The Penitent Pardoned, pp. 150-172.
Take heed of bold and adventurous conjectures, about the manner of Christ’s coming to judge the world by vain and carnal corruptions of a temporal Kingdom of Christ. Many are very peremptory about it, and there be strange Books, at least in their own expressions, that they can descry the very manner of his coming, that Christ shall come from heaven, and dwell a thousand years upon the Earth, and the dead shall rise and live in the world, but these are such things which the Scripture doth never take notice of. I am to handle on this promise of Christ, but I will come again, a perplexed Query, which is this, whether Christ Jesus in promising to his Disciples to come again, did mean to come to reign upon the Earth here a thousand years, or whether it be to be meant of Christ’s last coming to judge the world; this Scripture and others are made use of and brought to prove that Christ shall come from heaven in person and live upon the Earth, for a whole thousand years, they fancy that Jesus Christ when he shall come to this personal reign, then he shall raise all the Martyrs that have lost their lives in his cause, and the Devil shall be bound up, that he shall tempt men to sin no more, and wicked men shall be tied up that they shall not persecute the Church of God, this is an ancient opinion, and almost since the Apostles days. Before I shall come to give you my thoughts from the words touching Christ’s coming, as they pretend, to reign a thousand years upon the Earth; I shall shew you the rise of this opinion.
The Rise of Millennialism.
First, from Eusebius and others, they give us the rise of this opinion from Cerinthus which had it, who lived in the time of John. This Cerinthus who was a pestilent heretic in those times, who held that Christ was born by the conjunction of a man and a woman, Christum ex congressu maritali genitum esse, and not born by a virgin, and was born as others are, and so must be a sinner. He was the man that was the first author from whom this opinion had any life or being. Eusebius saith, Papias Bishop of Hieropolis did also hold this opinion, but not in so gross a way as Cerinthus did, but rather spiritually: and there was some spice of this in the Apostles, for they did dream of a temporal Kingdom; therefore they asked Christ when he was going to Heaven, Lord, when wilt thou restore the kingdom unto Israel? there was in the time of the Apostle a fancy that Christ must be an earthly monarch, and destroy all the kings of the Earth, and all the enemies of the world, and must come here to rule and reign a thousand years upon the Earth; it was brought over into Germany, and there was taken hold on by John of Leydon, in Westphalia, and handed over to us in England by men of late. Now for the confutation.
First, I shall quote express Scriptures, that Christ shall not come in person out of Heaven till his last coming to judge the world.
Secondly, I shall give you some reasons from the Scripture, why Christ cannot come out of Heaven bodily and in person to reign a thousand years upon the Earth.
Thirdly, I shall shew you some absurdities and incongruities that would follow if Christ should come to reign a thousand years upon the Earth.
Why Christ cannot come, before His last coming.
First, for express Scriptures which are four:
The First Scripture – Acts 3:21.
Whom the Heavens must receive, until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.
There the Apostle telleth you directly, that the Heaven must receive and keep Jesus Christ; how long? till the restitution of all things. The Millenaries hold that the restitution of all things may be at the time of Christ’s personal reign; but I shall shew you that this restitution of all things cannot be till Christ’s judging the world. First, there cannot be a total abolition of sin in the world, at the thousand years end there shall be a number of men, and wicked, during the thousand years, all things cannot be restored, for sin bringeth the creature under a curse, it is apparent that it cannot be till Christ’s last coming to judge the world, because other Scriptures tell you that the time of restitution cannot be till our bodies be raised from the dead, Rom. 8. 23. And not only they, but ourselves also which have the fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. That is, the creatures do as it were groan, being used by man as an instrument to God’s dishonour, so that till the bodies of all the Elect be redeemed and glorified, till that time the creature lies under a curse by reason of man’s sins and man’s abuse. And they themselves that plead for Christ’s personal reign a thousand years upon the Earth, though they do hold that the Martyrs shall be raised at that time; yet do not hold that all the Elect shall be raised at that time, therefore the Apostle saith expressly, that the Heavens must keep the person of Christ till the restitution of all things, and the bodies of the Elect come to be raised from the dead. Again, it is apparent from the context in Acts 3 that the restitution of all things can intend no other time than the time of Christ’s coming to judgement.
First, because it is said that the time here spoken of, is when the Jews were to be refreshed from the Lord’s presence, verses 19-21. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you. Whom the Heaven must receive, until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy Prophets since the world began. And they cannot be refreshed by the Lord’s presence till Christ’s coming to judgement and their resurrection.
Secondly, it was the time that God did solemnly declare pardon of sin for all the elect, Repent ye therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.
Thirdly, it is said, of which all the Prophets do bear witness, those that do plead for Christ’s personal reign a thousand years upon the Earth, they cannot say that all the Prophets did speak this; for Moses, Daniel and others, nay, none of the Prophets speak of Christ’s reign a thousand years upon the Earth, therefore this cannot have a reference to Christ’s reign for a thousand years upon the Earth.
The Second Scripture – Psalm 110:1.
The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
That Scripture tells you, that Jesus Christ who is ascended into Heaven and sits at God’s right hand there, shall so sit, till he hath made all his enemies his footstool. That the Apostles tells you that all Christ’s enemies are to be made his footstool, cannot be till Christ coming at the last time, will you mark that Scripture, where the Apostle telleth you directly, 1 Cor. 15:23-26. But every man in his own order, Christ the first fruits, afterwards they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the Kingdom to God even the Father, when he shall put down all rule, and all authority, and all power. For he must reign till he hath put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. Here is the coming of Christ that hath reference to all the just and unjust. Mark now, Christ therefore must reign in Heaven till all enemies be under his feet, now these thousand years all enemies are not under his feet, Why? because death will be then, death is not to be destroyed then, when the end comes he must give up his Kingdom to his Father: what is more clear than this, that the Heavens must keep Christ till all things be restored? and that cannot be till the day of Judgement. Again, Christ must reign so long till the end of the world.
The Third Scripture – 1 Cor. 15:23-24.
But every man in his own order, Christ the first fruits, afterwards they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the Kingdom to God even the Father, when he shall have put down all rule, and all authority, and all power.
This Scripture telleth you that when Christ cometh out of Heaven, upon Christ’s coming, three things must be done.
First, every man must rise, vers. 23. Now that cannot be at the thousand years, because they themselves hold this, that there shall only be a resurrection of the Martyrs, and here the Scripture saith, that every man shall rise, which cannot be till the day of judgement.
Secondly, when Christ comes, then comes the end; the Apostle tells us of his coming and the end of the world; to note, that Christ’s coming and the end of the world shall be together.
Thirdly, he delivers his Kingdom up to his Father, whereas if Christ should reign a thousand years here, it could not be said to be the giving up of a Kingdom, but the taking of a Kingdom into possession, he must resign all to God the Father. When the Scripture is so express, it is a wonder that men can receive such fantastical thoughts that Christ must come as an earthly monarch to reign here a thousand years.
The Fourth Scripture – Heb. 9:28.
So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many, and unto them that look for him shall be appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
From that Scripture I will argue against Christ’s coming to reign upon the Earth for a thousand years.
First, it is expressly in the Scripture that Christ’s coming there spoken of, refers to the day of judgement in v. 27. And as it is appointed unto all men once to die, but after this the judgement. There Christ’s second coming, it doth refer unto the day of judgement. Now if the Scripture doth say that the second coming which is his coming to judgement? Then Christ cannot come before that time to reign upon the Earth, for if he should come to reign upon the Earth, then the Apostle must call that his third coming; there hath been but one coming, which was from Heaven to the womb of the virgin, and there is no other coming to follow but a second coming, that is, to judgement.
Secondly, it is said, Christ shall come the second time to our salvation, it cannot be said to our salvation, if his coming were to reign a thousand years upon the Earth, that were only some temporal good; but Christ’s coming must refer to the last and great coming, wherein the world shall be judged and the souls of the Elect shall be saved.
Two Reasons why Christ shall not reign personally on Earth for 1000 years.
Beloved, these Scriptures are very clear unto me. The reasons are two; that Christ shall not come personally out of Heaven to reign upon the Earth for a thousand years.
The First Reason – The Five Concomitants of His Coming.
First, because the Scripture doth manifest that when Christ comes personally out of Heaven, there are such concomitants of his coming, that can be referred to no other time than his last coming to judge the world.
1. When Christ is said to come out of Heaven, the Scripture telleth you this concomitant, that the Saints shall come along with him, Jude 14. And Enoch also the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his Saints: So that when Christ comes from Heaven he must come with his Saints with him, nay, he must come with his Angels, 2 Thess. 1. 7. And to you who are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus Christ shall be revealed from Heaven, with his mighty Angels. Put these two Scriptures together, Christ must come with his Saints and Angels.
But those that fancy Christ’s coming a thousand years, they cannot prove that Christ shall come with his Saints and Angels, for the Scripture that seems to carry it that way; doth not speak of Angels and Saints coming.
2. It is said when Christ comes from Heaven that good and bad shall be gathered together, and all shall be judged by Jesus Christ; now this cannot be of Christ’s personal reign on the Earth; this you have in 2 Thess. 2. 9. Now we beseech you brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him. So that the coming of our Lord, and our gathering together to be judged by Christ, they are both coupled together; because when the Lord’s coming is, then is our gathering time, Mat. 25. 31. 32. When the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy Angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory. And before him shall be gathered all Nations, and he shall separate them one from another, as a Shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats. And in 2 Tim. 4. 1. I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing, and his Kingdom. The Scripture telleth you that when Christ appears to judge the world, he shall have this concomitant of his coming, he shall gather all together, to judge both the good and the bad. Those that pretend that Christ shall come to reign a thousand years upon the Earth, they cannot prove that then all shall be gathered together, they only plead for the Matryrs, and none else, therefore it cannot be referred to his coming to reign a thousand years.
3. When Christ comes, then the end of the world is, a period is put to this world, 1 Cor. 15. 24. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the Kingdom to God, even the Father, &c. When Christ comes, then comes the end; now those who hold for Christ’s personal reign, they hold that the end of the world shall not be till a thousand years after, because Christ must reign a thousand years.
4. The resurrection both of the just and the unjust is a concomitant of Christ’s coming, 1 Cor. 15. 23. But every man in his own order, Christ the first fruits, afterwards they that are Christ’s at his coming. So that at Christ’s coming the general resurrection of the just and unjust is to be.
5. There is to be the Salvation of the souls of all the Elect, that is a fifth concomitant of Christ’s coming, Heb. 9. 28. Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many, and unto them that look for him, shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. This cannot be referred to Christ’s personal coming upon the Earth to reign a thousand years, because he doth not come then to save the souls of all the Elect.
That is the first reason why Christ cannot come to reign upon the Earth, because when the Scripture speaks of Christ’s coming out of heaven, it doth annex five concomitants with it, which belong not to any coming of Christ upon the Earth, but to come to judge the world.
The Second Reason – It would be worse for Christ and Us.
A second reason is this, that Christ cannot come to reign upon the Earth, because if it should be so, it would be worse for Christ, and it would be worse for us than now it is, it would be worse for Christ, for to leave Heaven and come to the Earth, for Christ to leave Saints and Angels and Heaven, for to live upon the Earth among the wicked and the good, for they themselves confess that wicked men shall live upon the Earth then. Then besides, they fancy earthly delights, that the fruit of the vineyard shall not fade, as now it doth, yet they would lessen Christ’s glory, because he sits this day at his Father’s right hand: again, for to fancy this, that Christ must come to reign upon the Earth, it would be a great loss to all the Elect, for we have the benefit of Christ’s everlasting intercession; and were Christ upon the Earth, we should lose that benefit, Heb. 8. 4. For if he were on the Earth, he should not be a Priest, seeing that there are Priests that offer gifts according to the Law. So that if he were upon the Earth, we should lose the benefit of his Priesthood; therefore it would be a great wrong to us, to have Christ here on the Earth, because the benefit of his Priestly Office would not be so available to us as it is in Heaven. Thus I have laid down Scripture and given you reasons, why Christ cannot come, before his last coming.
Seven Incongruities & Absurdities.
Now there be eight Incongruities and Absurdities that would follow in case you should grant that Christ should come to reign a thousand years upon the Earth.
First, by those men’s principles, this inconvenience will follow, that people may exactly know the punctual time of Christ’s last coming to judge the world; for those who hold Christ’s personal reign, they do as well hold the time as the thing, they do as well maintain when this reign shall begin. Therefore some have maintained that Christ should come to reign on the Earth in the year 1650. One saith, if it shall not be in the year 1650, it shall be in the year 1694. They that go furthest guess at that time, if so be they hold the thing, and maintain the time also when it shall begin, then of necessity, we must know exactly when the day shall be that Christ shall come to judge the world, for they grant it shall be immediately after the thousand years. Now beloved, that opinion that carries this absurdity, to know the day of Christ’s coming to judge the world, which Christ saith, none in the world can tell, of that hour and day knoweth no man, Mark. 13. 32. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no not the Angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father, is a false opinion.
Secondly, this incongruity will also follow, that it will be a great disadvantage to Christ, in coming to reign a thousand years on the Earth, to leave his Father, and Heaven, and come, and only possess Earth. Now Christ hath more happiness in the immediate enjoyment of his Father in Heaven, than he can have here upon the Earth. Then it will be a loss to us, that we should lose the benefit of his Priestly Office, but Christ the Sun of righteousness being in Heaven, is more available to believers, than if he were upon the Earth.
Thirdly, observe this, that if Christ should come on the Earth for a thousand years, then Christ would leave the Church after that thousand years for a while, in a worse condition, than he found it and I draw it from that text which they pretend to be the strength of their argument, Revel. 20. 5, 7, 8. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished this is the first resurrection, and when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison; And shall go out to deceive the Nations which are in the four quarters of the Earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. So that after the thousand years, the Devil shall be let loose again, and there shall be an innumerable company of enemies, and they shall destroy multitudes of the godly. Therefore Christ would leave his Church in a worse condition than he found them, if this were true that Christ should reign a thousand years upon the Earth.
Fourthly, if Christ should come to reign a thousand years upon the Earth, then this incongruity will follow, that there must be three personal comings of Jesus Christ; for his first coming was his incarnation. Second coming, to these thousand years. And his third coming must be to judge the world, that is, the last coming, but the Scripture makes but two comings of Christ; First, his coming from heaven, when he was born; his second coming when he comes to judge the world again.
Fifthly, if Christ comes personally out of Heaven, to reign a thousand years, this incongruity will follow, that either the Saints and Angels must come, or not come with Christ; if they must come with Christ, then it is a loss to them, for them to leave the immediate presence of God, and come upon the Earth where wicked men shall be amongst them: or if they must not come with Jesus Christ, yet it is a loss to them to remain there, they shall lose for a thousand years the bodily presence of Christ; if Christ be on the Earth, he cannot be in Heaven the same time; Therefore it would be a loss to the Saints and Angels for them to be a thousand years in Heaven without the company of Jesus Christ, not to have the person of Jesus Christ with them.
A sixth incongruity will follow, that if Christ shall come to reign upon the Earth, then Christ’s Kingdom must be a worldly and terrene Kingdom, then it will be against the word of God, he must be a visible King to the Jews, and a visible King to all the world; besides this would follow then that Christ’s Kingdom must not be a spiritual Kingdom, but a terrene, a worldly pompous Kingdom, John 18. 36. Jesus answered, My Kingdom is not of this world, if my Kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews, but now is my Kingdom not from hence, Luke 17. 20. And when he was demanded of the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, the Kingdom of God cometh not with observation. Would not all the world observe this, for Christ to come bodily from Heaven, and in the majesty of a monarch? Now Christ’s Kingdom doth not come with observation. When the Disciples looked after an Earthly Kingdom, No, saith Christ, my Kingdom is for to rule and reign in your hearts, you shall never see me for to be an outward pompous King in the world, for Christ’s Kingdom, it is a spiritual Kingdom.
Seventhly, that if Jesus Christ shall come to take a Kingdom on the Earth for a thousand years, then this would intimate, as if Jesus Christ had not a Kingdom, and were not a King on Earth all this while he is in Heaven; they deny that place in Daniel, and all those phrases in the New Testament, that the Kingdom of the world is become the Kingdom of the Lord, they deny that Christ is a King in Heaven. When he was in the manger and born in the stable, he was a King at that very hour, Psalm 2. The Apostle refers it to Christ’s birth and Christ’s resurrection. Christ when he arose from the dead, he was a King then, and the Gospel under Christ’s time is called a Kingdom. It is remarkable, in John 18. 37. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a King then? Jesus answered, thou sayest that I am a King. Christ was a King, though he would not be an Earthly King to destroy Earthly Governments, therefore when the people in a tumult would have made him a King, yet he would not Zech. 9. 9. Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion, shout O Daughter of Jerusalem, behold thy King cometh unto thee, he is just, and having salvation, lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass. He was King, when he was on that slow contemptible creature, so that now to say Christ shall come to reign as King, it is to intimate to the world, as if Christ were not a King at this day, and whereas he is King of Kings, and Lord of Lords in Heaven, therefore he cannot come a thousand years to reign upon the Earth.
Dealing with Objections.
Now I will deal fairly to shew you the strongest Scripture that hath most shew of reason, for the maintaining of this Opinion; and shall labour to take them off and clear it to you. There are multitudes of quotations that varieties of men’s thoughts fasten upon to prove this point, yet those they most stand to, I shall fasten upon.
The First Text – Rev. 20.
Their chief pillar is in Revel. 20. 2, 3, 5, 6. And he laid hold on the Dragon, that old Serpent, which is the Devil and Satan, and bound him a thousand years. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgement was given unto them, and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word God, and which 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; But the rest of the Dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection, blessed, and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection, on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be Priests of God, and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. Now from this Text which is the chiefest in the Scripture they seem to build these two things upon.
First, that Jesus Christ shall live upon the Earth, and the Saints reign with him for a thousand years.
Secondly, Those that were Martyrs by Antichrist shall rise from the Dead, and come upon the Earth, these thousand years to continue with Jesus Christ.
This they build much upon, That Christ shall come to reign a thousand years upon the Earth. But I shall shew you this cannot be the sense of it, and I shall give you six answers.
First, that though the Scripture doth say that the Saints that were beheaded, should live with Christ a thousand years, yet the text doth not say that Christ shall come to reign with them a thousand years.
Secondly, though the text saith, that they should live and reign with Christ a thousand years, yet the text doth not say that they shall reign with him here upon the Earth.
Thirdly, that though it be said that the Saints shall live, and reign with Christ a thousand years, yet living and reigning with Christ doth not necessarily imply to be in the same place where Jesus Christ is, for then you would pervert many Scriptures: For lo, saith Christ, I am with you to the end of the world; it doth not therefore follow, from that time he will be upon the Earth to the end of the world, but Christ being with us, or we with him, it is by his spirit, Romans 8. 17. And if children, then heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ: if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. The text it doth not denote the sameness of place, and the oneness of situation, I give this to take off that which is made of this text.
Fourthly, it is evident that this Scripture cannot be a foundation to build on, that Christ shall come to reign a thousand years upon the Earth; because then it will not only follow that men shall live so long, but shall reign with Christ so long on the Earth. Methuselah lived but nine hundred sixty and nine years, and David saith, the life of man is cut shorter. The text saith, they shall live and reign with Christ; in that sense taking living properly, and all the phrases properly, they must necessarily say that men shall live when that time comes, a thousand years together. Again, it cannot be the sense of this Scripture, because that cannot be the sense of this Scripture which crosseth the sense of other Scriptures, to make this Scripture to affirm that Christ shall reign on the Earth a thousand years, and other Scriptures tell you that Christ shall stay in Heaven in person, till all men shall rise from the dead, every man shall rise, then cometh the end, 1 Cor. 15. 23, 24. But every man in his own order, Christ the first fruits, afterwards they that are Christ’s, at his coming. Then cometh the end, &c. 2 Thess. 2. 1. Now we beseech you Brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him. Then besides it doth cross the Scripture to say that at Christ’s coming, only some men shall rise but not all, Job 14. 10, 11, 12. But man dieth and wasteth away, yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and dryeth up; So man lieth down, and riseth not, till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep. Job telleth you expressly, That the dead shall not be raised till the heavens be no more, and that cannot be the thousand years, for there will be an Earth, and a Heaven then; and in Peter’s phrase, The heavens shall melt away like a scroll &c. Now to make a resurrection, before a resurrection, it is that which the Scripture doth nowhere mention, John 5. 28, 29. 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. The judging of the just and unjust shall be the same hour, and upon Christ’s coming all men shall be judged, 2 Tim. 4, 1. I charge thee therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead, at his appearing, and his Kingdom. So that Christ’s appearing, and Christ’s coming is a judging of the quick and the dead. Now beloved, then to make this Scripture to say that Christ shall come on the Earth before his last coming, this is to cross other Scriptures, then of necessity therefore it cannot be the scope of this, for there is no jarring between one phrase of the Scripture and another.
Fifthly, when the scripture saith here, That they live and reign with Christ a thousand years, it is not spoken whether it be a reigning with Christ in Heaven or on Earth, so the phrase neither carrieth it one way or another.
Sixthly, John doth not say, that he saw the bodies of men that were beheaded, and they reigned with Christ, but he did in a vision see the souls of them that were beheaded; now to say they must come to reign on the Earth for a thousand years, it were a great inconveniency to them; it is said, I saw the souls of them. The thousand years cannot be applied to Christ’s personal reign. For so Jesus Christ hath an eternal Kingdom, he doth not reign a thousand years on Earth or in Heaven, but everlastingly, Kingdoms and States of this world have lasted a thousand years, and to make Christ’s Kingdom to last no longer, it is to give Christ’s Kingdom too narrow a confine. I have consulted with many Authors, and I find the current of Interpreters generally run this way, though some do fancy that text speaks of the binding of the Devil for a thousand years, and during this time, the Saints should live and reign with Christ a thousand years. The sense and scope of this place is this.
The period of time, when this time began that the Devil was bound; Interpreters do unanimously give this opinion, that it began in the reign of Constantine the Great, he being the first Christian Emperor in the world, he coming after 300 years persecution by the Roman Emperors, who made great massacre and havoc in the Church of God; in so much that in the book of Martyrs we read, that there may be for every day in the year five thousand Christians slain, this is a dreadful persecution, and the Devil raged and stirred much. Now upon Constantine’s reign the Devil was bound up, that is, the Roman Emperors, who were acted by the Devil to all this cruelty, when Constantine a Christian Emperor came to reign, he gave out imperial Edicts and Laws for establishment of the Christian Religion, and that put an end to the persecution of the Roman Emperors, and to this opinion many Interpreters give in their consent, Brightman, Napier, Gerard, and these thousand years when the Devil was bound did end 300 years ago and more, and this is given to be the scope and sense of the Scripture.
But then you will say, though the Devil was bound, how comes the Devil to be loose again?
They answered this, that in the year 1300 the Turkish Emperor began to bear sway, Gog and Magog, called the Turk prevailed, and hath gotten the greatest part of the world within his power, and he was the Gog and Magog that did persecute the Saints, and did spread almost over all the Earth, and truly comparing Scripture and story together, this seems to be the nearest and the truest sense of this place, and this interpreters do generally concur in.
Two Objections by those, who plead for a thousand years.
First, is this, we read in the Century of the Church, that the Church of God was pestered by Valens the Emperor after these 300 years, and of Julian the Apostate that did greatly persecute the Christians, and how can this be true, when we read of so much persecution, after the Devil was bound up?
That when it is said the Devil is bound up, it is not meant simply, that there should be no temptation to sin, for that there should be; Valens the Emperor did establish Arianism and troubled the Church of God. One answereth, it was nothing like the persecution of the Roman Emperors, it was nothing so long nor so tedious as the persecution under the Roman Emperors, for, for every day in the year, 5,000 Christians were put to death; In Diocletian’s reign there were 17,000 Christians killed in one month, there was some sprinkling persecution in the time of Valens and Julian the Apostate, but it was nothing to that of the Roman Emperors.
Another Objection is this, Aye, but the Scripture saith, that this is the first resurrection, that the Saints living and reigning with Christ a thousand years, this is the first resurrection; how can it be said that after the time that the Roman persecution was curbed by Constantine, that was a resurrection, and that they reigned with Christ at that time?
First in Scripture phrase, the word rising doth not carry a reference to the body rising from the grave only, but of a man rising from a state of affliction and of sin, they are expressed in Scripture by a resurrection. Roman 11. 10, 11. Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway. I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid, but rather through their fall, salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy, Isaiah 22. 19. And I will drive thee from thy station, and from thy state shall he pull thee down. The men that are as it were low men in captivity in Babylon, they shall rise, it doth not refer to the resurrection from the dead at the last day: so a rising from sin, Col. 2. 12. Buried with him in baptism, wherein also you are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. We are risen with Christ, not bodily, but out of our sins, Coloss. 3. 1. If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. So that here, this is the first resurrection, the meaning is this, that those that did escape the rage and cruelty of the ten persecutions, and did come to live in Constantine’s days, and did all the while of the former persecutions, keep themselves from the idolatry of the Heathens, and corruptions of Antichrist, they are said to have the first resurrection: blessed are they that were raised up by Christ, from the sins, and from the errors, superstition and idolatry both of Antichrist and the Heathens.
Aye, but then it is said, they live and reign with Christ a thousand years. Beloved, that phrase, living and reigning with Christ, though some Interpreters refer it to Heaven, yet with Brightman and others, I concur, and also Bernard, that it doth denote thus much, that those in successive Ages, who enjoyed liberty in the Christian Religion under Constantine the great, who lived to a thousand years, and were delivered from former afflictions, that kept by Christ’s power from the idolatry of the times, and from Antichrist, they were said to live with Christ a thousand years, for they lived to him, and depended on him, and were not plunged into the wickedness of the times: and thus with consulting of many Authors I find this to be the truest account, in a few words in defending this text from giving any foundation to Christ’s personal reign for a thousand years upon the Earth.
The Second Text – 2 Peter 3:7-13.
The second Scripture that they do urge for Christ’s personal reign upon the earth for a thousand years, is 2 Peter 3. 7, 10, 11, 12, 13. But the heavens and the Earth which are now by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire until the day of judgement, and perdition of ungodly men. But the day of the Lord will come, as a thief in the night, in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the Earth also and the works that are therein shall be burnt up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for, and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the Heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless, we, according to his promise, look for new Heavens and a new Earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Here is mention of a coming of Christ, we look for and hasten to his coming, at Christ’s coming we look for a new Earth; Now say they, to what purpose were there to be a new Earth, if Christ were not to come down on this Earth, and the Saints with him for a thousand years, as the Scripture doth seem to give warrant for a thousand years reign; this Scripture seems to give warrant that he shall be on the Earth, they say that the righteous shall only have benefit of Christ’s personal reign upon the Earth. To take off this.
First, mark the scope and the context how this Scripture is brought in, and it will something clear the text. It is brought in against some Epicurean principles that some scoffers had taken up in those times, ver. 3, 4. Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. We see no change in providence, therefore where is the promise of Christ’s coming? they scoffed at Christ, that Christ was a contemptible man in this world; this is the answer in the 7 years. But the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store reserved unto fire against the day of judgement and perdition of ungodly men. Peter speaks directly that the time of Christ’s coming (which they scoffed at) was not the time of the thousand years, but of the day of judgment; therefore this coming here that Peter speaks of cannot be meant of a thousand years before the day of judgement.
Secondly, observe that the day of perdition of ungodly men, they say themselves that Christ doth suffer the wicked of the world to live in the world the thousand years, though not to rule as they had done.
Thirdly, observe, that it is said here that before this new Earth is, the world shall be burnt with fire, the heavens shall pass away with a noise, &c. Now before a thousand years there is no such thing, as it is before the day of judgement. The burning of that world is reserved against the day of judgement; therefore this coming cannot be referred to Christ’s personal coming on the Earth to reign a thousand years.
Fourthly, it is said here, that Christ should come as a thief, But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in the which the Heavens shall pass away with a great noise, &c. That epithet is referred to his coming to judge the world, to his last coming, and not to any other coming, 1 Thess. 5. 2. For your selves know perfectly that the day of the Lord cometh as a thief in the night. But if Christ should come to reign upon the Earth, then he cometh visible, and observable, Mat. 24. 43. But know this, that if the good man of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready, for in such an hour, as you think not, the Son of Man cometh, Revel. 16. 15. Behold, I come as a thief: Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.
Fifthly, and this Divines stand much upon: it is said, we according to his promise look for new Heavens, and a new Earth, wherein dwells righteousness. That the dwelling of a righteousness here, doth not imply that such a thing shall be on the new Earth, but the dwelling of righteousness refers to righteous men, not to heaven or earth, the Greek word clears it plainly, it is a word in the plural number. Therefore it is referred to the Earth, which is in the singular number. Therefore Divines say, from the original, 2 Peter 3. 13. in whom dwells righteousness, look for a new Heaven, and a new Earth. So that the dwelling of righteousness, it is not to be interpreted as referring to the Earth, but that righteousness should dwell in men; we read of none being on the Earth, wherein dwells righteousness. Thus much for that other Scripture, we look for new Heavens and a new Earth.
The Third Text – Dan. 2:44.
A third Scripture, and that they deem to have some strength in too is in Daniel 2. 44. And in the days of these kings shall the God of Heaven set up a Kingdom, which shall never be destroyed, and the Kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces, and consume all these Kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
Now beloved, to give you the scope of the text, take these answers.
First, It is true that a Kingdom is given by God to Jesus Christ, and that Kingdom was given by God to Christ while he was here upon the Earth in the form of a servant, and this Luke tells you, Chap. 1. vers. 32, 33. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the highest, and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David, and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his Kingdom there shall be no end. So that Jesus Christ had a Kingdom, and he is now King of Kings, and Lord of Lords in heaven.
Secondly, it is said here, that this Kingdom it was begun in the days of those kings. Now whose days doth this text speak of? It speaks of those that divided Alexander’s Kingdom, who overcame the Medes and Persians, it was divided between Ptolomy Lagides King of Egypt, Zeleuchus King of Assyria; In that time Jesus Christ did set up a Kingdom, for he was born King of the Jews.
Thirdly, it is apparent that this cannot be referred to Christ’s Kingdom in this world for a thousand years. Because it cannot be said that it should be a Kingdom for ever and ever, for a Kingdom for a thousand years cannot be said to be a Kingdom for ever and ever, but it is said in Daniel, It shall be for ever and ever.
The Fourth Text – Eph. 5.5.
A fourth Scripture, is in Eph. 5. 5. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ, and of God. And this text Gerrard quotes and doth well resolve it, they say there is not only a Kingdom of God that is Heaven, but the Scripture doth make mention of a Kingdom of Christ, as a Kingdom of God; Therefore they build on this Christ’s reign, and of having a Kingdom here upon Earth.
First, I answer, it is true, Christ hath a Kingdom, but he saith expressly, that his Kingdom is not of this world, John 18. 36. Jesus answered, my Kingdom is not of this world. &c.
Secondly, though it be said here that there is a Kingdom of Christ, yet it is not expressed to be upon the Earth, for a 1,000 years.
Thirdly, this Kingdom of Christ Interpreters refer it to the same with the Kingdom of God, and to be meant exegetically.
The Fifth Text – Matt. 26:29.
A fifth Text they have, is in Mat. 26. 29. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom. Alsted quotes, from thence they gather, it cannot be meant of Heaven, why? because there is no eating and drinking there; here is a promise by Jesus Christ, to come to them no more, till he would drink with them wine in his Father’s Kingdom, and it cannot be unless Christ doth come in person amongst his people; and have a Kingdom to eat and drink with his people in this world. This they stand much upon.
Take these clear answers to these Quotations.
First, this cannot be meant of a Kingdom in this world for a thousand years, my reason is this, because the Kingdom which is Christ’s personal reign, should be called Christ’s Kingdom, and not his Father’s Kingdom, it should have been called my Kingdom, and not my Father’s Kingdom, that is one answer that Divines give.
Secondly, observe this, that this may refer to that time between Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension, for after Christ did rise from the dead, you know he did continue forty days upon the Earth, and the Scripture telleth you, in Luke 24. 42. And they gave him a piece of broiled fish, and of a honey-comb, and he took it and did eat before them. So he may as well drink and eat, but that to me is somewhat uncertain.
Thirdly, which is the true scope of this place; I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it with you in my Father’s Kingdom: he was taking the Lord’s Supper, and was drinking the cup of wine, saith he, I am going away and will drink no more till we meet in Heaven, not that there should be eating and drinking in Heaven, but when you and I meet, we shall have sweet fellowship and communion together, as is in eating and drinking together; As feasting is a badge of communion, and of love, so there shall be endeared love and endeared communion with Christ in Heaven: you shall drink it new, not new wine, nor eat new bread, but after a new manner of love and communion, they should express love each to other, and have everlasting communion one with another.
They say likewise that there shall be no sin in the world, and that the Earth shall be restored to its primitive fruitfulness as it were before the fall, but I shall not meddle with these. And thus according unto my poor measure I have laboured to lay down the grounds from Scripture, why Christ cannot come to reign personally upon the Earth a thousand years, and have vindicated those Scriptures that seem to patronize that opinion.
Is it so, that the Scripture doth not determine of any coming of Christ out of Heaven till his last, and great coming to judge the world? O then labour to make it your work to have Jesus Christ as King to reign in your hearts by mortification, to rule in thy heart by his Spirit, to mortify thy head-strong lusts that are in thee.
Secondly, seeing there is no coming of Christ as King in this world, then labour to have Christ to reign in his Church by a well-ordered discipline, that the government of Christ may be established in the places where you dwell.
Thirdly, seeing there is no coming of Christ as King in this world; then do not trouble yourselves with niceties, and obscurities about his coming upon the Earth, but labour to be fitted and prepared for his last and great coming.
Fourthly, if Christ should come to reign upon the Earth (which the Scripture no ways speaks of) then certainly the Saints of these times do make but a bad preparative for Christ’s reign, that do impale Saintship, and monopolize Saintship unto themselves, and say they are the people of God, the Church of Christ, and the Saints of Christ, and they make but a bad preparation for Christ’s coming, to live in sensuality as they do, and commit such wickednesses as they do upon the Earth. This is but a bad preparation, and but poor encouragement to Jesus Christ to come and reign amongst such Saints as these are, which indeed are a scandal to Saints, a scandal to Religion, and would be a scandal to that thousand years of Christ, if he should come to reign, but Christ will have better Saints then these are to reign with him.