Evidence from Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ, by William Miller, , at sacred-texts.com
THERE is such harmony, beauty, and knowledge in every part of the word of God, that the Bible student, whose heart is interested in the same, has often, while reading, been led to stop and admire the order, wisdom, and light which burst upon his enraptured vision, at the unfolding of the figures and truths which until that moment, perhaps, lay in darkness, doubt, and obscurity, and seemed to be wrapped up in a mysterious veil that almost makes the reader quail, and come to the conclusion that he is treading on forbidden ground; but, perhaps, in an unexpected moment, the inspired penman, seemingly having anticipated our ignorance or darkness, throws out a spark of that live coal which had touched his lips, and our darkness is dispelled, ignorance vanishes before the fulness of knowledge of the word of God, and we stand reproved and admonished for our stupidity and ignorance in the figures and truths before explained. Our text is a brilliant spark of that fire which is upon the altar between the cherubims, and gives us a clear ray of light to discover the allusion of the figures contained in the fourth and fifth chapters of this book. It is conveyed unto us by way of a chorus, like the angel's song at the birth of our Savior in Bethlehem of Judea. It explains to us in a divine song what the four beasts are, and gives a key to unlock the mystery of the twenty-four elders, and clearly shows who opens the seals of the book. I shall, in illustrating this subject, inquire
I. Who they were that sung this new song;
II. Show the song, and the occasion of it; and,
III. Speak of the reign and the place where.
I. We are to inquire who are the singers in this grand chorus. The prophet calls them "the four beasts," or, as it might have been more properly translated, four animate beings; and the "four and twenty elders," he also calls them "saints," See the 8th verse, "And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of the saints." Then comes in our text, "And they sung a new song," &c. The four beasts is a figurative representation of the whole New Testament church, not only in character, but in chronology, representing the four different stages of trial through which the church should pass in her pilgrimage in the wilderness of this world, before she would enter the visible kingdom of her glorious Redeemer, the New Jerusalem, and reign on the earth. And every individual Christian, who may live any length of time after his conversion, passes through some or all of these states of trial. The four and twenty elders are the twelve patriarchs, which are sometimes called prophets, and the twelve apostles of the Lamb. For it is said, we are built on the prophets and apostles, Jesus Christ being the chief corner-stone; and figuratively it may represent the faithful and true ministers of Jesus Christ, the same as the twenty-four courses of the priesthood under the Jewish economy. See 1 Chron. xxiv. 7-19. And the four beasts are typified by the four grand divisions of the Jewish camp under Moses. The first, on the east, was to follow the standard of Judah; that on the south side, and second in the march, was the standard of Reuben; on the west side, Ephraim, and his, was the third standard in the march; on the north side was Dan's standard and Dan brought up the rear in the march of the Jews through the wilderness. What their several standards were, I cannot tell, except that of Judah, which marched in front, immediately after the ark, which in all probability was a lion. And our "first beast" under consideration was "like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle." These represent the four grand divisions of the gospel church. The first represents the church in the apostolic age, when the church went forth, bold as a lion, preaching and proclaiming the gospel among all nations. The second state or division of the church was the times of persecution and slaughter by the Roman emperors, represented by the calf. The third state of the church was in Constantine's day, when the church enjoyed privileges as a man, and became independent, and like a natural man, proud, avaricious, and worldly. The fourth and last state of trial was when the anti-Christian beast arose; and, under the scourge of this abomination, the church having two wings given her, like the wings of an eagle, she flew into the wilderness, where, a place being prepared for her, she is nourished from the face of the serpent a thousand two hundred and threescore days, Rev. xii. 6, 14.
This of course would include the whole Christian church until Christ's second coming, when anti-Christ will be destroyed, and the church delivered from all her foes, and brought into her New Jerusalem state, where John now sees in his vision the whole family of the redeemed, singing the grand chorus as in the verses following our text. "And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the beasts, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousands and thousands of thousands." In this vision John has the same view which Daniel had in his vision. See Daniel vii. 10. Daniel saw the same throne, and the same numbers stood before it; which proves, almost beyond a doubt that Daniel's vision carries us into the eternal, immortal, and glorified state; for John, in the next verses, carries us into the eternal state of the righteous.
12th verse, "Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth forever and ever." Nothing can be more evident than that John here saw the whole family of the redeemed, as they will be after the first resurrection; for he gives the several situations of every part of the whole family as they actually were, that is, in body, or the situation of their bodies at that very time when he was writing, "every creature," that is, in person, in their bodies, as they will be after the resurrection; not all mankind, as some vainly suppose, but those who are redeemed, or who may hereafter be redeemed, "out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation." See our text. If it had been "all nations," &c., he would not have said, "out of" &c. Therefore we must take the whole in connection. But John saw every creature whose bodies then were some of them in heaven as Enoch and Elijah; every creature who was then alive on the earth, like himself and brethren; every body of the saints that had slept and been buried under ground, or in the sea, and all the saints who were yet in the loins of their fathers. In one word, he saw the whole general assembly, and church of the first born, whose names were written in the Lamb's book of life. These four beasts are the same living creatures which Isaiah saw when he had a view of the glory of God. Isa. vi. 1-3, "In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims; each one had six wings: with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory." Ezekiel also saw the same living creatures that Isaiah calls "seraphims," and John "four beasts." Ezekiel calls them "cherubims." See Ezek. i. and x. chapters. John says, Rev. iv. 8, "And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him," the same as Isaiah's "seraphims." These wings are the graces of the Spirit, as is strongly implied by Ezekiel ii. 12, "And they went every one straight forward; whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went." "With two they covered their face"--humility and repentance; "with two they covered their feet"--that is, they walked by two of the graces, faith and patience, faith in God and patient in tribulation; "and with two they did fly"--hope and love. They "mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary, walk and not faint," says the prophet Isaiah, xl. 31. And again John says, they were "full of eyes before and behind, and they were full of eyes within;" showing that they would have just views of sin, of God, and his word, and of themselves: they could look back and see their sins, and the pit from which they had been delivered, and with gratitude remember their Redeemer. They could with eyes of faith look forward and believe in the promises of God, and have a view of the glory that shall be revealed at his second coming. With eyes within, they could look into their own hearts, and see the remaining corruption and hidden depravity that lie lurking in every corner of the soul, and by this means put off the old man with his deeds. They are represented by John as being praying souls, "and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints." Every one had these vials, says John. How then, I ask, can the prayerless man or woman think to join this celestial throng? "Having every one of them harps;" showing that all of them would have new hearts, be born of God; so they would be enabled to sing in the New Jerusalem state the new song.
These are the characters and persons which John saw represented by the four and twenty elders and the four beasts. I shall now,
II. Show what we may understand by the new song, and the occasion of it.
The prophet John had been led by the angel through seven different stages of the church, by the vision of the mystery of the seven stars and seven golden candlesticks, under the name of the seven churches of Asia, which ought to be understood symbolically down to the time when the judge stands at the door ready to enter into the supper of the great God, when all wicked flesh will be destroyed, and till the marriage supper of the Lamb arrives, when all the righteous will be raised, enter into the glorified state, and live and reign with him on earth. Then it is perfectly natural that after we had read the history of the church through all her trials, persecutions, and imperfections, we should be led to see her deliverance on the other side of the banks of Jordan, or beyond the power of death, and to hear a part, at least, of that new song which no man can sing unless he is redeemed from the earth.
In the second and third chapters of Revelation, we have the history of the church, as I have endeavored to show in my lectures on the churches. In the fourth and fifth chapters we have a view of the glorified state, and the characters given of those who will enjoy the privilege of that state, the song which will employ the golden harps, and the place where. The characters I have already given. The song is represented as a new song. it is new because it is sung only in that state where all things are made new. See 2 Pet. iii. 13, "Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." Rev. xxi. 5, "And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new." Now John saw, in Rev. iv. 2, the same throne, and him that sat upon it, and in the verse above quoted he speaks as though he had mentioned before "him that sat upon the throne." And as he has not mentioned him in this language in any other place, we may have strong reason to believe that the time and subject matter is the same in the 4th chapter of Revelation as in the 21st chapter. Again: we are expressly told that no man could learn the new song, but those who are redeemed from the earth, Rev. xiv. 3. And redemption from the earth is no where spoken of until the resurrection of the body. Christ says, in Luke xxi. 27, 28, "And then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh." And Paul says, Rom. viii. 23, "Even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our bodies." In this state they can sing, "For thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation." It is also a holy song; for they cry, "and rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come." The church in this state are not all holy; they have but a faint view of the holiness of God's character, his law of government; neither could they endure the sight; for when God has seen fit to reveal a small part of his holiness, men have fainted under it. Isaiah cried out, "Woe is me." Ezekiel fell upon his face, Ezek. i. 28. Daniel's comeliness was turned into corruption, so that he retained no strength, Dan. x. 8. Therefore it is evident that this holy song can only be sung in a state of immortality, when we shall be holy, even as God is holy. This new and holy song will not cease, for they rest not day and night, which proves it to be in the eternal state. And the dress and crowns of the elders, "clothed in white raiment," and they had on their heads "crowns of gold," and they "cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honor, and power"--all proves that the new song is sung after the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; for Paul tells us, that a crown is laid up for him which the righteous Judge shall give him at that day; and not only him, but to all them also that love his appearing. So neither the elders nor the beasts can sing this new song until the New Jerusalem is formed, their bodies redeemed from the earth, and they brought into the eternal state of the righteous. It will not be sung until the last child is born into the kingdom--the last enemy conquered--the elect gathered from the four winds of heaven, and the cap stone brought forth, when the heavens will ring with this general chorus. "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty: blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever; and the four beasts will say, Amen."
III. I shall now show the reign spoken of in our text, and the place where.
There is much speculation at the present day on the reign of Christ on the earth, which is promised in his word, and in the text. Some have supposed that it would be purely spiritual, by the Holy Spirit's influence, when all, or a large share of mankind who then should be on the earth, would be regenerated and become the subjects of his spiritual kingdom; that there would be no tempting devil to deceive, nor any kingdoms on the earth, but what would be subject to Christ's spiritual reign, and the church would enjoy a long Sabbath of rest; and the long-desired period of some who profess to be the servants of Christ would come; when church and state would be united, and war would cease to the end of the world, and the world would increase in riches, arts, and science to an amazing degree, beyond any thing we have yet conceived; thousands would inhabit the earth where there are but tens now, and man would live to a good old age, and nations be born in a day. This theory is the most rational one I have been able to discover, aside from the glorious reign of Christ with his people in a state of immortality.
To the above theory I have many scriptural objections. Although the advocates of this theory call it spiritual, yet a large share, if not all, are temporal blessings of this kingdom, and are exactly the same that the Jews believed they should possess at Christ's first coming. Again: they must suppose, if this be true, that the rulers of the world must all be Christians, or professedly so. Then what must we say to Christ's words, "My kingdom is not of this world"? and again, "In the world ye shall have tribulation"? The world hate you, and if ye live godly, ye shall suffer persecution, and these (meaning the whole family of the redeemed) have come out of much tribulation. How could those millions who are born or live in this happy period, come out of great tribulation? But where do the advocates of the above system prove their doctrine? Some pretend to bring the same passages in the Old Testament that the Jews did, to prove their temporal kingdom over the Gentiles, and do not see that much of the Old Testament prophecy was, and has been fulfilled in its typical sense. And it is very easy to show that the passages they pretend to bring in the Old Testament were all fulfilled 1800 years ago.
But, if they had believed in this theory, would not some of the New Testament writers have mentioned this important period? I remember, when I was but a child, of hearing an old minister of the gospel make a remark like this:--"All the Old Testament prophecies," said he, "which were not fulfilled when Christ came in the flesh, are carried into the New Testament, and further explained." I then thought there was reason and propriety in the remark; I think so still, for the two witnesses must and will agree. And where do the believers in this system bring us one word from Christ? Not one. But we can show much to the contrary. The parable of the tares and the wheat carries us to the end of the world; and he expressly says, "Let them grow together until the harvest." His prophecy and parables in Matt. xxiv. and xxv. give us a prophecy until his second coming, and not a word about a happy period previously, but much about lo heres, and lo theres, and wicked servants beating and bruising their fellow-servants, and eating and drinking with the drunken, saying in their hearts, My Lord delayeth his coming. Can this be a millennium? No. Too much devil in such conduct as this. Where does Paul, a very prominent writer, give us a hint of these important things? He must have understood the Old Testament as well as some, if not all, of our modern divines. But he, too, has given the reverse. In his epistle to the Thessalonians, he tells us plainly, "Then shall that wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and destroy by the brightness of his coming," 2 Thess. ii. In his 2 Thess. i., he tells them of the necessity of patience and faith in all their persecutions and tribulations; which, he says, is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God; and then goes on to show Christ's coming, and destruction of an ungodly world; nothing that looks like a millennium in this, or any part of Paul's writings, before Christ's second coming. Where, then, shall we find it in the New Testament? Perhaps they may say in Rev. xx.; but this chapter can never be given to them until they do away the first resurrection; for all in that chapter is after the first resurrection, and, of course, is after the personal and second coming of the Savior; and all the arguments to do away or destroy the word resurrection are so futile and weak that it needs no argument to refute them; for what could do it in that place might in every other case, and we should be Sadducees at once. James, Peter, and Jude mention the last days in their epistles, and describe them as being very wicked, yet make no mention of a day of the spread of the gospel in this wonderful manner. James speaks of their heaping up treasures for the last days. "Behold, the hire of the laborers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth; and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton: ye have nourished your hearts as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you. Be patient, therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord, for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh." Can this be the millennium? No! unless proud, earthly pleasure, wantonness, and murder, are the spirit of their millennium. Yet, if it is temporal, this would be the most likely fruits, if we judge of the future by the past; for the greater the temporal blessings, the greater is man's rebellion. Read the second and third chapters of 2 Peter, where he expressly speaks of the last days. "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?" &c., agreeing with what Christ said the wicked ministers would be doing when he comes. They would say in their hearts, My Lord delayeth his coming. Can there be this happy time described in the above theory? All must answer. No. Then let this suffice as answer to the above theory, until our opponents prove their own sentiments by the word. There are many more branches of the above system, but none that I have seen but are liable to the same objections.
I shall now undertake to prove that this reign is in the immortal state, after the resurrection; that Christ will be present with his people, and, of course, personally, and that it will be on the earth.
I. Then I am to prove that it will be immortal after the resurrection.
The present reign is called, in Scripture, a reign of grace; "So might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord." This reign has been ever since Christ was in the world, for 1800 years past. We shall now show that this reign must continue until after the resurrection of the dead. See 1 Cor. xv. 23-26; "But every man in his own order; Christ the first fruits, (resurrection;) afterwards they that are Christ's at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have given up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall put down all rule, and all authority and power. For he must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." Here we have plain Scripture that the same reign of grace must continue unto eternal life; and in the other text, until the resurrection of them that are Christ's, and death, the last enemy to the church, is destroyed. Where, then, shall we get in a spiritual or temporal reign? We see evidently there is no change of the reign of Christ in the gospel or grace, from the apostles' days until the time comes when the saints shall possess the kingdom in the immortal state. Paul says, Rom. v. 17, "For if by one man's offence death reigned by one, much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." Here the saints are promised to reign after the gift of righteousness, (which the righteous Judge shall give all those who love his appearing at that day,) in life, that is, eternal life. See 21st verse. 1 Peter v. 4, "And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away." This must, of course, be in the immortal state, for it fadeth not away.
II. That Christ will be present with his people in a state of immortality, can hardly be doubted when we read such texts as these:--John xii. 24, "If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there also shall my servant be." Again John xiv. 3, "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am there ye may be also." So much for Christ's promise to his disciples. And now let us read his prayer to his Father on this point, John xvii, 24, "Father, I will that they, also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory." Paul says, 1 Thess. iv. 17, "And so shall we ever be with the Lord." "For it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." Our text says, "And hast made us unto our God kings and priests." Rev. xx. 4, 6, "And they lived and reigned with Christ." "And shall reign with him." xxi. 3, "And I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God."
III. "And we shall reign on the earth," says our text. Not under its present dispensation, but after it is cleansed by fire; after the wicked are destroyed by fire, as the antediluvians were by water, after the resurrection of the saints, and when Christ's prayer, taught to his disciples, shall be answered, "Thy will be done on earth, even as in heaven." When the bride has made herself ready, and married to the bridegroom, he will then move her into the New Jerusalem state, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband, where we shall reign with him forever and ever on the new earth and in the new heavens; "and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away." Then the whole earth "shall be full of his glory;" and then, as says the prophet Isaiah, liv. 5, "For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of Hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; the God of the whole earth shall he be called."
And then, my dear hearer, if you have had your heart broken off from sin; if you have by faith been united in spirit to the Lamb of God; if you have patiently endured tribulation and persecution for his name,--then you will live and reign with him on the earth, and this earth will be regenerated by fire and the power of God, the cursed destroyed, sin, pain, crying, sorrow, and death banished from the world, and mortality clothed upon by immortality, death swallowed up in victory. You will rise up in that general assembly, and clapping your hands with joy, cry, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is now come." Then you will be in a situation to join the grand chorus, and sing the new song, saying, "Thou art worthy, for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, and hast made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth, saying, with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing." And all who meet in that grand assembly will be then heard to shout, "Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever." And methinks I can now see every one who loves our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in this assembly, rising upon their feet, and in one united prayer of faith, crying, "Come, Lord Jesus. O come quickly."
But you, O impenitent man or woman, where will you be then? When heaven shall resound with the mighty song, and distant realms shall echo back the sound, where, tell me, where will you be then? In hell! O think! In hell! a dreadful word! Once more think! In hell! lifting up your eyes, being in torment. Stop, sinner; think! In hell! where shall be weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Stop, sinner, stop; consider on your latter end. In hell! "where the beast and false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever." I entreat of you to think--in hell! I know you hate to hear the word. It sounds too harsh. There is no music in it. You say it grates upon the ear. But think, when it grates upon the soul, the conscience, and the ear, and not by sound only, but a dread reality, when there can be no respite, no cessation, no deliverance, no hope! You will then think, yes, of this warning, of a thousand others, perhaps of this hour, with many more that are lost; yes, worse than lost, that have been squandered in earthly, vain, and transitory mirth, have been abused; for there have been many hours the Spirit strove with you, and you prayed to be excused. There was an hour when conscience spake; but you stopped your ears and would not hear. There was a time when judgment and reason whispered; but you soon drowned their cry by calling in some aid against your own soul. To judgment and reason you have opposed will and wit, and said, "in hell," was only in the grave. In this vain citadel, on this frail house of sand, you will build, until the last seal is broken, the last trump will sound, the last woe be pronounced, and the last vial be poured upon the earth. Then, impenitent man or woman, you will awake in everlasting woe!
Be warned; repent; fly, fly for succor to the ark of God, to Jesus Christ, the Lamb that once was slain, that you might live, for he is worthy to receive all honor, power, and glory. Believe, and you shall live. Obey his word, his spirit, his calls, his invitations; there is no time for delay; put it not off, I beg of you; no, not for a moment. Do you want to join that heavenly choir and sing the new song? Then come in God's appointed way; repent. Do you want a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens? Then join in heart and soul this happy people, whose God is the Lord. Do you want an interest in the New Jerusalem, the beloved city? Then set your face as a flint Zion-ward; become a pilgrim in the good old way. "Seek first the kingdom of heaven," says Christ, "and then all these things shall be added unto you."