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blinding influence of system does not perceive in this passage the following propositions ? (1.) It is a righteous thing for God to recompense tribulation to the wicked, and rest to his persecuted saints. (2.) The period at which this twofold recompense shall take place will be when the Lord Jesus Christ shall be revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels, in flaming fire. (3.) The results of this recompense will be eternal inisery and eternal bliss. And, (4.) The individuals to whom this recompense shall be awarded are, on on the one hand, “ them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,” and on the other, “ them that believe.”
Will any sober-minded man, who has any perception whatever of the force of the apostle's argument, take upon him to say, that the persecutors of the Thessalonians will not be « punished with everlasting destruction” at the precise period “ when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels, in flaming fire ? Is not the apostle speaking expressly of the recompense which awaited those that troubled or persecuted the Thessalonians ? But if at Christ's coming, agreeably to the opinions of modern Millenarians, none of his enemies will be judged or punished but only such as are alive at the time of his appearance, it will be in point of fact more than a thousand years after he shall have been revealed, with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, before one of all the early disturbers of the Apostolic Church shall be dragged forth to judgment. How absurd and
dangerous must be that theory which thus robs an inspired argument of more than half its force, and which strips it, at the same time, of that consistent beauty which pervades every part of the volume of revealed truth!
Secondly, Shall the two great divisions of the dead be raised and judged at one and the same time, or shall a thousand years intervene between the two solemn events ?
Here I would venture to affirm that the doctrine of two literal resurrections, separated by any considerable space of time, has no semblance even of countenance from the word of God, save in the mystic language of the text, which I shall hereafter attempt to explain. Were St. John's doctrine of a first and second resurrection,—the one before, and the other soon after the Millennium,-snatched from the advocates of literal interpretation, they would be compelled to give up a theory which does violence to the simple letter of the word, offends against the soundest canons of sacred criticism, and shrouds in mystery that which otherwise would shine forth in beauteous simplicity. It is a most unfair method of dealing with Scripture, to seek the elucidation of its more plain and intelligible portions in those which are more recondite and mysterious; and whenever this is attempted, it furnishes evidence, primâ facie, that the establishment of a system, and not of truth, is the object of the individual by whom the attempt is made. Where, in the plain instructions of the New Testament, is the doctrine of a resurrection of the saints at the beginning of the Millennium, and of the wicked at its close, any where distinctly taught ? Does not the Great Master connect the two events in a manner altogether unequivocal ? “ Marvel not,” says he," at this; for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in their 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.”* Did our Lord intend here to teach men that more than a thousand years should elapse between the resurrection to life and the resurrection to damnation ? On the contrary, is not one and the same hour allotted by him to both events ? and is not the natural-nay, the only legitimate impression, that the one event shall follow the other in immediate and unbroken succession ? Again,“ 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.”+ Now, though a resurrection is not expressly mentioned here, is it not distinctly supposed ? Does not the phrase all nations, rescue the passage from all conceivable ambiguity, and connect it, by the most indubitable of all arguments, with the final adjustment of the eternal destinies both of the righteous and the wicked ? Could any unsophisticated student of the sacred
volume suppose, that only those who are alive at Christ's second coming are here intended ? or could any unbiassed mind imagine that the discriminating scene here described shall be in a process of accomplishment for the space of a thousand years ? Who can reasonably doubt that by the phrase, “ all nations,” the whole human race are intended? Or who can doubt that the separation spoken of, is one effected at the same instant of time?
I shall only call your attention to one additional passage on this part of our subject. It is the address of the great apostle to the Thessalonians concerning their brethren that had fallen asleep in Jesus. “ But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died, and rose again, even so them which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”* A more fatal passage to the advocates of two distinct and distant resurrections, and of a personal advent of Christ prior to the Millennium, I know not. It predicates nothing, indeed, directly of the wicked; but what it teaches respecting the righteous goes far to annihilate the whole theory of millenarianism. It speaks of the two great divisions of the saints, those that are alive when Christ shall come, and those that sleep; and it points out the order and method which Christ shall pursue with reference to both. For first of all, after the “ shout” of his advent, “ the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God,” the sleeping members of Christ's mystical body shall be quickened to life immortal; and then, secondly, those“ which are alive" at his coming, having been “changed, in a moment, and in the twinkling of an eye,”* “shall be caught up together with their brethren in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air;" and thus shall the two companies of the faithful be united in an eternity of bliss,—they “ shall ever be with the Lord;” not in a region of earthly felicity, for the limited space of a thousand years; but in a region of pure and etherial delight, where every fresh manifestation of the divine glory shall break forth upon them in the full radiance of eternity.
* 1 Thess. iv. 13-18.
I know not how you feel, my brethren ; but I am thoroughly convinced that this sublime passage has no reference whatever to any transactions which shall precede the Millennium. It evidently treats of an event which involves the end of time, the disclosure of eternity, and the glories of heaven. It fixes our attention on that shout which all that are in their graves shall