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is such as shall be after the final judgment, and consequently it is a description of the glorious state of Christ's kingdom in heaven, rather than here on earth.
Thus having considered what we think to be the general design of those scriptures, which speak of Christ's reigning in or over the earth, and of the happy state of the church at that time; and, on the other hand, endeavoured to prove, that several additional circumstances, which, some suppose, will attend it, are not sufficiently founded on scripture, and, in some rea spects, seem inconsistent with the spirituality of Christ's kingdom, and, with the ground we have to expect, that the present mode of administration, and the laws and ordinances thereof, shall continue as long as the world endures : we shall now consider the sense they give of some scriptures, on which the main stress of their argument depends, together with the inconclusiveness of their way of reasoning from them, and also in what sense we apprehend those scriptures are to be understood.
1. As to what concerns the first resurrection, which they found on that scripture in Rev. xx. 6. Blessed and holy is he that hath a part in the first resurrection, on such the second death shall have no power, but they shall be priests of God, and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years : a learned and judicious writer * supposes, that the first resurrection shall be only of the martyrs, and that it is to be taken in a literal sense, and that this shall open the scene of Christ's thousand years' reign, and that the second resurrection shall be at the close thereof, in which the whole world shall be raised from. the dead, and then follows the final judgment: but he differs from many of the ancient and modern Chiliasts, in that he says, he dares not so much as imagine that Christ shall visibly converse with men on earth; for his kingdom ever hath been, and shall be, a kingdom, which is of such a nature, that his throne and kingly residence is in heaven ; and though the deceased martyrs shall re-assume their bodies, and reign, yet it shall be in heaven; whereas the saints, who shall be then living, and have not worshipped the beast, nor his image, nor received his mark, these shall reign on earth; for he supposes, that scripture, that relates to this matter, to contain a vision of two distinct things, namely, one respecting those that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and these lived and reigned with Christ, but not on earth ; the other respecting those, who, though they had not suffered, had not worshipped the beast nor his image. These also reigned during this thousand years, not in heaven, but on earth. These are considered, as in their way to heaven; the other, as received into the heavenly country, as
* Vid. Mede de Resurrec. prim. Lib. III. Page 710, 749, 750.
a peculiar prerogative conferred upon them, as the reward of their martyrdom; and this first resurrection he supposes to be against no article of faith, but may be as well defended, in the literal sense thereof, as the resurrection we read of in Matt. xxvii. 52, 53. in which it is said, that the graves were opened, and many bodies of the suints, which slept, arose, and came out of their graves, after Christ's resurrection ; and, with a becoming modesty, he cites Augustin's words to this purpose,* that if nothing more were intended hereby, but that the delights of this kingdom were spiritual, the opinion would be tolerable, and that that father was once of that judgment. Thus he says as much as can be said in defence of this opinion ; and nothing is wanting to support his argument, but sufficient evidence, that the text must necessarily be taken in a literal sense.
But when others proceed much farther, and conclude that Christ shall appear visibly on earth, and that the design of the first resurrection is, that they, who shall be raised from the dead, should live here on earth; this we see far less reason to conclude to be the sense of those words, and accordingly shall take leave to consider what may be said in opposition to it.
Therefore, if they shall be raised, their bodies must either be corruptible and mortal, or incorruptible and immortal; to suppose that they shall be raised corruptible and mortal, and consequently liable to the other infirmities of life, is to suppose their resurrection to be of the same kind with that of Lazarus, and others that were raised by our Saviour: but this is so disagreeable to the character of saints, raised from the dead to reign with Christ, that it is not generally asserted by those who treat on this subject. Therefore they must be raised incorruptible and immortal; and, if so, it will follow from hence, that this world will not be a place fit for their abode ; for they shall be raised with celestial bodies, and so fitted to inhabit the heavenly mansions ; neither will those accommodations, which this earth affords, the food it produces, or those other conveniences which we enjoy therein, by the blessing of providence, be agreeable to persons who are raised up in a state of perfection,
as they must be supposed to be, or, as the apostle styles it, raised in glory. And, since they are appointed to live and converse with men in this lower world, I cannot see how there can be any conversation between them and others, who continue to live in this world, not, like them raised from the dead, but retaining their present mortal frame. If their vile bodies, as the apostle speaks concerning the bodies of the saints, when raised from the dead, shall be fashioned like unto Christ's glorious body, Phil. iii. 12. how can weak frail creatures intimately converse with them? And if it be said, that they shall not be rais
* Tid aug. de civ. Dci, Lib. xx. cap. 7.
ed with such a glory, but that this shall be deferred till they are translated to heaven, as was true with respect to our Saviour's human nature, after his resurrection; though this be possible, yet it seems not agreeable to the account we have of the circumstances of glory, with which the saints shall be raised from the dead.
But that which seems to make this opinion more improbable, is, that it is inconsistent with that state of blessedness, into which they have been once admitted, namely, in their souls, wherein they have been in the immediate vision and fruition of God; as travellers arrived to their journey's end, and wanting nothing to complete their blessedness but their resurrection ; and, now they are supposed to be raised from the dead; yet their blessedness is diminished, by their being appointed to live in this lower world, and, as we may say to leave that better country, in which they have been, to re-assume the character and condition of pilgrims and sojourners upon earth.
To this it will be objected, that we may as reasonably suppose, that these saints shall be raised in circumstances, fit to converse with the rest of the world, as any that have been raised from the dead have formerly been. I cannot deny but that this is possible; but yet it does not seem probable, inasmuch as they shall not be raised from the dead for the same end and design that others have been, that the power of God might be illustrated, or some contested truth confirmed by this miracle ; but that some special honour, or privilege, might be conferred on them, as the reward of their former sufferings : but this is disagreeable to their being raised in such a state, as that their happiness is thereby diminished.
Moreover, what valuable end is answered by this their change of condition, which might in some measure tend to justify the assertion ? Must they live here, that they might perform an extraordinary ministry, to promote the edification of their mortal brethren, whom they found living upon earth? This was not absolutely necessary, for God has appointed other ways for the edification of his church; and, if he did not think fit, before, to send down ministers, to preach the gospel, from heaven, to them, but ordained the common method of preaching it by others, less qualified for this work, who are subject to like infirmities with those to whom they preach, why should we suppose such an alteration in the method of divine providence on this particular occasion ?
And if we suppose that they shall continue on earth till Christ's appearing to judgment, then it must be argued, that they were sent here not only to be helpers of the faith of others, who live therein, but to be exposed, in common with them, to a second warfare opon earth ; not, indeęd, with flesh and blood,
but with those who are represented in the same chapter, ir which the first resurrection, and thousand years' reign, are mentioned, as compassing the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city; and therefore they are called back from a triumphant to a militant state.
If it be said, that they shall be admitted into heaven before this battle begins, that can hardly be supposed; for if God send them to be companions with his mortal saints, in their prosperous state, will he call them away when the time of their greatest danger approaches, in which their presence might be of the greatest service to their brethren, who are left to struggle with these difficulties? Therefore, upon the whole, we cannot suppose that any shall, in a literal sense, be raised from the dead, till this glorious, though spiritual reign of Christ shall be at an end, and the day of judgment draws nigh, which is agreeable to the general scope of all those scriptures, which speak of the resurrection, and final judgment.
Object. But to this it will be objected, that the scripture elsewhere intimates, that there shall be two resurrections; for the apostle says, in 1 Thes. iv. 16. that the dead in Christ shall rise first; therefore why may not this resurrection be understood in the same sense with that mentioned in Rev. xx. which has been before considered?
Answ. We do not deny but that this resurrection, which the apostle speaks of, must be taken in a literal sense ; but let it be observed, that he does not here mention any thing of the thousand years' reign, but of the day of judgment, when Christ shall descend from heaven with a shout, and with the voice of the arch-angel
, with which the glory of that day shall begin, and then the dead shall be raised, in which the saints and faithful shall have the pre-eminence; they shall rise first, that is, before others, mentioned in the following verse, that are alive, who shall be caught up with them in the clouds. And this shall also be done, before the wicked shall be raised, to the end that, when Christ appears, they, as it is said elsewhere, may appear with him in glory; and that they may bear a part in the solemnity of that day, and be happy in his presence; when others are raised to shame and everlasting contempt, and filled with the utmost confusion and distress.
Moreover, this first resurrection of those that died in Christ is not particularly applied to them that suffered martyrdom for him, much less is there any account of its being a thousand years before the general resurrection ; therefore it may very well be understood of a resurrection a very short time before it, and consequently gives no countenance to the opinion, which has been before considered, concerning this resurrection, as going before the reign of Christ on earth.
2. There is another scripture brought in defence of another part of their scheme, taken from the apostle's words, in Rom. viii. 21-23. where he speaks of the creatures' present bondage; and future deliverance, and their waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of their bodies, which, they suppose, will have its accomplishment, when this reign of Christ begins : but I cannot think that the apostle, in that scripture, intends any thing else, but that the whole creation is liable at present, to the curse, consequent upon man's fall; and that the deliverance he speaks of, shall be at the general resurrection, when the saints shall be raised immortal and incorruptible, which is what they now wait and hope for.
Thus we have considered the sense that is given of some scriptures, by those who understand the reign of Christ on earth, as attended with various circumstances, which we cannot readily allow of; and shewed, that some of those texts, which are usually brought to support that particular scheme, have reference to the return of the Jews from captivity, * and others, that predict their building of Jerusalem, and the temple there, Jer. xxix. 5. Isa. xliv. 28. and the setting up their civil and religious policy, had their accomplishment after their return from the Babylonish captivity; and that those, which seem to look farther, and respect some privileges which they shall enjoy in the last days, will be fulfilled, when they are converted to Christianity, and partakers of many spiritual privileges, in common with the gospel-church; therefore I need only mention two scriptures more, which we understand in a sense very different from what some do, who treat of Christ's reign on earth. As,
1st, That in which we have an account of the general conflagration, which, as was before observed, some few, who give too great scope to their wit and fancy, beyond all the bounds of modesty, and without considering those absurdities that will follow from it, have maintained that it shall be immediately before Christ's reign on earth begins: the scripture they bring for that purpose, is that in 2 Pet. iii. 10, 13. in which the apostle says, that 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. Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens, and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. This scripture, it must be confessed, is hard to be understood. We are far from thinking, as some do, that it is only a metaphorical description of some remarkable providences, tending to the ruin of Christ's enemies, and the advantage of his people ; certainly the words are to be taken in a literal sense; for the apostle had been
* See Ezek. xxxvii. 21. and Jer. Ixxvij. 7–13. & alibi passim.