THE THOUSAND YEARS IN THE APOCALYPSE
PROFESSOR FREDRICK BLEEK, D. D. *
[* From Bleek’s Vorlesungen. Ub. Offenbar. Johan. 75-82. 101-104. 328-356.]
In the appendix of Nathaniel West’s writings "are to be found extracts from many works published on the continent supporting the pre-millennial position and the literal first resurrection, many of them being outstanding scholars of a world-wide reputation of the time, much of this material never appearing in any other volume in English. Here one finds . . . a knowledge of the whole vast literature of prophetic study and interpretation, not only of the early church and the Middle Ages, but especially all the major works of German and French theologians and exegetes of the nineteenth century, with translations of and quotations from scores and scores of these volumes, many of which could not even be found in the libraries of our larger theologian seminaries today"
- (Wilbur M. Smith.)
[Prof. Bleek’s exposition can be found in the appendix of Dr. West’s book, The Thousand Years, pp. 472-480. - Ed.]
Chapters i - iii of the Apocalypse contain the Epistles to the 7 Asiatic Churches, while Chapters iv, v, are an introduction to what follows. In Chapters vi-xi, the Seals are successively loosed, and the Trumpets blown. In Chapter xi. 7, the first mention is made of the "Beast" ascending from the Abyss, i.e., the Antichrist. What now follows, from this point, is closely connected, the visions describing the Conflict with the powers of the world and of darkness, till the complete victory is won over Antichrist, and Satan is bound, Chapter xx. 1, 2. The final struggle of Satan, after his temporary release, is described in Chapter xx: 7-10. To this is annexed a description of the general resurrection, the last judgment, the everlasting glory of the faithful in the New Heaven and Earth. Chapters xx. 11-15, - xxi. 5.
We come now, specially to consider the Section Chapter xx. 1-6. The Seer beholds the Devil, bound for 1000 years, and thrown into the abyss, and so deprived of his destructive influence over the Kingdom of God and its members. Further, he sees that the souls of the faithful who suffered death in confessing their Lord, and did not give themselves up to the wicked one, live again, in order to reign 1000 years with Christ, whose victorious advent was already described in Chap. xix. 11-21, to reign as priests of God and of Christ, and as such not to die any more. Here, it is asked, (a) whether the 1000 years are meant as proper years, according to men’s usual mode of reckoning, or merely as a symbolical way of counting, and in what sense, and (b) when the period begins. Many interpreters, in opposition to millennarianism, have been of the opinion that, by the 1000 years’ reign of Christ, none other can be understood than that which He established on earth at the time of His Incarnation, and which has already begun even before the Apocalypse was composed. This is the view which has prevailed in the Catholic Church ¹ since the fourth century, and which is found in most Protestant interpreters, as well as in Bossuet, etc. Others date the beginning of the 1000 years’ kingdom later, but yet consider it as having not merely begun, long since, but is already expired. Thus, Grotius, and those who follow him, who reckon the 1000 years from Constantine the Great, on to the beginning of the fourteenth century; and lately, Hengstenberg, who refers them to the time from the christianizing of the Germanic nations to the expiration of the German empire. But here, first of all, the former assumption that the 1000 years begin with the Incarnation of Christ, is unmistakably against the meaning of our Book. A time of undisturbed peace belonging to the Kingdom of God is clearly represented, in opposition to the preceding one of affliction and conflict, a time when the Devil and his instruments would be powerless to exercise any disturbing influence over it, either in general or over individual members. Now, the time when the Book was written, whether early or late, could not well be described in such a way, in contrast with any earlier one. There can be no doubt that the 1000 years’ kingdom alludes to a time which had not begun when the Book was written, and to one in which the Lord should return to unite His own people with Himself in His Kingdom. Accordingly, we find this hope almost in the whole Christian Church of the First Age, the hope that the Lord would return, and that soon, no longer in the lowly form of a servant which He had assumed at His first appearance on earth, but in the complete glory and majesty belonging to Him; and that He would then join His own people to Himself in a Kingdom of peace and undisturbed happiness, giving them a share in His glory and power. It is grounded in the essence of the historical manifestation of Christ at His incarnation, that prophecy revived with new power in His Church, pointing to the fulfilment of the Kingdom of God and its complete victory over the world. Old Testament prophecy had already directed attention to this; but as the Messianic salvation, expected at the First Coming of Christ upon earth, was not fully realized by His own ministry, or that of His disciples, Christian prophecy was directed, very soon, in a special manner, to a SECOND COMING of the Son of Man, to His glorious re-appearing. This is found even in the sayings of Christ Himself, as they were apprehended and communicated by the disciples, especially in the first three Gospels, chiefly in Matt. xxiv, xxv. In like manner, the same hope is found in most of the New Testament writings, if not always expressly stated, yet clearly lying at the foundation.
The raising of the deceased or faithful dead in order to participate in this Kingdom, beginning with the return of the Lord, is not peculiar to the Apocalypse. Already in Daniel xii. 2, we meet with the promise that, at the time of Israel’s redemption (the Messianic salvation) there would be a resurrection out from the dead. In the Jewish theology, this was developed with a two-fold resurrection (a) of the pious, the true people of God, at the appearing of the Messiah when they should be re-awakened to take part with Him in His Kingdom; (b) of a later general one, at the last day, for universal judgment. The believers of the First Age seem to have adopted the distinction, and to put the "First Resurrection," that of [faithful- Ed.] believers, at the time of Christ’s glorious return. So we find it particularly in the Apostle Paul, 1Thess. iv. 14, and following verses, and in 1Cor. xv. 22, and following verses and verse 51, and following.
Paul, indeed, does not speak expressly of the Second Resurrection, the general one, since he had no particular motive for doing so according to the object he there pursues. Yet it is implied unmistakenably. Here, in the Apocalypse, the idea occurs in a most definite shape, according to which true believers rise again that they may participate in the 1000 years’ kingdom, and which is expressly designated as the "first resurrection," whilst the general judgment of the dead is placed after the expiration of the 1000 years. Accordingly, we find a double resurrection, that of believers at the return of the Lord, and the second general one at the last judgment, distinguished by different Church-teachers of the early centuries, particularly by Tertullian, Methodius, Lactantius, etc., etc.
As to the "1000 years," we find opinions about the duration of the Messianic kingdom among the later Jews very different. The idea that seems to have prevailed among some, at the time of Christ, was that it should be of eternal duration. Compare John xii. 34, and Eisenmenger - (Entd. Judenthum, Königsberg 1711, 4, ii. pp. 813 segg.) This idea might also have been founded on express utterances of the Bible. Yet other ideas prevailed also which made the Messiah subject to mortality, and assigned only a finite duration to his sovereignty, with all its splendor. These we find expressly in later times; among others, that of a duration of 40 years, of 70 years, of 400 years, and also, definitely, of 1000 years. See Eisenmenger pp. 809 segg, and Wetstein ad Apoc. xx: 2. It cannot indeed be maintained, certainly, * but it is not unlikely, that the idea, in this form, was known to the Jews even in the apostolic age, whence it was transferred, in the Christian Church itself. The combination of that passage in the Psalms, Ps. xc. 4, "A thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday," with the narrative of the creation of the world might have had some influence, from persons considering the latter as a type of the destinies of the world, and therefore concluding that, as God created the world in six days, and afterward rested the seventh day, so the world should be completed in six days, that is, in 6000 years; and the seventh day, that is the seventh Millennium, should become a time of undisturbed rest and Messianic bliss. So Barnabas speaks, Epistles Chap. xxv. It is manifest at the same idea is found here, in substance, as in the Apocalypse, viz., that the kingdom of the Messiah should last 1000 years after the Second Advent of the Lord, and the renewal of the world be annexed to it. When this Epistle of Barnabas was written cannot with certainty be determined. In any case, it is later than the Apocalypse. Yet the relation of both writings upon this point is not of the kind that would make it probable that the author of that Epistle has borrowed his whole conception from the Apocalypse, indicates that the idea is not one newly expressed, but such as the author found already, and not entirely unknown to his readers, whether, as already mentioned, it had first taken this shape in the Christian church itself, or had been found by the latter in the Jewish church.
[ * This statement falls below the full truth of the case, as later critical investigations have shown - N. W.]
As to the real significance of the 1000 years, it is most unlikely, from the probable form of the conception, that any other definite period of time could be meant than that denoted by the common usage of language. Still, on the other hand, it may be that the number should not be too strictly pressed, in the sense of our Book, as a measured period of exactly 1000 solar or lunar years; but certainly it must be assumed, especially since the idea was already developed, that the number here is retained as a general expression to denote a very long period of undisturbed repose and happiness for believers, beginning at the return of the Lord.
We ask, further, what does our Book teach about the time when the glorious appearing of the Lord will take place and the 1000 years’ kingdom begin, as well as the relations under which this will happen? What is to precede the catastrophe? And how is the Apocalypse related to the other writings of the New Testament? The Lord has expressly stated, Matt. xxiv. 26; Mark xiii. 32, and, according to Acts i. 7, even referred to it after His resurrection, that to "know the times and the seasons," with regard to the coming of the kingdom, in its consummation, the Father had reserved to Himself. And, in Matt. xxiv. 14, Mark xiii. 10, the announcement of the gospel throughout the whole world is specified by Him as something which must precede. But, on the other hand, He exhorted the disciples to be always ready to receive Him worthily. To this the apostles directed their attention, primarily, and sought to direct that of other believers, so that their looking forward to the Coming of the Lord might be of use to them all, as an ever living incentive, urging them to dedicate all their powers to the Lord and to the furtherance of His Kingdom, that they might be found faithful stewards of the talents He had entrusted to them. It cannot be denied that they generally cherished the hope that the glorious appearing of the Lord was near, so that they themselves, or many of their contemporaries, might perhaps live to see it. This may be recognized by the way in which several discourses of the Lord respecting the future, in the Synoptical Gospels, are reproduced and brought into connection with one another. We cannot but see that, with the apostle Paul, especially in some of his earlier Epistles, this point of time to his mind appeared quite near, so that he hoped to live to see the future advent of the Lord. See 1Thess. iv. 15-17; 1Cor.xv. 51, 52. Yet the expectation of his own survival seems to have receded into the background with him at a later period. In James v. 7-11, also, the Coming of the Lord (Parousia) is specified as near. So in the Epistles to the Hebrews, especially x. 37. The same hope may also be discerned in our Book, even in the first part of it. For when the Lord Himself, Rev. iii. 11, says to the Angel of the Church of Laodicea, "I come quickly," there can be no doubt, according to the New Testament usage, that this is meant of the glorious re-appearing of the Lord. See also i. 17. So, too, when it is said immediately at the beginning, i. 3, "The time is at hand," there can be no doubt that this refers to the nearness of the time to which the hope of the believer was directed, when the complete inauguration of the Kingdom of God should begin, with the return of the Lord. See Luke xxi. 8; Mark xiii. 33; Rev. x. 6 and following.
Our Book not merely specifies the catastrophe, in general, but endeavors to indicate in a still more definite manner, the point of its commencement. In what way this is done depends upon the apprehension of the visions preceding the announcement of the 1000 years’ reign. In general, especially in the closely connected visions (Chap. xii - xix) we find the sense easily discernible; that before the beginning of this reign, the adversaries of Christ and His Kingdom, the Devil and his associates, should be conquered by Christ and made powerless with respect to the continuance of that kingdom, deprived of all influence to disturb its peace and happiness, after they had previously made the most violent efforts against it. The general idea lying at the foundation and confirmed by the whole history is that an extreme effort of the opposing spirit of evil, falsehood, and darkness, precedes EVERY more important development of good, and of the Kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of truth, of light, of peace, and would, therefore, all the more precede the COMPLETION of Christ’s Kingdom. Thus, we find already, in the prophets of the Old Testament, that the announcement of the Messianic salvation is usually appended to the most lamentable condition of the people of God, and their most violent oppression by their enemies. The disclosures of the Redeemer also, communicated in the Synoptic Gospels, make it obvious that his appearing will not take place unless the greatest measure of suffering of all kinds for the people of God shall have previously been filled up. But it may be asked, in what manner, in what particular form, this general idea is individualized in the Apocalypse? Here, the determination mainly depends upon the view taken of the powers which are introduced as the adversaries and combatants of Messiah and of God’s Kingdom. These powers are designated as different "Beasts" presented to the eye of the Seer, so that the question arises, "For what are we to take these Beasts?"
With reference to the 1000 years’ reign. This appears in the Apocalypse, not as the ultimate completion of the kingdom of God, which according to our Book, takes place in the "New Jerusalem," but as a preliminary close of the conflicts of God’s Kingdom with the world and its powers; - a period of time denoted as 1000 years, when the faithful and pious, particularly those who had fallen asleep before, and were awakened for that purpose, should reign with Christ upon earth in undisturbed peace and happiness, after the destruction of all earthly hostile powers and the binding of Satan. We may view every epoch of the Christian Church, in which an important progress of the Kingdom of God, with the conquest of hostile powers, takes place, as a partial fulfilment of the utterances of Scripture, especially those about the Lord’s Coming; but in everything which the history of the Church presents, only a partial and preliminary fulfilment, not a complete one, is perceptible. As it is decidedly contrary to the meaning of the Apocalypse to make the 1000 years’ kingdom begin with the Incarnation of Christ, so that the author considered the time already present; every view is inadmissible, according to the purport of our book, which supposes the 1000 years’ kingdom as already expired or only begun. The interpretation of Hengstenberg, in modern times, belongs to this category, making it extend from the Christianizing of the Germanic nations to the end of the German empire. Thus, the times of the Middle Age, with the greatest splendor of the Papacy, and the Age of the Reformation, as well as that after the Reformation, are supposed, indiscriminately, to be the 1000 years’ kingdom, including times when the most horrible deeds were perpetrated by the Romish Church, and other ruling powers, against the true confessors of the Lord, as in the wars against the Albigenses and Waldenses, against the Huguenots, in the Inquisition, and the night of St. Bartholomew, as well as many others. Auberlen (pp. 415 segg.) refers to these, very appropriately, against Hengtenberg. It is certain that we decide in accordance with the sense of the Book itself, when we consider the 1000 years’ kingdom as a state of development belonging to the Church or the kingdom of God which has not yet appeared, no more than has the glorious return of the Lord in close connection with it, and the first resurrection of believers awakened to participate in it. All this, according to the meaning of our book, must certainly be taken literally; not as Hengstenberg does, in relation to the happiness of believers beginning at their death.
With reference to Antichrist. In the past history of the Church, it may be pointed out that to every epoch, which reveals a special progress of the Kingdom of God, precedes a time in which the antichristian element comes forth with peculiar power; and every time of the kind may be considered as a partial and preliminary fulfilment of the prophecies of Scripture respecting destruction and mischief in the last time, and so respecting the appearance and activity of Antichrist. But, it may be said, on the other hand, that these prophecies have not yet found their complete fulfilment, and that the author of the Apocalypse himself would have seen in none of the phenomena, since the establishment of the Christian church an entire fulfilment of the visions in question. On the contrary, if we consider them according to their essential meaning, we are led to think of a person’s appearance before the glorious coming of the Lord, armed as an instrument of Satan, with Satanic powers. We must think of a personal manifestation still future.
The Apocalypse considers and represents as quite near, both the glorious Coming of the Lord and the Coming of Antichrist. The thing is not peculiar to the Apocalypse. As already remarked, it cannot be denied that the Christians of the first time generally, and also the New Testament writers, cherished the hope that the glorious appearing of the Lord would not be very distant, would take place, perhaps, in their own lifetime. Such form of hope was necessary to believers of the time to sustain them against the manifold struggles and sorrows with which they had to contend both outwardly and inwardly; and we shall do well if, after their example we continually keep in mind that future as near; like them, finding in it an incentive to direct all our energies to this, viz., to be found by the Lord, watchful and true, any time He may come. Many exhortations of the Lord Himself, as well as of His disciples, refer us to it; and also the Apocalypse most certainly. This view of the nearness of the glorious appearing of the Lord supposes that the utmost exertions of the hostile powers, or coming of Antichrist, are impending.
The reference to the approach of the glorious coming of the Lord, (Chap. xix) as Conqueror of the hostile powers, and for the inauguration of the kingdom of God upon earth, forms the central and leading point in the contents of the Apocalypse. Though the kingdom itself (Chap. xx) the thousand years, is but briefly described, yet all that precedes only serves as a preparation for it, just as what follows appears its farther completion. In Chap. xix. 1-10 voices of heaven resound, praising God for His righteous judgment on Great Babylon, and singing to Him because the marriage of the Lamb has come, the time of His union with His Church [bride, or "church of the firstborn," (Heb. 12: 23) - Ed.], and the complete inauguration of His Kingdom which is connected with the fall of anti-christian Babylon. In Chap. xix. 11 to Chap. xx. 1-3, the Appearing of Messiah, the Logos, is depicted in His triumphant glory; the defeat and destruction of all adversaries of the kingdom of God, the casting of the Beast and False Prophet into the lake of fire, and the binding of Satan for 1000 years. Chap. xx. 4-6, is the First Resurrection, or awaking of the believers who shall reign with Christ in the 1000 years’ kingdom; verses 7-10 the final contest of Satan with the kingdom of God which issues in his complete destruction, he being thrust into hell forever after it. The prophecy in Ezekiel xxxviii., xxxix. lies at the foundation, where a Gog, the prince of Magog, is spoken of who, "at the End of the days," when Israel have strengthened themselves in their land after return from their last captivity, will march out against them with numerous hosts, but will meet with complete defeat. Then the time of the trial of the people of God will be properly at an end. They will inherit the land in perfect safety, forever, ² and forget all afflictions they suffered. So also, here, the subject is of a last struggle, which, even after the expiration of the 1000 years’ kingdom, the people of God shall have to encounter * [* No. It never comes to a battle! N. W.] with the nations of the world which Satan will summon from the uttermost parts of the earth. Only, here, contrary to the manner in Exekiel, Gog is treated in the same manner as Magog, as a collective designation of those who had their dwelling at the farthest extremities of the earth; nations outside the pale of Israel’s kingdom. * [* Designated by Kliefoth, as the "peripheral nations." N. W. ] Among the later Jews, also, Gog and Magog are mostly named together as nations who will march against Jerusalem, and the land of Israel, at the world’s end, and shall then perish by the Messiah or by fire from heaven. See Westin, ad loc. The "camp of the saints," the place where the citizens of the 1000 years’ kingdom were united is described as the "Beloved City," beloved of God, a city to Him precious, namely "Jerusalem." In verses 11-15 is the general resurrection of the dead, namely of all those who have not had part in the thousand years’ kingdom, when all, who are not in the "Book of Life," are cast into hell, the lake of fire, after Death and Hades have been previously hurled into it, so that it is called the "second death." The Great white Throne is called "Great" in reference to the several "thrones" mentioned, verse 4. Chap. xxi. 1 to xxii. 5, describes, at large, the formation of the new world, and in it specially the New Jerusalem as the abode of believers and the blessed, in images which are borrowed mostly from, or follow, Old Testament representations, particularly the Mosaic description of Paradise, the Tabernacle of Testimony, and Ezekiel on the New Jerusalem, in Chapters xl. etc. But individual features must not all be pressed, according to the genius of our Book, neither in a literal nor an allegorical way. For representations of the New Jerusalem among the later Jews, see Eisenmenger’s Entd. Judenthum ll. 839, etc. The revelation of the future kingdom of God is now at an end. What follows forms only the conclusion to the book, in which the truth and reliability of these disclosures is especially affirmed, and it is repeatedly asserted that the time of the fulfilling of the Lord’s coming is at hand. Meanwhile, until the glorious Advent of the Lord, each one may continue in his usual way of acting, corresponding to his inward character, "filthy" or "holy." The sinner is free to continue in the viciousness till then, as it is the part of the just and pious to increase in righteousness and holiness. "The Lord comes quickly." He comes to renew every man in accordance with his entire conduct. "Blessed are they that do His commandments" (according to the Received Text, De Wette, Zullig, Tischendorf.) or "who wash their robes," i.e. "who are cleansed in the blood of the Lamb" (according to Lachman, Bentley, Mill, Ewald, A. 2 cursives, Eth. Arm. Vulg. Prim. Comment, and others). * [* The old Received Text is to my mind, beyond all question, the correct one. The "reward" is a reward of "Works," the reward of obedience the fruit of faith. It is measured by works all which have been wrought in us of God. Grace abounding to us, even in the Judgment Day! "Well done!" N. W.] The wicked and unclean shall find no access to the Holy City. The "Spirit" of Prophecy which had descended on John, and the "Bride," are saying, Come, O Lord, delay no longer Thy appearing. Each one who hears this call of the Spirit and the Bride, to the Lord, may join in it and make known his desire. Also, whoever has true longing for the treasures of the Lord, - let him come and take; the Lord will not withhold them from him. In reference to the entire prophetic contents of this Book, whoever makes additions to this prophecy, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this Book, and whoever subtracts aught God will subtract his part out of the Book of life, out of the Holy City, and the things written in this Book. The Lord, the Testifier, says, "Surely I come quickly!" "Amen; Come Lord Jesus!"
"This is the view which has prevailed in the Cathilic Church since the fourth century, and which is found in most Protestant interpreters . . . "
"The word "Chiliasm" means "Millennialism," or the doctrine of "the 1,000 years" in Rev. xx. 1-6, the Greek terms for which are, in English letters, "Chilia Ete" - "a thousand years." It stands for "Pre-Millennialism," by which is meant that the Second Coming of Christ in Daniel and the Revelation, as in all the Scriptures, is "Pre," or "before the "thousand years"; i. e., the Advent comes before the kingdom in victory, and is, therefore, a Pre-Millennial Advent. This is an explanatory word.
An eminent Roman Catholic writer and post-millennialist has recently asked the question, "How do the Old Testament prophets relate themselves to Chiliasm?" With great frankness he says, "Many times their prophecies are so delivered that it would seem that an earthly kingdom restored to Israel shall follow the End of the Times of the Gentiles. Especially is that kingdom, which, according to Daniel, shall rise on the overthrow of the Colossus and destruction of the Fourth Beast, conceived of as the kingdom of the 1,000 years in John." Nothing is more true. His mode, however, of answering this clear revelation is the following - since he keeps his eye on the "Roman Index," a sure reminder that he must teach the post-millennialism of the Roman Church, or find his book "prohibited." He replies, "But neither Daniel, nor any other prophet, knows of a kingdom only a 1,000 years long." He says, "The prophets do not distinguish clearly between the stages of the kingdom on earth and the eternal states beyond. They present the Messianic kingdom as at the close of the present age, without any epochs or stages in the same. When the prophets picture the future of the Kingdom of God, they insensibly pass from this side to beyond, never designating the temporal periods of the kingdom, or the order of their succession, definitely. Only the idea of a contrast between the humanity that is under the dominion of sin and the humanity redeemed from sin passes before their minds. (Prof. Atzberger, University of Munich, "Eschatologie." P. 95.) I have italicised the words to be denied. Were the author’s answer correct, no room would be left for his statement, that the prophets "do," and "many times," so deliver their prophecies that "it appears that an earthly kingdom restored to Israel shall follow the times of the gentiles." He takes advantage of the prophetic perspective in order to deny the clear teaching of the prophets, especially Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel and Zachariah, that there are "epochs and stages" in the development of the Kingdom of God on earth. He sees that the kingdom in Daniel is the 1,000 years on John, and "at its close of the present age," "and underneath the heavens." The answer rests (1) upon erroneous statements as to the laws of prophetic representation; (2) upon a spiritualization of the prophecies; (3) upon a confounding of the Ages and the Ends.
On the other hand, Dr. Paul Dornstetter, less regardful of the "Index," condemns the post-Nicene judgment of the Roman Church concerning Chiliasm, and its "spiritualizing methods." He says, "Not all Chiliasm was condemned by the early Church, but only that gross and sensuous conception of it which prophecy itself condemns. The highest moral denial belongs to the Biblical Chiliasm. The conversion of Israel in the Time of the End is foretold by the prophets, and by Christ and His Apostles. The establishment of the Kingdom has, for its pre-supposition, the preaching of the Gospel, firstly, to all nations, the Antichrist, Israel’s conversion and the coming of the Lord. Haupt spiritualizes the prophecies, and finds nowhere any concrete events of the future, but only moral and religious laws dressed up in Oriental drapery. Renan’s idea that the Millennium is only "a little Paradise in the middle of the earth" is his conceit. The 1,000 years’ kingdom is universal. When Reuss says that this kingdom is "a dogma peculiar to John," that statement is simply incorrect. The number, 1,000 years, was only an expression current in the Church for the temporal duration of the victory of the kingdom on earth, achieved at the Second Coming of Christ. It is untrue, moreover, when Mr. Carriere asserts "that, out of the disappointment felt at the long-continued absence of Christ, the idea generally grew up that the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ is exclusively an inner spiritual one, the same as life eternal beyond the grave." (Dornstetter, "Das end-zeitliche Gottesreich," pp. 141-144.)
"They will inherit the land in perfect safety FOREVER, and forget all afflictions they suffered."
"If Messiah’s kingdom is "Eternal," it is also "Temporal." If it is of unmeasured duration, not merely indefinite but absolute, transcending all temporal limits, it is no less a kingdom of measured duration, restricted to temporal limits, and bounded by great historic events. One in essence, it is many in forms. Its organic growth, from a seed to a tree, necessitates this. And this was the Hebrew faith, no less than the previous view. It is the biblical view also. The word "Olam," "Ever," does not, of itself, and by fixed necessity, always denote the annihilation of time, but as frequently, in Hebrew usage, demotes simply unbroken continuance up to a special epoch in history, or to a certain natural termination. It has a relative as well as an absolute sense, a finite as well as an infinite length. It means "Here" as well as "Beyond," and applies to a kingdom that comes to "an End," as well as one that has "no End." For this reason, a great World- Period, or Age, is called an "Olam," and World-Periods, or Ages, are called "Olammim," and in order to express infinite time, the reduplication is used, "Ages of Ages," "Olammim Olammim." It is therefore a false conclusion to say that because the term "Le Olam," "Forever," is applied to the Messianic kingdom, therefore the Hebrews contradicted themselves, when they assigned to it limits at the same time. Messiah’s kingdom is Temporal and also Eternal, and in both senses, Olamic. The bondman’s free covenant to serve his master lasted "forever," but that only meant "till Jubilee." The Levitical economy was established to be "forever," but that only meant till "the time of reformation." The Christian Church is "forever," in its present form, but that only means "till He comes." True to this view the Jewish Teachers ever held to a Temporal Kingdom of glory on earth, in the "World to Come," this side the Eternal State in the final New Heaven and Earth.
. . . So Gebhardt, saying, "Eminent Rabbis fixed the duration of the Messianic Kingdom for 1000 years according to a combination of Isa. lxiii. 4; Ps. xc. 4; (compare 2 Peter iii. 8) in union with the reason that, as God created the world in six days, and rested on the seventh, so in 6000 years, as in six world-days, all will be finished, and the 7th thousand the great World-Sabbath will be celebrated." * [* Gebhardt. Doctr. Apoc. 277.]
". . . Blind [the Jews were] to how many things in reference to the First Advent and the true Messianic Hope, which our Lord found it necessary to re-instate, in His conversation with Nicodemus, yet both pre and post-Christian Judaism were open-eyed as to many other things in reference to the Second Advent, but which they deemed due at the One and Only Advent they admitted, an Advent for Judgment, Victory and Glory. They saw clearly enough that the Messianic Days, the Kingdom of the 1,000 years, the Millennium of their prophets, followed the Great Tribulation. Attaching that 70th week, however, to the 69th in immediate sequence, and history failing to bring the fulfilment, they concluded that Jesus of Nazareth was not the Messiah foretold by the prophets. The relation of the 70th week, however, to the Advent of Messiah as a victorious and judging Prince, sent to restore the Kingdom of Israel, they understood. The Jewish literature is crowned with evidences of this.
. . . Not dreaming that a true repentance involved the believing recognition of Jesus of Nazareth as the already Heaven-Sent Messiah, history has chronicled. Messiah once already come, despised, rejected, and crucified by His own nation, will not appear to them so long as He is regarded, as a Pretender to the throne, a Blasphemer and Impostor.
. . . The one point clear, amid all confusion, is that the [Second] Advent of Messiah to set up His Kingdom of glory on earth and live and reign eternally, His Advent in the Clouds, is the pre-condition of the 1,000 years."
The New Testament Apocalypse answers herein, to the Old, as face answers to face in water, and it belongs to the shame and reproach due to the superficial knowledge of so many [regenerate believers] in our day, who pretend to greater things, that they have not recognized this fact, in their study of the Scriptures, but still keep harping on the old and tuneless string that "the Millennium is found in only one passage of the Bible, and that in a very obscure book called the Apocalypse!" . . . How false the common view entertained by the Church, and blindly advocated by so many of her teachers!
If the pious Hebrew held the Hope of Christ’s Coming to judge the nations, restore Israel, and set up His Kingdom on earth, as the only Hope for the world’s redemption, the only way by which Gentile politics and power could be overthrown, the Antichrist destroyed, and the faithful dead awakened to share the promise of the kingdom, much more ought it to be our Hope, bound up as it is with our deliverance, as well as the deliverance of Israel, and the final glory of the world. What a stupendous absurdity, in flat contradiction to every prophet [of God], that the Millennial Age will come prior to the "Yom Jehovah," or "Day of the Lord" in which Messiah appears for Israel’s final recovery! Such an idea simply inverts, perverts, and distorts, Moses and the Prophets, Christ and the Apostles. The whole testimony of prophecy, pre-exile, exile, and post-exile, is against it. The entire New Testament is against it. Never, till the Colossus comes down by means of judgment, and the Bones of Israel awake in the Valley, and the Antichrist is destroyed, and Satan is bound, and God’s sleeping saints are raised, and heaven, earth, sea, dry land, and the nations are shaken, can the kingdom come, as predicted. And that none of these marvels can occur apart from the Second Coming of Christ, the merest tyro in Biblical knowledge must recognize as a first principle and truth in the interpretation of prophecy.
- Nathaniel West.