stated the above reasons why the prophecy of the millennium cannot be considered as literal, and implying a personal reign of Christ upon the earth, together with a resurrection of the bodies of the saints, the interesting and important subject will be farther investigated in the next section.
SECTION IV. The Nature of the Millennium. The Language of
the Prophecy, figurative; and the Reign of Christ, spiritual.
Chap. xx. 4-6. Having offered some considerations to shew that the millennium does not imply a personal reign of Christ, and that the prophecy is not to be understood literally, I shall now proceed to state that the language is to be explained in a figurative sense, and that the reign of Christ, during this felicitous period of time, is to be a spiritual reign.-That the prophecy
B'B 3 . .
must be explained figuratively, seems to be evident from the followiug consideration. The whole of the book is figurative, enigmatical, and full of emblems; so that a literal exposition would in many cases imply absurdity. A succession of kings is constantly spoken of as if they were individually the same person. The two witnesses that were slain, were said to be raised again and to ascend into heaven, when others of the same spirit were sent forth to bear the same testimony with greater encouragement and success. Rome is called Egypt, Sodom, Jerusalem, and Babylon. In fact, this is the manner and style of the whole book; and on this principle it must be interpreted. As, therefore, the Jews expected Elijah to come personally, and knew him not when he came mystically in John the Baptist, so many Christians have fallen into the same mistake; they have expected a literal resurrection of the dead, who had confessed Christ, or been martyred for his sake at the commencement of the millennium. If, therefore, they were to see the martyrs and confessors in spirit and disposition, when they shall arise (like the two witnesses) in a numerous race of Christians, and reign with Christ in the spirit and power of his Gospel, they would no more know them as the characters described in this prophecy, than the Jews knew John the Baptist, as the harbinger of Christ, and as the Elias that was to come. They would no more recognise these spirits of Christ's martyrs and confessors, than the Jews recognised Christ himself when his unknown forerunner addressed himself to them, “Behold, there standeth among you one “ whom ye know not."-But in order to understand this prophecy, let us proceed to consider its terms and phrases.
“And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them; “ and judgment was given unto them.”—The thrones here mentioned seem clearly to correspond with the account given in the seventh chapter of the pro
phecies of Daniel * ; where, after the power of the little horn was broken, it is said, " And the king“dom and dominion, and the greatness of the king“dom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the “ saints of the most High." Stations of importance, both in the world and in the church, will be occupied by righteous men. The saints will possess the thrones and kingdoms of the earth, and exercise judgment. They will judge in religious truth and righteousness. This does not imply any thing respecting the particular forms of government that may prevail, whether monarchical, aristocratical, de mocratical, or mixed; and much less does it imply that the saints will oppose or dethrone any legitimate rulers. At this period righteousness will flow as a river, and the rulers and the ruled will be all holy. Without doubt the best forms of government, both in church and state, will obtain ; and knowledge will be so universal, that the people will be happy and satisfied under the righteous dominion with which they will be governed. The generality of men will be truly pious. “The Spirit of the Lord will “ be poured upon all flesh; and all will know him “ from the least to the greatest."-" The earth shall “ be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters “ cover the sea.”—“They shall beat their swords “into plough-shares, and their spears into pruning“ hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against na“tion, neither shall they learn war any more.”
“And I saw the souls of them that were be“ headed for the witness of Jesus, and for the word “ of God, and that 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." — This language evidently implies that the resurrection here spoken of is not to be taken literally; for