« PreviousContinue »
All those authors assume likewise that the thousand years are not symbolic, but denote only the period which they literally express. But that, as has already been shown, is to disregard the law of symbolization. It can no more be assumed that the
period of the imprisonment is not symbolic, than that the imprisonment itself is not, or the abyss.
CHAPTER XX. 4-6.
THE FIRST RESURRECTION.
And I saw thrones ;--and they sat on them; and judgment was given to them ;-and the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and whoever had not worshipped the wild beast, nor its image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand. And they lived and reigned with Christ the thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not, until the thousand years should be finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over them the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
The order in which the objects of this great spectacle are enumerated, is doubtless that in which they were presented to the apostle. He first beheld thrones, and a multitude, probably, as the martyrs, the witnesses of Jesus, and the saints of all ages are innumerable. Next august forms approached and sat on the thrones, and a sentence was pronounced on them, probably adjudging them to the station of kings and priests in Christ's kingdom on the earth. Then he distinguished among them, first the martyrs who had been slain for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God; and next those who had not worshipped the wild beast, nor its image, nor received its mark on their forehead, or their hand; and finally learned that the spectacle was a symbol of the first resurrection, that they who were then to be raised were to reign with Christ the thousand years, that they were to be forever freed from liability to the second death, and that the rest of the dead were not to live till the thousand years should be finished.
As thrones are the stations on which kings exercise their office as judges and executors of law, their elevation to thrones indicates their appointment to office as kings. As their authority is not to be founded in any degree on the will of those over whom they are to reign, but is to be the sovereign gist of Christ, it obviously is to be exercised wholly in subordination to him. They are to reign with him and under him as King of kings and Lord of lords, communicating his will 10 his subjects, vindicating his rights, and unfolding his great designs. They are to be priests of God and of Christ, acting in that relation as representatives of those over whom they reign, and presenting in his presence symbols of homage in their behalf.
The souls of the martyrs and others were their souls by symbolization, not their souls literally, inasmuch as many of them were not then in existence. They were exhibited in their own persons, not by a symbol of a different species, because no symbol of a different species could adequately represent them. No other beings are, or are to be subjects of such a change of nature, or to sustain such relations to Christ, as are the saints who are to be raised from death in glory and exalted to thrones in his kingdom. They are exhibited as souls, not as glorified saints, because they only are to be subjects of the first resurrection; though saints who are to live at that epoch, are to be raised by transfiguration to a similar glory. That none but they who are to be raised are represented in this spectacle, may be regarded as indicating that the transfiguration of the living saints, is not to take place till a later period.
The specific enumeration of martyrs, and whoever had not worshipped the wild beast nor its image, nor received its mark, does not imply that the whole were of those classes. They were doubtless but a part of the vast crowd. They who sat on the thrones and received judicial authority, symbolized the whole body of the saints who had died of all former ages; inasmuch as all are at that period to receive their reward; as we are shown by the chant of the heavenly hosts on the sounding of the seventh trumpet ;--the time of the dead has come, to judge and to give the reward to thy servants the prophets, and the saints, and those who fear thy name, both the small and the great. The martyrs, and whoever had not worshipped the wild beast nor its image, nor received its mark, are enumerated probably because of their peculiar conspicuity and honors.
They symbolize themselves manifestly, not men in the body, inasmuch as none but the dead are capable of a resurrection; and none but the disembodied saints of all ages whom they represent, exist to be raised to glory. It is not in violation of analogy, but in accordance with it, that they symbolize themselves, inasmuch as no symbol of a different species would truly represent them. To ascribe a resurrection to an angel, or to a living man, were to exhibit him as the subject of an event of which he is not in that condition of existence capable, and were to violate therefore instead of adhering to analogy.
It is a literal resurrection that is predicated of them manifestly, inasmuch as that is the only resurrection of which disembodied saints are capable. It certainly is not a renovation of heart, as they were renewed while in this life, and are made priests of God and of Christ, and given to reign with him, because they were saints here. As their resurrection then cannot be a spiritual change analogous to a restoration of the body from death, it must necessarily be a corporeal change. That it is to be a corporeal resurrection, is shown moreover by the representation that the rest of the dead lived not till the thousand years should be finished. The rest of the dead are the literally dead, not the literally living, though without spiritual life. To treat that term like Mr. Faber, as a mere metaphor, is to deny to the vision the character of a symbol, and empty the whole passage of its meaning. If the death of those who are not partakers of the first resurrection, be but metaphorical, then must the death of the martyrs be metaphorical also, and thence the resurrection which is ascribed to ihe souls be merely metaphorical. But that is to make the passage a mere assemblage of metaphors, without any thing literal from which the figures are drawn, or to which they are applied ; and to divest it of all propriety and significance. For if the souls of the dead, as well as the resurrection, be mere metaphors, no agents whatever are left to be their subjects. They are predicates without any thing of which they are affirmed ; metaphors with nothing which they metaphorize. But metaphors are never used as symbols, nor are symbols ever used to fulfil the office of mere metaphors. As the souls exhibited in the vision then are real souls, so also for the same reason, the rest of the dead are the real souls of the rest of the real dead; and the resurrection affirmed of the one, and denied of the other, a real resurrection, as there is no resurrection but that of the body of which the unholy dead are to be the subjects, any more than the holy. None are to be renewed to spiritual life after having closed their probation here. Nothing is more certain therefore, than that the symbolic souls of this vision, represent the real
souls of the martyrs and other saints, that the resurrection affirmed of them is to be a real resurrection from death, and that the honors and authority to which they are to be exalted, are those of priests and kings unto God, and a reign with Christ during the period denoted by the thousand
years. The first resurrection then is to be the resurrection of the saints in distinction from the unholy dead, is to include all who have died in faith of all former ages, and is to take place at the advent of Christ at the commencement of the thousand years. “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order. Christ the first-fruits, afterwards they that are Christ's at his coming." "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so those also who sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 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." The thanksgiving of the elders at the sound of the seventh trumpet, represents also that all the servants of God are then to be raised and receive their reward. And that all who share in the first resurrection, are to reign also with Christ, is shown by the assurance that they are blessed and holy, that over them the second death has no power, and that they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him the thousand years. That the second death has no power over them, denoles that they are released by forgiveness from the penalty of sin, and adopted as heirs and joint-heirs with Christ.
The thousand years, are those during which Satan is to be bound, and denote a period of three hundred and sixty thousand.
This great spectacle thus foreshows that all the holy dead are to be raised in glory anterior to the millennial reign of Christ, publicly adjudged to thrones in his kingdom during the thousand years, and to reign with him as kings and as priests through the vast succession of ages symbolized by that period.
Vitringa interprets the resurrection and exaltation to thrones of the martyrs and others exhibited in this vision, as denoting, not that they are to be literally raised from the dead and invested with authority, but simply that they are to be vindicated in the judgment of men from the injurious imputations under which they were condemned. But that is not in accordance with the law of symbolization. There is no adaptation in the resurrection of the saints from death, and exaltation to thrones in Christ's kingdom, to represent a change in the opinions of men respecting
'1 Corinth. xv. 22, 23; 1 Thossalon. iv. 14, 16.
them. The saints are not the subjects of that change, but the men who adopt the new opinion. Nor is there any analogy between the events. The one is a change of nature, the other of mere agency
Dr. Whitby's and Mr. Faber's interpretation, who regard the resurrection of the saints as merely representing an adoption and exhibition by others of their principles and spirit, is in like manner wholly in violation of the law of symbols, as it makes bodies representatives of principles and dispositions, living agents of species of thought and affection, between which there is no analogy. If, on the other hand, it be held that the souls in this vision symbolize, not mere principles, or dispositions, but men of similar principles and spirit, who are to arise and live on the earth through the period denoted by the thousand years, then, inasmuch as the characteristics of the symbols are indicative of the characteristics of those whom they represent, it must also be assumed that they are to live and exhibit their principles in similar or analogous circumstances, and experience a similar treatment from their cotemporaries. Otherwise martyrdom and a refusal to worship the wild beast and the image, cannot become their characteristics. Those, therefore, who were beheaded, must on that assumption foreshow, that those whom they represent are also to be martyred, as much as that they are to have the spirit of martyrs : those who had not worshipped the wild beast nor its image, must foreshow that those whom they represent are to display a similar fidelity to God by refusing submission to the assumption of his rights by usurping civil rulers and apostate ecclesiastics ; whilst those who were of the ages before the flood, of the patriarchs, and of the Mosaic dispensation, must denote that those whom they symbolize are to live under similar laws, in the same or analogous conditions, and exert a similar obedience through the period denoted by the thousand years. But that is not only in contradiction to the prophecy, but is impossible. Men are not again to live under the antediluvian, patriarchal, or Mosaic law.
Mr. Vint and Mr. Bush regarding this thousand years as coincident with that to which they refer the restraint of Satan, exhibit the thrones as the thrones of the European kingdoms; those who sat on them as their monarchs ; and the souls of martyrs and others, as denoting men on earth, who during that period, fulfilled the office of witnesses and suffered martyrdom for the word of God. But that construction is in several relations inconsistent with the law of symbolization. It is founded on the assumption that Sa