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This He says concerning the quickening of the soul.
Our Lord then proceeds to speak of the second, or General, Resurrection, that of the Body: The Father hath given to the Son authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man*. Marvel not at this : for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth ; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
In the former of these two passages a spiritual Resurrection is spoken of, and in the latter a bodily Resurrection: and they are connected together, as in our text; and so these words from St. John's Gospel supply an answer to the allegation of inconsistency against the ancient exposition of our text, and furnish the best commentary on the words of the Apocalypse.
The second objection to our interpretation is this. A thousand years, it is said, is a definite period; and if this period is not future, and if it began at Christ's Incarnation, then it has expired; and the loosing of Satan has already taken place; and, as this loosing was to be but for a little season t, therefore this too is past; and those other solemn events immediately consequent upon it,—the Second Advent, and the General Resurrection and Universal Judgment, ought to have taken place also.
* John v. 27.
t uikpòv xpóvov, xx. 3.
To this we would reply
First; Most of those who interpret the thousand years literally, appear to be inconsistent with themselves. In all other places of the Apocalypse, when a number of days is mentioned, they understand these days to mean years *; and they understand a time t, which they say is a year, to signify not three hundred and sixty days, but three hundred and sixty years. And therefore, according to their own theory, St. John should have described the Millennium as a thousand days.
Secondly ; Some learned modern expositors suppose that the thousand years are passed; and they would bring various arguments in support of this supposition.
And, thirdly, we affirm that the thousand years are not to be regarded as indicating a fixed period. Indeed, the whole teaching of Scripture forbids such an interpretation. It is very certain that the future is uncertain. Prophecy is not an almanack. No one can calculate the world's eclipse. The Great Day will come; but no one can say, when that Coming will be.
To interpret the thousand years so as to make them indicate a fixed † period, is, we repeat, repug
* Rev. ix. 5. 10. xi. 3. xü. 6. xiii. 5. I include here the places where forty-two months occur, which they interpret 42 x 30 = 1260 years.
+ Rev. xii. 14. I of our English Divines, it may here suffice to cite Bp. Andrewes, ad Bellarmin. c. 10. Millenarius annorum numerus apud Joannem certus in specie numerus, re incertus tamen.
nant to the whole teaching of Scripture. The kingdom of God cometh not with observation. Watch and pray, for ye know not when the time is * The day of the Lord cometh as a thief in the night f. Behold, I come as a thief (says our Lord in the Apocalypse). Blessed is he that watcheth. As lightning cometh out of the East, and shineth even unto the West, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be g. Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the Angels of heaven, but My Father only ||
Now, if the thousand years in the Apocalypse were a fixed time, these sayings concerning the suddenness of Christ's Second Coming, to Judge the quick and dead, would not be true.
But they are the sayings of Him Who is the truth; and therefore they are true, as God Himself is true.
Hence we infer that the word thousand is here a general one; and by a thousand years, in the text, the Holy Spirit does not limit a specific sum any more than when He says, Man cannot answer God one of a thousand **, or If there be an interpreter, one of a thousand Ht;—that is, one among all men.
Similarly, we read in the Apocalypse itself It, that twelve times twelve thousand were sealed, severally, from twelve tribes. Here it cannot be imagined,
* Mark xiii. 3.
|| Matth. xxiv. 36. tt Job xxxiii. 23.
† i Thess. v. 2. 2 Pet. iii. 10.
$ Matth. xxiv. 27.
nor has it been supposed by any interpreter, that there are in each tribe twelve thousand elect, neither more nor less (for, according to this mode of interpretation, there would be none saved from two tribes, which are omitted, Dan and Ephraim); but by this perfect number it is meant that God will one day accomplish the number of His elect.
Again, it is written, God keepeth His covenant to a thousand generations *. He commanded His word to a thousand generationst; that is, to all men. Therefore, we conclude that He, to whom a thousand
years are as one day, and one day as a thousand years , meant, as the best ancient expositors have said, by this perfect number 9, the whole day of the world's life, till the dim twilight and dark eventide of the last and fiercest persecution. In that sad vesper-time of gloom, Satan will be loosed; though he will be restrained from hurting Christ's elect. The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give her light || ; that is, the light of the pure heaven of the Church will be dimmed with thick mists. The Gospel will be
* Deut. vii. 9. † i Chron. xvi. 15. I 2 Pet. iii. 8.
§ The cube of ten. Perfectus numerus, millenarius, denarii numeri quadratum solidum reddit. See Augustine I. c.--See S. Gregory Mag. Moral. ix. cap. iii. p. 290. Per Joannem dicitur regnabunt cum Eo mille annis, quia videlicet regnum Sanctæ Ecclesiæ Universitatis perfectione solidatur. In millenario numero perfecta Universitas exprimitur. - See also ibid. lib. xxxv. cap. xlii. p. 1162, ed. Bened. 1705. Millenarius numerus in sacro eloquio perfectus accipitur.
|| Matth. xxiv. 29.
overclouded with the gloom of Impiety; Love will wax cold; Iniquity will abound; Faith will be hard to find. It will be a time of rebuke and blasphemy*. The earth will be full of darkness and cruel habitations t.
In confirmation of this interpretation, let me remind you that this exposition, which regards the thousand years—not as a fixed period, but as the measure of the whole time, whatever that may be, from the coming of Christ to the loosing of Satanis not an interpretation propounded first after the expiration of a thousand years from the Incarnation. No; it is the deliberate judgment of the most celebrated early Christian interpreters both of the Eastern and Western Churches t. They did not imagine that the time of Satan's loosing was or
* 2 Kings xix. 3.
# Mille annos (says Gaspar a Melo in Apoc. p. 772) omne tempus Evangelicæ Legis usque ad Antichristum significare aiunt Patres.-Andreas and Arethas in loc. c. lx. Xidia črn, où πάντως τα τοσαύτα των αριθμώ νοείν εύλογον και γαρ των πολλών ή του τελείου σημαντικόν τον των χιλίων αριθμών εικάζομεν" είτε τα από της Χριστού παρουσίας έως της του 'Αντιχρίστου ενδημίας κ. τ.λ. Arethas seems to have thought it probable that Antichrist would come before A. D. 1000. See also ibid. c. lxii.-S. Aug. 1. c. xx. capp. 7–11. Mille annos pro annis omnibus hujus sæculi posuit. Bede ad loc. Retulit Spiritus Sanctus, cum hæc scriberet, regnaturam Ecclesiam mille annos, id est usque ad finem mundi. Quotations might be multiplied without number from the early expositors of the Apocalypse, in support of this interpretation.