The Millennium and the Everlasting State

 

Extracted from The Quarterly Journal of Prophecy,

 

Edited by HORATIUS BONAR, D.D.

 

[This tract was supplied by: THE SOVEREIGN GRACE ADVENT TESTIMONY]

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We should recognise the distinction which Scripture draws so clearly between the millennial heavens and earth, and the new heavens and earth subsequently created; and also, that during the millennium the heavenly city will be connected with, but not in, the millennial earth. It is of importance to maintain the contrast which Scripture draws between "The first Adam" and "the last Adam", so it becomes of exceeding moment to determine when the history of this present Adamic earth, and of men bearing the image of the first Adam in it, terminates. The answer is, it will terminate with the millennium. Although, during the millennium, all who shall rise in the first resurrection will bear the image of their risen Lord, and in them no traces of the likeness of the first Adam will remain; yet it will be otherwise with those who will inhabit the earth. They, during the millennium, will be in unchanged bodies of flesh and blood, mortal, corruptible, having yet indwelling sin in them, still having to say, "In me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing". But as soon as that great final hour shall come, when He who sitteth on the throne will say, "Behold, I make all things new", then all that bears the likeness of the first Adam disappears for ever. None will be admitted into the new earth except those in whom both mortality and sin have ceased to be. Mortality will necessarily cease then, because death, "the last enemy", will have been destroyed. The saints who have lived during the millennium will then put on their garments of resurrection-glory, and join their brethren, the Church of the first-born, who have preceded them. Those garments of glory can only be assumed by those who, as having union with Christ, the new federal Head of His people, will be therefore changed into His heavenly likeness. This is taught as plainly as words can teach it in 1 Cor. 15, and other passages. At the close of this present dispensation, many in Israel and many among the heathen will be spared and preserved through the day of the Lord's appearing, and so form the first inhabitants of the millennial earth. But it will be otherwise at the close of the millennium. None in unchanged bodies can be transferred from the old into the new earth, for then mortality would not cease to be. Therefore there can be none transferred from the old earth into the new, except those who shall be changed so as to bear the likeness of the last Adam, being the children of the resurrection.

 

If, therefore, everything which bears the likeness of the first Adam is to be excluded from the new earth, it is obvious that Israel, as marked by those characteristics which will attach to them during the millennium, will have no place in the new earth. All millennial Israel will, through grace, be preserved (even as believers now are) from breaking the link which binds them to God, and will nationally be made a blessing in the earth as the witnesses of holiness and truth; yet they themselves will be in nothing Perfect. The traces of the fall, both morally and physically, will still be found in all they are and in all they do. Consequently not one millennial description of Israel throughout can apply to the tenants of the new earth, for they will be made spiritual, even as to their bodies, and will have done for ever with every arrangement which men as men know. They will have the same capacities for dwelling in the heaven of heavens, as in the new earth which the Lord will give them as one, but not the only one, of the spheres of their glory. No such capacities will attach to millennial Israel.

 

Israel "for Ever"

 

Yet although Israel as an earthly People, and Israel as an earthly name, will cease to exist when "former things have passed away, and all things been made new", yet it does not hence follow that Israel and the name of Israel have no place in that new and higher order of things that will succeed. Words that have been previously used in earthly senses are capable of being used in new senses and higher and more blessed applications. The word "body" and the word "man" will be used in resurrection; but in what new application! The great Head of Israel, He to whom it was said, "When Israel was a child, then I loved him and called my son out of Egypt", has already borne with Him the name of Israel into glory; for we find in Isaiah these words addressed to Christ, "Thou art my servant, 0 Israel, in whom I will be glorified"; and then the passage goes on to speak of glories and blessings that are to pertain to Christ under this name of Israel. "Israel", therefore, is a name that Christ bears in resurrection. And as the name of Israel is thus, even at present, borne in heaven by the great Head of the redeemed, so we find the name of Jerusalem, the city of Israel, applied to the city of the redeemed, and that when it takes its everlasting place as the centre of the new earth. "And I, John, saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband". And when does the great Abrahamic seal of circumcision, the sign and seal of the covenant of grace, find its full accomplishment? Never, till the antitype of circumcision, as explained by St. Paul in the Colossians, shall be fulfilled to all the redeemed; when, separated from all that is of the flesh, through union with Christ in death and resurrection, and bearing the likeness of their risen Lord, they shall, in the new heavens and new earth, manifest who and what the true circumcision are. And who are called by St. Paul in the Galatians, the "Israel of God"? Is it not used by the apostle as a title extended to all who belong to the new creation, and walk after that rule? We are justified, therefore, in saying that the words "Israel of God" will not be apprehended in all the fulness and comprehensiveness of their meaning until all the redeemed, as alike the children of the new Jerusalem (see Gal. 4: 26), shall meet together in the new earth. Great, therefore, as the promises to the earthly Israel during the millennium are, yet the counsels of God in providing

 

The Final Portion of the Family of Abraham

 

by faith, the true and everlasting Israel, were never limited to the millennium. There is, consequently, an everlasting and heavenly sense in which we may use the names both of "Jerusalem" and of "Israel". Whilst on the one hand we guard against over-looking the use of these names in that distinctive earthly sense in which they will be used in the earthly scene of the millennium, we must also take heed that we do not reject them in that new and everlasting sense in which they will pertain to all the redeemed when all former things shall have passed away. Indeed, the blessings and glory of the earthly Israel and earthly Jerusalem in the millennium are to be regarded as a pledge and indication of the better blessings that are to surround the Israel of God in the new earth. We need not, therefore, be surprised if we find applied to the foreshadowing event, language intended to include the event foreshadowed. The very words which, in Isaiah, are used of the earthly Jerusalem in her millennial glory, are by the apostle applied to the heavenly city; for, married by the same covenant to the same Lord, they are virtually one - they are different courts of the same glorious temple, and the glory of the heavenly part of the Israel of God will be but the pledge of that which all their brethren will finally inherit.

 

That peculiar form of sovereignty, indeed, which Christ will hold during the millennium, seeing that it is assumed for a definite end, viz., the perfect subjugation of all enemies, will not continue after the last enemy has been subdued. The assumption of the millennial sovereignty is described in Daniel 7: 13; its resignation is referred to in 1 Cor. 15. But because the millennial form of power is laid aside, Christ will not cease to reign, He is Melchizedek, the eternal King as well as the eternal Priest. He will reign for ever. So also the saints who rise in the first resurrection and Israel, though they will not retain that peculiar form of power which they will respectively exercise during the millennium, yet they will not cease to reign. "The Church of the firstborn", joined by the saints of the millennium who will be raised in the "resurrection of life" at the close of the millennium, will together form one redeemed body, one glorified Church, who will together inherit the new heavens and new earth (though it will be only one of the spheres of their glory), and will reign for ever under their great Melchizedek. It is strictly true, therefore, that they who begin to reign at the commencement of the millennium (Dan. 7: 18)

 

Will Reign for Ever and Ever.

 

We do not mean to imply that there are no passages in which the words "for ever" are used in a limited sense. They are limited in many passages, as for example, when it is said to David, "The sword shall never" (Hebrew, shall not for ever) "depart from thy house", 2 Sam. 12: 10. See also Deut. 15: 17, "He shall be thy servant for ever"; said of the servant whose ear was bored with an awl. Numberless other passages, where "for ever" is similarly used, will be seen if the word be referred to in a Hebrew concordance.

 

As a general rule, it may be said, that whenever the circumstances spoken of are avowedly and confessedly temporary, the words "for ever" mean simply till the termination of the circumstances so recognised as temporary. Thus the Levitical economy having been avowedly temporary, any ceremonial ordinance connected with that economy when said to be ordained "forever", means till the end of that economy. In the same way in ordinary life, houses or lands in deeds of conveyance are said to be sold "for ever". No one misunderstands such language. On the other hand, when the words "for ever" are applied to persons or circumstances known to be without end (and this is the case whenever they are applied to the spiritual world), then they strictly mean "for ever". By saying, therefore, that the words "for ever" are sometimes used in a limited sense, no foundation is afforded to the fearful heresy of those who deny the eternity of torment.

 

Texts which speak of the reign of Christ, or of the saints who rise in the first resurrection, or of Israel, being "forever", may all, I believe, be classified thus:

 

1. Those in which it is evident, from the context or otherwise, that the millennial condition is spoken of; and seeing that it is positively revealed that that condition is temporary, the words "for ever", when used of it, must be limited. See, for example, Isaiah 60: 21, "They shall inherit THE LAND for ever."

 

2. Texts in which the millennial condition may be primarily spoken of; yet that condition being a pledge and forerunner of the everlasting glory of the Israel of God, language is used which includes a reference to that final glory which is strictly everlasting. See Isaiah 60: 19, "The Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light".

 

3. Texts which, without excluding the millennial reign, are primarily intended to direct our minds to the eternal reign. See Luke 1: 33, "And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end".

 

4. Texts in which millennial Jerusalem and Israel therein, are spoken of as for ever freed from subversion and the destructive power of enemies. This will be strictly true. When once forgiven, Jerusalem will never know sorrow or subversion by hostile power or by judgement any more. "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the city shall be built to the Lord, from the tower of Hananeel unto the gate of the corner ... It shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down, any more for ever" (Jer. 31: 38, 40).

 

All Things Under Him.

 

It has been asked by some, over what the redeemed can reign in the new earth, if they are alone the occupants of it? Our answer is, they reign together with Christ over all things. "The Church of the first-born" will be complete when the Lord returns at the commencement of the millennium; but the Church will not be complete till the last elect vessel of mercy shall be brought into glory; and that will not be until the end of the millennium. And to this glorified body, Christ, in His character of "Head over all things", is given, just as Adam's portion was shared by Eve. Consequently the redeemed will reign over all things with Christ. The new earth will be but one part of their inheritance. It is a seat of power rather than a sphere in which power is to be developed. And when we remember that the whole universe will be placed under Christ and the redeemed that it is said of the saints that they are "to judge", i.e., exercise directive power "over angels" - that they are exalted even above the principalities, and powers, and dominions in heavenly places; and if God should be pleased to put forth His creative power again in any sphere to us at present unknown, that such sphere would surely be submitted to the power of Him who is to have "all things put under Him" - when we remember this, it is not difficult to see that the saints have, indeed, a sphere of dominion infinite as well as everlasting.

 

It is important to remember that the only part of the Revelation that describes the condition of the new earth, is the commencement of the twenty-first chapter, on to the end of the eighth verse. The subsequent verses of that chapter form a new division of the prophecy, and describe the condition of the heavenly city (not when in the new earth), but during the millennium, when it will be connected with, but not in the earth. That the part of the twenty-first and twenty-second chapters, to which I refer, cannot apply to the new earth, is sufficiently proved by one verse, "the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations". Surely no one will assert that there can be any healing needed in an earth that is created in accordance with the glory of the Second Man the Last Adam - an earth of which it is emphatically said, that all former things have passed away." Nor do we read of "nations" in the new earth. An expression that is found in our version in reference to the millennial earth, viz,. "nations of them that are saved", may have familiarised the mind with the thought that "nations" is a word that may be admitted into the eternal state. But it is not a scriptural thought. The words "them that are saved", is an interpolation; the right reading being, "the nations shall walk by means of the light thereof".

 

And although we do not depart from the principle of interpreting the words of Scripture literally by saying, that the same word may sometimes be used in an earthly sense, and in other passages in a new and heavenly sense (such is the case with the words "man", "body", "Israel", "circumcision", "Jerusalem"); or by saying, that the same expression may sometimes be by its context limited, and sometimes used in the strictness of its signification (such is the case with "forever"), yet we should depart from the literal principle of interpretation if we said that numbers used definitely (as in Rev. 20, "they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years") could be indefinitely extended. Moreover, we know that the kind of sovereignty which Christ assumes at the commencement of the millennium, is to be laid aside as soon as the last enemy is destroyed (see 1 Cor. 15: 26); consequently it is impossible that that kind of sovereignty should be for ever; and yet it is strictly true, that He shall reign "forever" and of His kingdom there shall be no end". The sovereignty of the Israel of God, and of their great Melchizedek, will not cease, but will be displayed more illustriously when the millennial form of sovereignty has passed away.

 

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