Lange Commentary - Revelation 19:17 - 20:5

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Lange Commentary - Revelation 19:17 - 20:5

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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:

B.—Earth-Picture of the Victory over the Beast. The Parousia of Christ for Judgment

Rev_19:17 to Rev_20:5

a. The Judgment upon the Beast

17And I saw an [one] angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud [great] voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven [mid-heaven], Come and gather yourselves [om. and gather yourselves—ins., be gathered] together unto the [ins. great] supper of the great [om. the great] God; 18That ye may eat the [om. the] flesh of kings, and the [om. the]4 flesh of captains [ins. of thousands], and the [om. the]4 flesh of mighty [strong] men, and the [om. the]4 flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the [om. the]4 flesh of all men [om. men], both19 [om. both] free and [as well as] bond, both [and] small and great. And I saw the beast [wild-beast], and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make [ins. the] war against [with] him that sat [the one sitting] on the horse, and against [with] his army. 20And the beast [wild-beast] was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles [the signs] before him [in his presence], with which he deceived [seduced or misled ( ἐðëÜíçóåí )] them that had [om. had] received the mark of the beast [wild-beast], and them that worshipped his image. [:] These both [the two] were cast alive into a [the] lake of [ins. the] fire burning [that burneth] with brimstone. 21And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat [the one sitting] upon the horse, which sword proceeded [goeth forth] out of his mouth: and all the fowls [birds] were filled [satiated] with their flesh.

b. The Millennial Kingdom [Rev_20:1-5)

1And I saw an angel come down from [descending out of—ins. the] heaven, having the key of the bottomless [om. bottomless] pit [abyss] and a great chain in [upon] his hand. 2And he laid hold on the dragon, that [or the] old [ancient] serpent, which [that] is the Devil [or Slanderer], and Satan [or the Adversary], and bound him a thousand years, 3and cast him into the bottomless [om. bottomless] pit [abyss], and shut him up, and set a seal upon [om. him up, and set a seal upon—ins. and sealed over] him, that he should [might] deceive [seduce or mislead ( ðëáíÞóῃ )] the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled [finished]: and [om. and] after that [these] he must be loosed a little season [time]. 4And I saw thrones, and they sat [ins. down] upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were [had been] beheaded for [on account of] the witness of Jesus, and for [on account of] the word of God, and which [who] had not [om. had not] worshipped [ins. not] the beast [wild-beast], neither [nor yet] his image, neither had [om. neither had—ins. and] received [ins. not] his [om. his—ins. the] mark upon their [the] foreheads, or in [om., or in—ins. and upon] their hands [hand]; and they lived and reigned with Christ a5 thousand years. But [om. But] The rest of the dead lived not again [om. again] until [till] the thousand years were [should be] finished. This is the first resurrection.



a. The Judgment

The judgment upon the Beast is accomplished, not in a manner purely of this world and in a form purely historical, like the judgment upon the Harlot, but in a more spiritual form, which is based upon the appearance of Christ from the other world, and which introduces the cosmical transition-form between time and eternity, the Millennial Kingdom.

The first point for consideration is that cosmical change itself, which proceeds from the sun and summons all the birds under the Heaven, all the forces of earthly metamorphosis, to consume all the dead flesh, the exanimate materials which shall be the issue of the great defeat of the Antichristian world—to consume them, in order to convert them into new life.

The second point is ethically mysterious. A decisive act of judgment takes the place of the battle contemplated by the Beast and the Kings. The two leaders and misleaders of the infatuated Antichristian host, the Beast and the False Prophet, are seized. That which seizes them seems to be a judgment of madness, for they are cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. For them, hell begins in this life; the fire of the fuel in which they have wrapped themselves, surrounds them on all sides—a flame of infinitely wild, fanatical agitation, doomed, in consequence of its absolute worthlessness, to form the pool of a mortal and dead stagnation—the unprogressive and eternally monotonous movement in a circle, or the fiery whirlpool of phrases and curses. In the case of the False Prophet, his guilt is once more noted, in explanation of his judgment; the most bitter reminiscences cling to the perfidy of his apostasy.

The third point is the judgment upon the followers of the Beast. They are not immediately cast into the fiery lake, but are for the time only killed. They are killed by the sword issuing from the mouth of Christ. They are morally judged and annihilated. What remains of them is a world of shadows, a sort of realm of the dead on the surface of this earth itself. All the birds become satiated with their flesh; i. e., all their sensuous and earthly possessions have lost their value and are decayed like the flesh strewed over a field of dead bodies. All the birds are satiated with their flesh; i. e., all the forces of metamorphosis are laboring for their transformation into a new shape. The fullness and manifoldness of the flesh to be devoured by the birds is vividly described in Rev_19:18. A complete end is to be made of all this.

Though it might with reason be said that because the sun is the symbol of the revelation of salvation, the Angel of judgment, standing in the sun as the angel of the whole salvatory development of revelation, indicates the hour when the work of the revelation of salvation is entirely completed, when the world clock of the history of salvation in this world has run down—we must not overlook the fact that this moment must coincide with the perfect ripeness of our cosmical system, and that, consequently, a catastrophe must start from the centre of our cosmical system, as well as from the focus of our religious moral system. The harvest of the earth and the harvest of the Kingdom of God coincide, in accordance with the parallelism between spirit and nature, as is declared in the Eschatological Discourse of our Lord (Mat_24:29), although the Day of the Harvest, the Last Day, stretches out into an æon of a thousand years in a symbolical sense.

The birds of the heaven have, in typical preludes, often been invited to similar feasts upon the slaughter fields of history (Deu_28:26; Jer_7:33; Jer_16:4; Eze_39:17). In this fact there is not only an expression of irony concerning the vanity of earths glory, but also an expression of the triumph of life over death. The Kingdom of God is acquainted with a transformation of matter; it is, however, of another and higher sort than that of which modern materialists talk; it does not lie under the curse of an eternal rotation, but is, on the contrary, under the law of the highest life, which changes this lower world of becoming into the eternal world of the City of God.

b. The Millennial Kingdom

The prophecy of the thousand years of Christ’s reign on earth is, in and for itself, a true pearl of Christian truth and knowledge, because it throws light upon an entire series of difficult Christian conceptions.

In the first place, it mediates an understanding of the Last Day, in that it shows how the latter expands into a Divine Day of a thousand years, in a symbolical sense, i.e., a specific æon; and thus it also casts light backwards upon the import of the days of creation.

Secondly, it mediates the understanding of a catastrophe which is to divide between this life and the life to come, time and eternity, the world of becoming and the world of consummation, in that it shows how the great and mighty contrast is harmonized by an æonic transition-period, in perfect accordance with the laws of life and vital development, as was clearly explained by Irenæus (see Dorner, Geschichte der Christologie, p. 243).

Especially does it mediate the fact of the resurrection, in that it represents a first resurrection as preceding the general resurrection, in harmony with the Apostle Paul (1Co_15:23). Thus the resurrection is characterized as an affair of growth or progress, conditioned upon spiritual circumstances. In accordance with this, we apprehend the fact that even in this life the believer advances towards the resurrection (Php_3:11); that a resurrection-germ gradually develops within him (Romans 8.); that the beginnings of the resurrection commence with his removal into the other world (2 Corinthians 6.); that believers, in their ripening towards the resurrection, are, as blossoms of the general resurrection, a whole æon in advance of the rest of mankind—a fact which is also indicative of a higher form of resurrection; and that Christ must needs have been the firstling and the principle of the whole resurrection (Eph_1:20).

Thus also the great antithesis is explained which must necessarily exist between the original transruption (Durchburch) of sin or the curse in humanity and the final transruption (Durchburch) of salvation and blessing. As, in the primitive age, pneumatic corruption was for a long time hindered in its outbreak by the resistance of healthy vital substance in the psychical, somatic and cosmical sphere, so in the New Testament time, pneumatic salvation in humanity has had to struggle long with the resistance of evil in the psychical, somatic and cosmical sphere. With the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom, however, begins the transruption of the blessing, in opposition to the old transruption of the curse.

Whilst, on the one hand, the communication of believing humanity with Heaven and its pure spirit-world is spiritually consummated by the Parousia of Christ, and destined to be also physically consummated, the communication between the spiritual sphere of earth and the Satanic sphere of the abyss, on the other hand, is discontinued:—in the first place, because the organic mediators of Satanic operations, the Beast and the False Prophet, as also Great Babylon, are judged and destroyed. Though at the close of the great transition-æon Satan again obtains a foot-hold on the earth, it is the last convulsive struggle of the serpent-nature manifesting itself in a brutal mutiny, which, for the very reason that it is veiled under no spiritual pretexts, like former Satanic efforts, but is the issue of consummate boldness and insolence, is blasted, not by Christological weapons, but by the fire of the Almighty from Heaven.

But of this great effulgent picture of the Millennial Kingdom, the lack of patience and hope in the Christian sphere (Rom_8:24-25) has made the most manifold caricatures.

We distinguish the caricatures of real so-called Chiliasm; the caricatures of the spiritualistic denial of Chiliasm, even to the misapprehension of its primal type—according to this class, the Apocalypse itself is chiliastic, and the same character is finally attributed to the concrete Christian hope; finally, the caricatures of the Millennial Kingdom which were produced by placing it in the past or the present (see the Introduction).

True Chiliasm existed, so far as its element was concerned, long before the doctrinal forth-setting of the ÷ßëéá ἔôç , whence it takes its name. It is based upon the great family failing of all Judaizing Christianity; to such Christianity, the cross of Christ is still, more or less, an offence; to such Christianity, the redemption accomplished in the first Parousia of Christ is unsatisfying, and the centre of gravity of the redemption is consequently regarded as situate in the second Parousia, when Christ shall appear in His glory, and shall also promote His people to the state of glory. This Judaizing Christianity has no understanding of the principial completion of redemption in its depth and inwardness; hence, only in the final, peripheral redemption does it behold the true redemption. According as its ideals of glory are nobler or more base, its eschatological hopes assume a purer or an impurer form, so that a perfect scale of Chiliasms is formed, stretching from an anticipation of the sensuous glorification of Israel to the most carnal orgies in pre-celebration of the return of Christ. This is material Chiliasm proper. It has been rejuvenated in three Anglo-American sects of our own time. The element of truth which is perverted into falsehood and extravagance in it, is the Christian and Biblical expectation of the real, and in a religious sense ever near, coming of Christ.

But material Chiliasm early sought and found a formal supplement, in that it boldly converted the words of the Apostle Peter (2Pe_3:8)—words which, spoken with reference to Psa_110:4, were designed as a counteraction against chiliastic impatience—into a chronological article of doctrine, in which it believed that it had discovered the key to the computation of the time of Christ’s coming. A Judaizing presupposition was here involved—viz., that God’s historical work of salvation would arrive at completion in a Divine week, reflected in the human week. To this was added later the further assumption, that at the first coming of Christ the world had been in existence for about four thousand years. Upon these bases men reckoned, and determined the time of the second Advent. Here another arbitrary assumption arose, converting the Millennial Kingdom into the real Sabbath of God, though the latter is to last forever, whilst the Apocalyptic æon appears as a mere transition-period. In many respects, this formal Chiliasm, whence the system has its name, was subservient to material Chiliasm; in many other respects, however, especially in more modern Theology, formal Chiliasm, as a theological subtilty, detached itself entirely from material tendencies, although it continued to be afflicted with the material infirmity of a somewhat superficial and extravagant conception of the history of salvation.

In face of all these Judaizing conceptions, the spiritualistico-ethnical conception has always considered itself bound, not only to combat true, sensuous Chiliasm, but also to controvert, or at least cast a shade upon, its assumptions—the expectation of the real coming of Christ, for instance; and it has especially felt itself obliged to cast the reproach of Chiliasm upon the putative originator of the same, the Apocalypse. And this, particularly, on account of the thousand years, the ÷ßëéá ἔôç . The Tales of a Thousand and One Nights might, with about equal justice, be denominated a chiliastic composition.

A turbid mixture of both one-sided views is formed by the placing of the Millennial Kingdom in the course of Church History. In reference to this mixed form, we can distinguish two species. Mediæval Catholicism beheld in the Romish Church the actualized Kingdom of God itself, especially in respect of the papal system. The Old Lutheran orthodox dating back of the Millennial Kingdom into the Middle Ages—a view recently revived by Hengstenberg—was a fruit of the stunting of Eschatology in the era of the Reformation, especially in adherence to utterances of Luther’s. We here refer partly to the history of the interpretation of the Apocalypse, as already presented by us, partly to the following exegesis in detail.

The singular opinion of Stier and others, that there is to be a double Parousia, one at the beginning and the other at the end of the Millennial Kingdom, seems desirous of conjoining so-called “Chiliasm” with the older orthodoxy.

With the judgment upon the spiritual motive powers of the Beast, with the destruction of his powerful lies, Satan has lost his foot-hold within the infatuated human race—his right of naturalization, we might say, in this earthly sphere. He is therefore cast into the abyss. An Angel descends from Heaven to execute God’s sentence upon him. The office of this Angel reminds us of the offices of Michael; his name, however, is not mentioned. He has the key to the abyss—not simply to the pit of the abyss; this key he has in order that he may shut the abyss, i. e. entirely shut off Satanic influences from men for the time of the thousand years. This power, however, is connected with the moral fact that all the spiritual pretences contained in the Satanic illusive promise, eritis sicut deus, are destroyed by the beauteous reality of the great appearance of the Kingdom. All that Satan falsely promised concerning the path of impatience and guilt, is here attained in the path of pious patience: fullness of blessing, happiness, glory of life of every sort. Thus Satan has come to the end of his Latin, and needs, agreeably to the serpent’s tenacity of life, a thousand years to contrive the last desperate stroke of senseless heaven-storming—a procedure which is reported to have been the first act of the revolted Titans of Grecian story. And for this last rebellion a further existence is granted him, for the judgment upon him must be complete. His existence during the thousand years, however, consists in a sojourn in the abyss, betwixt death and damnation (the Realm of the Dead [Hades] and Gehenna), fastened to the chain which the Angel brings with him from Heaven. He has now made an open show of his entire nature, and is therefore called by his various forms and titles, except that the appellation of Accuser is no longer given to him—although even this name is contained in the äéÜâïëïò . The condemnatory sentence is executed in four acts which follow each other in rapid succession. He is seized, cast chained (not chained to any object external to himself, but hand to hand, 2Pe_2:4) into the abyss, shut in, and sealed. The seal is the symbolic expression for the appointed Divine doom upon him, and is more powerful in its effect than the seal with which the grave of Jesus was sealed. The purpose of all this is that he may not prematurely seduce the heathen, the remnants of heathenism which still constitute the old border of the new world that is in process of becoming.

This, then, is the negative side of the Millennial Kingdom. The positive side appears in three features: [1] The first resurrection, [2] the first judgment of restitution, [3] the first period of imperishable triumphal rest and rejoicing and unfading glory in the fellowship of Christ. The first resurrection is represented as a special reward of the faithfulness of Christ’s martyrs—above all, the martyrs of the last time, who have not worshipped the Beast; hence these latter constitute a particular class by the side of those slain at an earlier period. They stand in the fore-ground, as representatives of the Victorious Church (see 1Co_15:23); but we must recollect that this Church is itself of greater extent than here appears. For Christ has come with the hosts of Heaven, according to Rev_19:14; according to the Epistle of Jude (Rev_19:14), He is to come with His myriads of saints. With the sphere of this resurrection, the full liberation of the life-power on the sanctified earth is expressed (see Isa_65:13 sqq.). The second sphere is the sphere of the preliminary judgment. For the Seer, this occupies the foreground, since Christian longing cries for the removal of all the shame and wrong which, in this world, weigh upon the name of Christ and Christians; hence the Seer first sees the thrones of judgment set. If we consider that the judgment upon the Antichristian host has already been held, and that the last judgment upon the last revolt, which is as yet but germinating deep in the darkness, cannot be anticipated, there results, as a middle domain of judgment, an instruction (Pädagogik) and discipline exercised by Heaven upon the human race, as extant at the Parousia, and thus sharing in the cosmical metamorphosis. It is that process of elimination and sanctification which must take place before the perfect appearing of the City of God on this earth; it is a judgment of peace, in accordance with Psalms 72 and Mat_19:28. The third sphere is the living and reigning with Christ in the glory of a spiritual life which dominates and clarifies all creaturely essence—the organization of earth for its union with Heaven. There is no trace here of an external restoration of Israel in the sense of a privileged people of God, or of a restoration of the Old Testament cultus in an inconceivable New Testament sublimation; unless we should apply the subsequent words, they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and the words the beloved City, to the support of such a theory—in which case the symbolism of the expression must necessarily be di-carded. We cannot suppose that there is to be a two-fold heavenly Jerusalem; and the one true Jerusalem is still in Heaven, whence, according to Rev_21:2, it does not descend to earth until the end of the thousand years.


By the American Editor

[The word Millennium means, etymologically, a thousand years, and may with propriety be used in reference to any period of that length. By common consent, however, the specific term The Millennium is employed to denote the period mentioned in Rev_20:4-7. The theories on this subject that have been held in the Church are divisible into two classes—the Preterist and the Futurist—the former of which set forth that the origin of the Millennial period was in the past; the latter, that it is in the future. Each of these classes consists of two or three generic theories, the respective upholders of which differ amongst themselves on many specific points. It is proper to remark that in the following statement the writer has been greatly indebted to the work of Elliott.

a. Preterist Theories

I. The Augustinian. This theory is so styled as it was first propounded by the great Augustine in his Civitate Dei, Rev_20:7-9. It has been upheld in all ages of the Church since its first promulgation, and in modern times by Wordsworth. Its main elements are—1. The period began at the first Advent, when Satan was bound and cast out of the hearts of true Christians and their reign over him (regnum militiæ) began: 2. The Beast symbolizes the wicked world, and its image a hypocritical profession: 3. The first resurrection is that of dead souls to spiritual life, a resurrection continued in every true conversion throughout the period: 4. The thousand years is a symbolical expression of completeness appropriately indicating the entire period of the Messiah’s reign: 5. This period to be followed by a new persecution of the Saints under Antichrist; the destruction of whose hosts by fire from heaven would be followed by the universal resurrection of the good and bad, and the general judgment; after which will begin, in heaven, the glorious period of the New Jerusalem.

II. The Grotian. This theory was first propounded by Genebrard in the 16th Century; it found its chief advocates, however, in Grotius and Hammond. It differs principally from the preceding in that it makes the reign of Saints to be, not that of the individual Christian in the domain of his own heart, but that of the Church in the world. The elements of this theory are—1. By the Beast is denoted Pagan Rome, whose destruction under Constantine was predicted in Rev_21:2. The power of Satan was then broken, as was manifested in the establishment of the Christian religion as the religion of the State: 3. The Millennial period began in that establishment, it was continued through a thousand years to the 14th Century, and closed with the attack on Christendom by the Ottoman Turks: 4. Gog and Magog denote the Mohammedan power, at the close of whose gradual destruction is to take place—the universal resurrection, the general judgment, and the eternal blessedness of the Saints in heaven.

III. The Gippsian. This view, suggested by Mr. Gipps in 1831, makes the beginning of the period synchronous with the rise of Papal Antichrist. It represents (according to Elliott) “ those who lived and reigned with Christ to be men endowed with the spirit of the early Antipagan martyrs, now revived, as it were, to testify for Christ: after which, at the end of the Beast’s and witnesses’ concurrent (!) Millennial reign, the second and glorious resurrection of the rest of the dead is to be fulfilled in the Jews’ conversion and restoration.”

b. Futurist Theories

IV. The Pre-Millennial. This theory, as to its general features, is the most ancient. It was held by the primitive Fathers, and has been taught with various specific modifications in all ages of the Church. Amongst its most prominent English speaking advocates, in modern times, are Mede, Caryll, Gill, Noell, Elliott, the Bickersteths, the Bonars, Alford, Lord, etc. The elements are that—1. The Millennium is to begin in a glorious personal advent of Christ, immediately after the destruction of Antichrist: 2. The binding of Satan is to be “an absolute restriction of the powers of hell from tempting, deceiving, or injuring mankind:” 3. The duration is to be one thousand years (literal or symbolical): 4. The resurrection is to be a literal resurrection of Saints of the preceding æon (either the martyrs, or the specially faithful, or the entire body): 5. The entire government of the earth is to be exercised by Christ and His risen and transformed Saints, the latter being ὡò ἄããåëïé (Mar_12:25): 6. Under this government, all false religion having been put down, the Jews and all nations having been converted to Christ, Jerusalem being made the universal capital, righteousness, peace and external prosperity shall prevail throughout the earth: 7. At the close of this period, Satan having been loosed, there shall be a great apostasy, followed by (1) the destruction of the apostates, (2) the universal resurrection of the remaining dead of all dispensations, (3) the general judgment, (4) the consummation.

The principal variation amongst those who hold this theory are as to—1. The continuance of Christ on earth;—some holding that it is to be only for the establishment of the Kingdom; others that it is to continue more or less uninterruptedly throughout the whole period: 2. The duration, some holding that the thousand years are literal; others that they are symbolic: 3. The subjects of the resurrection;—some holding that they are all the saints; others that they are only the martyrs; others still, that they are the specially faithful, including the martyrs: 4. The relation of the Jews to the other nations;—some contending that they are to occupy a position of superiority; others denying or modifying this opinion.

V. The Post-Millennial. This theory, which is the one most generally adopted by English speaking Protestant Theologians, was first fully developed by Whitby. Faber, Brown and Barnes have been amongst the most prominent of its advocates. The scheme as set forth by Whitby is as follows:—

“I. I believe that, after the fall of Antichrist, there shall be such a glorious state of the Church, by the conversion of the Jews to the Christian faith, as shall be to it life from the dead; that it shall then flourish in peace and plenty, in righteousness and holiness, and in a pious offspring; that then shall begin a glorious and undisturbed reign of Christ over both Jew and Gentile, to continue a thousand years during the time of Satan’s binding; and that, as John the Baptist was Elias, because he came in the spirit and power of Elias,—so shall this be the church of martyrs, and of those who had not received the mark of the Beast, because of their entire freedom from all doctrines and practices of the Antichristian Church, and because the spirit and purity of the times of the primitive martyrs shall return. And therefore—

1. I agree with the patrons of the Millennium in this, that I believe Satan bath not yet been bound a thousand years, nor will he be so bound till the time of the calling of the Jews, and the time of St. John’s Millennium.

2. I agree with them in this, that the true Millennium will not begin till the fall of Antichrist; nor will the Jews be converted till that time, the idolatry of the Roman Church being one great obstacle of their conversion.

3. I agree both with the modern and ancient Millenaries, that then shall be great peace and plenty, and great measures of knowledge and of righteousness in the whole Church of God.

I therefore only differ from the ancient Millenaries in three things:

1. In denying Christ’s personal reign upon earth during this thousand years; and in this both Dr. Burnet and Mr. Mede expressly have renounced their doctrine.

2. Though I dare not absolutely deny what they all positively affirm, that the City of Jerusalem shall be then rebuilt, and the converted Jews shall return to it, because this probably may be collected from those words of Christ, Jerusalem shall be trodden down till the time of the Gentiles is come in, Luk_21:24, and all the prophets seem to declare the Jews shall then return to their own land, Jer_31:38-40; yet do I confidently deny what Barnabas and others of them do contend for, viz.: that the temple of Jerusalem shall be then built again; for this is contrary not only to the plain declaration of St. John, who saith, I saw no temple in this new Jerusalem, Rev_21:22, whence I infer there is to be no temple in any part of it; but to the whole design of the Epistle to the Hebrews, which is to show the dissolution of the temple-service, for the weakness and unprofitableness of it; that the Jewish tabernacle was only a figure of the true and the more perfect tabernacle which the Lord pitched, and not man; the Jewish sanctuary only a worldly sanctuary, a pattern, and a figure of the heavenly one into which Christ our High Priest is entered, Heb_8:2; Heb_9:2; Heb_9:11; Heb_9:23-24. Now, such a temple, such a sanctuary, and such service, cannot be suitable to the most glorious and splendid times of the Christian Church; and therefore the Apostle saith, The Lord God omnipotent, and the Lamb, shall be their Temple.

3. I differ both from the ancient and the modern Millenaries, as far as they assert that this shall be a reign of such Christians as have suffered under the heathen persecutors, or by the rage of Antichrist; making it only a reign of the converted Jews, and of the Gentiles then flowing in to them, and uniting into one Church with them.”

With the above presentation, post-millenarians, in the main, agree. The chief point of difference is as to the return of the Jews to their own land—some holding, with Whitby, that it is to take place; others, denying it. There are also differences as to—1. The nature of the Second Resurrection implied in Rev_20:5,—some, with Vitringa, identifying it with the general resurrection of Rev_19:12-13; others, as Whitby, Faber and Brown, explaining it as the uprising of Antichristian principles in the confederacy of Gog and Magog: 2. The New Jerusalem,—some, with Whitby, regarding it as relating to the Millennial condition of the Church; others, as Brown and Faber, understanding by it the post-millennial condition of blessedness and glory.—E. R. C.]


Rev_19:17. One angel standing in the sun.—“In the sun, because from this stand-point, fitted, as it also was, to the glory of the Angel, he can best call to the birds, flying ἐí ìåóïõñáíÞìáôé (Ewald I., De Wette, Hengstenberg, Ebrard, Volkmar).” Duesterdieck. If this were the motive for the position of the Angel, he might much better have taken his stand in the moon. His position in the sun has an import relative at once to the Kingdom of God and to the Cosmos. The sun, as revelation, is the principle of the spirit-realm of this present life; the sun, as a celestial body, is the domain of this present Cosmos (see Syn. View; comp. Rev_1:16; Mat_24:29). Come, be gathered together.—See the citations above; comp. also Mat_24:28. According to Düsterdieck, the slain ëïéðïß of Rev_19:21 are the whole mass of the inhabitants of the earth. But whence, then, would come the mutineers at the end of the thousand years? The Eastern kings should also be distinguished from the ten kings. Gog and Magog have not yet joined the conflict. The ëïéðïß are, manifestly, the Antichristian host, from which the mass of earth’s inhabitants are still to be distinguished. Unto the great supper of God.—Antithesis to the Marriage-Supper of the Lamb. At the former, all the flesh of the fleshly-minded becomes a prey to the birds; at the latter, believers, as heirs of God, become heirs of all things.

Rev_19:18. That ye may eat.—The prospective complete destruction of the hostile host is set forth in detail.

Rev_19:19. And I saw the wild-beast.—The war-making, on the part of the Beast, is entirely of this world; it is a march, a drawing up in order of battle, the combatants being provided, perhaps, with the most terrible material weapons. But, opposed to them, stands an army of God, partially and predominantly as a host of spirits. And yet more, the óôñÜôåõìá of Christ stands contrasted, in its perfect unity, with the internally confused and divided óôñáôåýìáôá of the Beast. The attempt at an external conflict is immediately frustrated. The prophetic chiaroscuro resting upon this double array and battle cannot be brushed aside. It may only be gathered from the nature of the armies, that upon the side of Christ all the dynamic forces of spiritual humanity are concentrated, whilst upon the side of Antichrist demonic excitement may summon to its aid all the contrivances of craft and violence.

Rev_19:20. And the wild-beast was taken.—In what way, is reserved for the future to make known. Since there is no mention made of any preceding battle, a spiritual process of dissolution is pre-supposed as taking place in the hostile army—especially a separation between the ringleaders and the Antichristian host, mediated by Divine terrors. And with him the false prophet.—In the crisis of the disunion between Babylon and the Beast, the False Prophet has espoused the side of the Beast; a view which is prepared by the general description in Revelation 8. It is a result of a failure to distinguish between the general judgment-picture of chap. 8. and the three subsequent pictures of judgment, when Ebrard seeks to distinguish between the pseudoprophet “in the sixth world-kingdom” and an analogous lying power in “the eighth world-power” (p. 507).

Cast alive into the lake of the fire.—See Rev_20:10; Rev_20:14 and chap Rev_21:8. It is equally incorrect to apprehend Gehenna or the lake of fire as a mere internal condition of the damned, as to apprehend it purely as a cosmical region of punishment. A remark which is true concerning the Apocalyptic Heaven—viz., that it has the import of a spiritual region as well as a corresponding cosmical region—applies also, in antithesis to Heaven, in the first place to Hades, in the second place to the Abyss, and in the third place to Gehenna. Hengstenberg advances a marvellous view. “The term alive, without bodily death (comp. Rev_19:21), confirms the idea that the Beast and the False Prophet are not human individuals, but purely ideal forms. A human individual cannot enter hell alive.” Against which Ebrard: “If the Beast and the lying Prophet be emblems of mere powers, we do not rightly know what the emblematic trait of being cast alive into the lake of fire can mean,” etc. “In Rev_20:12 (comp. Joh_5:29) the wicked are raised from their graves and re-united to their bodies expressly to the intent that they may be able to endure the flames of eternal torment (Rev_20:15) in their bodily natures as well as in their spirits.” But, little congruity as there is between purely ideal forms and the lake of fire and brimstone, there is as little necessity to make the possession of a body a preliminary condition of Gehenna suffering. When the lake of fire is called “the second death” (Rev_20:14), this fearful conception stretches, on the one hand, beyond ideal forms, and on the other, beyond a corporeal suffering by fire. De Wette judiciously remarks, in respect of the distinctions between the punishment of the two Antichristian forms and the punishment of Satan: “They are judged earlier than Satan—who, Rev_20:3, is bound but for a thousand years—because their existence and activity have attained their end, whilst, on the other hand, Satan, by virtue of the course of development of things, still has a root in the world and must again make his appearance.” De Wette has, moreover, not apprehended the term alive as corporeally as Hengstenberg most strangely takes it in express connection with ideal forms. That the Beast and the False Prophet may be apprehended as collective personalities, is not to be denied; but neither is it to be denied that they converge into symbolically significant units. In the statement that they were cast alive into the lake of fire, it is doubtless intimated that they could fall under the judgment of Gehenna whilst still on earth. “Fire and brimstone,” remarks Hengstenberg, “as designations of hell torments, have already appeared in Rev_14:10-11. The lake of fire and brimstone is first mentioned here, and then again spoken of in Rev_20:10; Rev_20:14-15; Rev_21:8. As the fire and brimstone are suggestive of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha (comp. the remarks on Rev_14:10), the inference is obvious that the Dead Sea is referred to as the earthly reflection of hell.” The term ãåÝííá , he further observes, is found neither in the Apocalypse nor the Gospel of John, whilst the first three Gospels have it. Ebrard remarks, in opposition to this, that though the Dead Sea owed its origin to a rain of fire and brimstone, it does not burn with brimstone, but consists of brackish water. As it is as little possible to doubt the identity of the two terms, lake (or, to use a word which seems to us more applicable, pool) of fire and Gehenna, as it is to doubt the distinction between Gehenna and Sheol, our next task must be to inquire into the origin of the idea of Gehenna. See Comm. on Matthew, p. 114 [Am. Ed.]; Mark, p. 90 [Am. Ed.]. If the Dead Sea were the foundation of this figurative principle of doctrine, distinct traces of the fact would necessarily be found in the Old Testament. Besides the fire of Gehinnom, we have, Isa_30:33, a stream of brimstone, equally without reference to the Dead Sea. Comp. the article Tophet in the Lexicons; also in Winer; see also Psa_11:6. The marshes and sloughs by the side of the river of salvation (Eze_47:11) have also, doubtless, contributed to the completeness of the image. That the figure as a whole is an original idea of John’s, as a pool of fire, is evidenced by the opposite figure of the crystal sea. Moreover, the Dead Sea could not well have been employed as an image of hell, without giving rise to the idea that the people of Sodom fell under the judgment of damnation on the very occasion of their destruction—an idea which the Spirit of Scripture has avoided presenting. Comp. Mat_11:23; 1Pe_3:19; see our Introduction, p. 34. [See the Excursus on Hades, p. 364 sqq.—E. R. C.]

Rev_19:21. And the remnant.—The Antichristian host itself—not the whole remaining human race. They were slaini. e., according to Hengstenberg and Ebrard, they were not cast body and soul into the lake of fire, but they suffered only bodily death, whilst their souls went into Hades. “They are sent into hell,” observes Hengstenberg, “only at the universal judgment (comp. Rev_20:12-15), that is, if they do not in the meantime, whilst they are in the intermediate state, attain unto salvation (1Pe_3:19-20) as those who have committed only the sin against the Son of Man, and not that against the Holy Ghost.” It is questionable, however, whether the slaying of the whole Antichristian host should be apprehended literally or not. They are slain with the sword of the One sitting upon the horse.—As this sword goeth forth out of His mouth, we should, apprehending the words literally, have to assume that they were all stricken down by the word of Christ, like Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5). But if this were the case, it would be necessary that they should all have passed through the spiritual experiences of those two. This, however, is by no means supposable; on the contrary, great masses of them are seduced, infatuated, pitiable people—portions of them having even been impressed into the service of the Beast and the False Prophet. We therefore assume that they are slain in that they are, in a social respect, rendered absolutely null by that new order of things in the Millennial Kingdom which is instituted by the word of Christ, and, furthermore, that all those properties of theirs that have become utterly valueless (their flesh) become subjects of a metamorphosis in order to their incorporation into the new order of things. According to Düsterdieck, the slaying by the sword of Christ is but significant of a perfectly toil-less conflict [on the part of Christ]. According to Ebrard, the sword slays them as the word of omnipotence.

De Wette remarks on the entire section: “This grand picture of the downfall of Antichristianity has been much weakened by the historical exegetes.” Grotius finds here depicted the abolishment of idolatry by the Christian emperors of Rome, and refers Rev_19:18 to the fall of Julian in the Persian war. The interpretation of Wetstein is the most petty and insignificant: “Vespasianus cum familia in Domitiano extincta, uti prius familia Cæsarum.” Ulrich refers this judgment to the unnatural death of persecutors of the Christians. Herder: “The leaders of the insurrection, Simon, the son of Gorion, and John, met with the fate here depicted.” For additional particulars see Düsterdieck, p. 545. From amongst other items we quote the following: “Corn. à-Lapide cites authors who relate concerning Luther that he killed himself, and that his funeral was attended not only by a multitude of ravens, but also by devils that came from Holland.”


The Millennial Kingdom

This section is by Düsterdieck assigned to the third judgment. Manifestly, however, the Millennial Kingdom is the result of the second judgment. Apart from this, Düsterdieck has a remark which is well worthy of notice—viz.: that the order of succession of the individual acts of judgment is the reverse of that in which the Antichristian forms appear. Sequence of the manifestations of Antichristianity: Satan, the Beast with the False Prophet, the Woman. Sequence of the judgments: The Woman, the Beast with the False Prophet, Satan himself. This antithetic parallelism must not, however, be reckoned amongst the organic relations of the Apocalypse, unless we behold the revelation of evil in the corruption of the Woman sketched in the features of the False Prophet; a view which does, indeed, pass muster, insomuch as the False Prophet in the form of a lamb seems to represent the Woman herself.

Rev_20:1. I saw an angel descending out of, etc.—Opposed to the spirit-form of Satan there must be a spirit-form from Heaven, just as Christ, the God-man, stood opposed to Antichrist, the Beast. This spirit-form of the Angel has been most diversely interpreted (as Christ; the Holy Ghost; the Apostolate; Constantine the Great; Calixtus II.; Innocent III.; see De Wette, p. 183). As the fallen angel or star of remorse ([Verzweiflungsbusse] chap. 9) opens the pit of the abyss, so it is the Angel of consummate evangelic peace, the Angel of the developed bliss of justification, of blessedness in the Parousia of Christ, who, descending from Heaven, can cast Satan into the abyss, because he has destroyed all his points of appliance in humanity, with the exception of the one consisting of the suppressed rancor of mob-nature, which finally breaks out in Gog and Magog. We have here, therefore, an angelic form representative of the polemical victorious operation of the peace of Christ—a Michaelic form. This is evident from the further fact that he has the key of the abyss.—In accordance with Rev_1:18, Christ has the key of death and the realm of the dead [Hades]. We have already seen that the abyss forms the deepest border-region of the realm of the dead; it is contiguous to Gehenna, which latter is not ready for the reception of its guests until the time of the universal judgment. Consequently, Christ possesses the key to the abyss likewise, and hence it is evident that the Angel is significant of a fundamental form of the operation of Christ. And a great chain.—The concrete means of fettering Satan—and that, completely, and for a very long time. This is the power of the Spirit of grace and truth, making the genius of malice and falsehood powerless to injure for a whole æon. The key to the pit of the abyss (Rev_9:1) must not be confounded with the key to the abyss simply. Nothing is more erroneous than, with Ewald, to identify the fallen star (Rev_9:1 sqq.) with this Angel. We translate in his hand, instead of on his hand ( ἐðß ), for it is not good German to say, a chain on his hand. As a matter of course, the chain is not all contained within the closed hand.

Rev_20:2. And he laid hold on the dragon.—Great and irresistible turn of sentiments in the spirit-world, concretely expressed—the more so since the consummate spiritual operations likewise become real dynamic operations. That [or the] ancient serpent.—See Syn. View. Comp. Rev_12:9. And bound him a thousand years.—The thousand years are a symbolic number, denoting the æon of transition. The millennial binding of Satan is the preliminary condition of the Millennial Kingdom. Those who deny the demonic origin of sin, deriving sin exclusively from the sensual or material nature of man, here meet with a mighty contradiction to their theory. But, on the other hand, those who refer all evil to Satan cannot explain the loosing of the latter.

Rev_20:3. And cast him into the abyss.Rev_9:1; Rev_11:7; Rev_17:8. A more general idea, is presented in 2Pe_2:4, where it is declared that the fallen angels have been cast down to Tartarus, in chains of darkness, held fast or preserved unto judgment. For, first, Tartarus is a more general term for the whole sub-terrestrial region; secondly, the term ôáñôáñïῦí is indicative of a hurling away with a constant tendency toward Tartarus; thirdly, the bonds of darkness are those self-perplexings, self-enchainings of evil which impel toward Tartarus; fourthly, the judgment is in prospective here only as a certain future. The various statements concerning the abode of the Devil and bad spirits may readily, if pressed as to the letter of the Scripture, be involved in contradictions, as has been evidenced by Strauss, for instance (see the author’s Positive Dogmatik, p. 572). But as we must needs distinguish between the dwelling-places and spheres of operation of spirits, so likewise is it necessary to distinguish between the different stages of their history. The abyss may indeed be regarded as the proper dwelling-place of Satan and the fallen angels, inasmuch as it, as the specific region of God-estranged rancor and grief, or despair, denotes the transition from the realm of the dead to hell, or from the sadness of death to damnation. The realm of the dead is only more tormented through the operations of demons than the human world (brooks [E. V.: floods] of Belial [Psa_18:4]); but hell is prepared for the Devil and his angels as the region of final punitive suffering (Mat_25:41). But as Satan is not at home with himself, neither does he stay at home (Judges 6); by nature he is excursive and rambling (Job_2:2), given to appearing and disappearing, fond of roving about (hence Azazel)—i. e., modes of existence and spheres of operation are to be distinguished especially here. In this relation, Scripture distinguishes Heaven as the pure domain of spirits (Job 1, 2; Revelation 7; Luk_10:18); earth, especially the atmospheric sphere, as the sphere of sympathetic and antipathetic worldmoods,—and in reference to this sphere of operation, it distinguishes the forms of the serpent, or hypocritical craft (Matthew 4; 2Co_11:14), and the roaring lion of terroristic might (1Pe_5:8; Revelation 8). The import of the judgment upon Antichrist is that Satan is cast entirely out of the sphere of earth for a thousand years, and shut up in his true home, the abyss.

Shut and sealed over him.—Expressive of the inviolable Divine determination, manifest in the equally unshakable Divine operation. Likewise an antitype of the impotent sealing of Christ’s grave on the part of hell and the world.—After these he must be loosed.—This also is a Divine decree—a decree, however, conditioned by the ethical design of causing the remnants of evil, of heathenism, in the sphere of Christ’s Kingdom, to appear, and thereby destroying them.—A little time.Little from the stand-point of triumphant faith. See Rev_17:10.

Rev_20:4-5. Fundamental Traits of the Millennial Kingdom.

And I saw thrones.—According to Düsterdieck, the èñüíïé “do not come under consideration as kings’ thrones (Eichhorn, Züllig), but only as judges’ seats (Heinrich, Ewald, De Wette, Hengstenberg, etc.),” as is shown (he declares) by the prefigurement of Dan_7:9, 22, and the êñßìá , expressly mentioned in our passage also. But what then is the force of the words: They shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him [Rev_20:6]? Christ Himself also is amongst the sitters on the thrones as their centre. Moreover, the êñßìá can be understood only in the Old Testament sense, as significant of a princely judicial rule, since the special judgment upon the Antichristian world has been previously executed. It is highly characteristic that the thrones constitute the foreground of the picture. They are significant of the beginning of the Church Triumphant in this world—the visible appearance of the Kingdom of God. Distinct as is the presentment of the thrones themselves, of their occupants it is indefinitely said: and they sat down [seated themselves] upon them. Who are meant by they? According to Beza, Eichhorn, Ebrard, et al., the martyrs mentioned further on; this view is opposed by De Wette and Düsterdieck. The context also is against it. First, John saw the thrones and those who seated themselves upon them, and then the beheaded ones who revived and reigned with Christ. We must not forget, however, that Christ has not come alone from Heaven, but that He was accompanied by a chosen army (Rev_19:14). Without doubt, the occupants of the thrones are those who form the peculiar escort of the Lamb (Rev_14:4); who even in this world, as sealed ones, constituted the kernel of the Church of God (Revelation 7), the proper centre of which is formed by God’s men of revelation [i. e. God’s revealers], particularly the Apostles (ch Rev_21:14). In considering their position toward Christ, however, something more than mere martyr faithfulness or even mere historic dignity as Prophets or Apostles comes in view—namely, the endowment and destination of the Father, the special electness lying at the base of the special glory. These mysterious co-regents of Christ (comp. also Mat_5:9) have been very variously interpreted (God and Christ; the Angels; the Apostles; the Martyrs; the saints, Dan_7:22; the twenty-four Elders [De Wette and Düsterdieck]; Hengstenberg, “the twelve Apostles and the twelve Patriarchs”). Here, however, we have no longer to do with forms that are partially typical [the Elders]; we will simply say: those who in a special sense have been inwardly endowed as joint-heirs with Christ, seated themselves upon the thrones.

And judgment was given unto them.—This êñßìá cannot possibly refer to Rev_20:1-3 and Rev_19:20-21, as Ebrard maintains, since in those passages the sentence of judgment was decided by war, and the execution of judgment was a very brief process. We should hardly expect that Antichrist or Satan himself would have to be sentenced through a trial by jury.

The judgment may be regarded primarily as a two-fold decision—a decision concerning those who are still living (who were not in the Antichristian army), as to whether their lives shall be preserved throughout the thousand years; and a decision concerning those who were beheaded, as to how far they are worthy of being called to the first resurrection. Nevertheless, the antithesis of life and death is now, in a high degree, dynamically, psychically and ethically modified (see Isa_65:20), i. e. dying and reviving are effects which proceed from within. In general, however, the entire æon is to be conceived of as an æon of separations and eliminations in an ethical and a cosmical sense, separations and eliminations such as are necessary to make manifest and to complete the ideal regulations of life. Of judgments of damnation between the judgment upon Antichrist and the judgment upon Satan, there can be no question; the reference can be only to a critical government and management, preparatory to the final consummation. The whole æon is a crisis which occasions the visible appearance of the Heaven on earth; the whole æon is the great Last Day. We may even conceive of the mutiny which finally breaks out as a result of these separations, for a sort of protest on the part of the wicked was hinted at by Christ in His Eschatological Discourse (Mat_25:44), and the most essential element of the curse in hell is the continuance of revolt, the gnashing of teeth. To the degree in which this can decrease, torment can approach indifference. Opinions concerning this judgment are marvellously at variance.

According to Augustine, the reference is to a judgment upon the old earth: Sedes Præpositorum et ipsi Præpositi intelligendi sunt, per quos ecclesia gubernatur. According to Hoë, on the other hand, the judgment relates to Heaven itself, as a theological disclosure as to the fate of the souls of the martyrs and others in Heaven, during the thousand years. According to Piscat., De Wette, et al., “the probable idea is that the judgment now held has to decide as to who are worthy to have part in the first resurrection and the Millennial Kingdom.”

And (I saw) the souls of them, etc.—Two main points modify the entire picture: a. The thrones; b. The souls of the martyrs. As these were cut off from the most lively life by a violent death, they abode nearer to life than other dead persons; their more intimate communion with Christ produced the resurrection principle within them; and as men upon whom the ban of the world pre-eminently fell, they must be pre-eminently honored in the Kingdom of God [als die vorzugsweise Geächteten müssen sie die vorzugsweise Geachteten des Reiches Gottes sein]. As beheaded, they also accompany Christ from the other world, and though it cannot be said that their category precisely coincides with that of the occupants of the thrones, neither can it be affirmed that they may not be amongst those enthroned ones. The Seer distinguishes three categories of the participants in the first resurrection, or those “that are Christ’s in His Parousia” (1Co_15:23). First, the sitters on the thrones; secondly, the martyrs generally, who were beheaded for Christ’s sake; thirdly, all the faithful of the last time, who have worshipped neither the Beast nor his image, nor have assumed his mark. These are the macrobii of the last time, who sleep not, but are changed (1Co_15:51-52; 2Co_5:4-5; 1Th_4:17). Over and above these, as a fourth category, are the remnants of the old humanity that have not belonged to the Antichristian army; the inhabitants of the domain of Gog and Magog, who find themselves only in the periphery of the renewing crisis. It was perhaps on account of the third class that the Seer employed the term ἔæçóáí . But even if this is, with reason, made emphatic: they revived—lived again (= ἀíÝæçóáí , De Wette), it does not prove that we should regard the last [third] class (consisting of those who are alive at the time of Christ’s appearing), with Düsterd., et al., as having likewise died in the mean time. The expression, [Rev_20:5] but the rest of the dead, finds its antithesis in the martyrs; and the transformation, as well as the awakening, shall lead to the first resurrection.

Rev_20:5. The rest of the dead, etc.—That is, those not pre-eminently animated by the principle of the life of Christ, not led toward the first resurrection (Rom_8:17 sqq.; Eph_1:19; Php_3:11), and therefore a whole æon deeper under the power of death.

This is the first resurrection.—With these words the Seer constitutes that entire resurrection-process which begins with the Parousia of Christ, a distinct dogmatical conception. We have already discussed the gloriousness and naturalness of this conception. The manifold evasions of this idea, this Christian hope, seem like a general horror—not, however, a horror vacui, but a horror vitæ et spiritus.

In regard to the thousand years, the number, as has already been observed, is symbolical, like all other apocalyptic numbers; it denotes an æon, and is specifically the transition-æon between this present world and the world to come. “The Jews indicate the duration of the Messianic Kingdom by different numbers; according to R. Elieser, however, the days of the Messiah amount to a thousand years; this opinion is based upon the statement, Isa_63:4, ‘the day of vengeance was in my mind’ [E. V. is in mine heart], and the further declaration, Psa_90:4, ‘a thousand years in Thy sight are as yesterday,’ etc. The weightier reason of the Ep. Barnab. c. xv. might be added to this, that as God created the world in