_________ REV. xx. 6. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second death hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. THE term "blessed and holy" is often used in scripture, and in many places is applied to man; but in no place without giving some characteristic mark of his being born of God, or inheriting the fruits of the divine Spirit; and very often the word blessed is used standing in immediate connection with the resurrection and coming of Christ, either expressed or implied, as in Isa. lxii. 11, 12, "Behold, the Lord hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, they salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. And they shall call them The holy people, The redeemed of the Lord; and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken." Isa. xxx. 18, "And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you; for the Lord is a God of judgment. Blessed are all they that wait for him." Daniel says, xii. 12, "Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the 1335 days." John says, Rev. xiv. 13, "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord." "Write, Blessed are they which are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb." "Behold, I come quickly; blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book." "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city." By these passages I show you that all the children of God are included in this blessing, and not the martyrs only, as some will have it. The next thing which will claim our attention will be to explain the resurrection spoken of in our text, called the first resurrection. The word resurrection signifies to revive, or resuscitate, or bring to life again, one now dead, who was once alive. It nowhere in the word of God conveys an idea of a new creation, and the word is nowhere used in the Bible expressing any thing less or more than a union of soul and body, and deliverance from natural death. The word resurrection is nowhere used in a figurative sense; it in all places has its own simple meaning, unless our text is an exception. And without the objector can show some rule of interpretation by which we shall be warranted to understand the word in a different sense, we must beg leave to attach to it the simple meaning, coming to life from the grave. I know some have supposed that regeneration is resurrection; but I cannot believe this unless they show some rule. I know some pretend to show us, in John v. 25, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live," as a rule; but in order to make this a rule, they must prove that Christ meant regeneration; until this is shown, we cannot admit it as any proof.
We shall, therefore, consider the word resurrection as coming up out of the grave, and pass to the word first. "The first resurrection." The resurrection of the saints is first as it respects order and time. Wherever the word resurrection is used in connection with life or damnation, the one unto life always comes first; as in Daniel xii. 2, "Some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt;" John v. 29, "They that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." Here are two samples as it respects order. One or two as it respects time: 1 Cor. xv. 23, "Christ the first fruits, then afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. Then cometh the end." And again, 1 Thess. iv. 16, "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first." And then our context and text shows that the blessed and holy are raised a thousand years before the rest of the dead. If we are correct, then, Christ will come before the millennium instead of afterwards, as some believe; and the millennium is a state of personal, and glorious, and immortal reign on the new earth, or this earth cleansed by fire, as it was once by water; and it will be a new dispensation, new heavens, and new earth. This will be our next proposition to prove. And, first, we will examine the 20th chapter of Revelation, 1st verse: "And I saw an angel come down from heaven;"--this angel I consider no less a being than the Lord Jesus Christ; for it only can be said of him;--"having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand." See Rev. i. 18: "I am he that liveth and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, amen, and have the keys of hell and of death." And Christ only has power to bind Satan. "That he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." Heb. ii. 14. 2d verse: "And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years." I suppose this verse needs no explanation. It can only be understood in a literal sense, for it explains itself in the figures used; as dragon and serpent, often used as figures, are explained to mean the devil and Satan. If the thousand years had been used, in this chapter, or any where else in the word of God, in a mystical or figurative sense, it would have been somewhere explained; but, as it is not, I consider we are to place upon it the most simple construction, and I shall therefore understand it literally. 3d verse: "And cast him into the bottomless pit;"--by bottomless pit, I have shown, by the proof on our first verse, that it is hell; see Rev. i. 18;--"and shut him up and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled; and after that he must be loosed a little season." This passage must be understood in its simple, plain meaning; no mystery in this. 4th verse: "And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given unto them;"--here we have a prophecy of the fulfilment of a promise that Christ made to his disciples, in Matt. xix. 28: "And Jesus said unto them, Verily, I say unto you, that ye which have followed me in the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel;"--"and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years." In this description we have the whole family of the redeemed; for all that had not worshipped the beast or his image, or received a mark, and, in one word, all that were not the servants of Satan or sin, lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5th verse: "But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection." The rest of the dead means the wicked dead, who do not have part in the first resurrection; lived not again, showing conclusively that it is a natural life and death spoken of. The first resurrection is the resurrection of the saints at his coming. Then comes in our text, which has and will be explained in the lecture. 7th verse: "And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison." We may reasonably expect that, when Satan is let loose, all the damned spirits are let loose with him; and it has been strongly implied they were to live again in the body, at the end of the thousand years. 8th verse: "And shall go out"--that is, Satan--"to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth"--"ashes under the feet of the saints," as Malachi tells us: "And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts"--"Gog and Magog"--the armies of the wicked that were slain at the commencing of the thousand years, or coming of Christ, at the supper of the great God, and battle of Armageddon; see Ezekiel xxxviii., xxxix.--"to gather them together to battle;"--this is their design, but there is no battle, for God himself is with his people to defend them; and he destroys the wicked host, "the number of whom is as the sand of the sea;" evidently including the whole number of the wicked; for the figure, sand of the sea, is never used, only to express the whole class of the people named; as, the children of Israel, the whole host of Jacob. 9th verse: "And they went up on the breadth of the earth;"--that is, this army of Gog and Magog were raised up out of the surface of the earth, that only being the breadth of a globular body;--"and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city;"--plainly showing that the New Jerusalem, the beloved city, is on the earth during the thousand years, or how could this wicked host encompass it about? they have not climbed the celestial walls of heaven--no; for it says, "and fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them." This is the second death, represented under the figure of fire coming down from God out of heaven; not the conflagration of the world,--for that was in the commencing of the thousand years, when Christ came and cleansed the world from all the wicked, and the works of wicked men,--but the justice of God, under the figure of fire; "for our God is a consuming fire." Heb. xii. 29. 10th verse: "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever." In this verse, the final condemnation of the wicked, soul and body, is given; and the last that God has seen fit to reveal concerning them to us is, that they are cast into everlasting torment. In the next verse, John has another vision of the same things which he had before told us, only in a different point of view, or some circumstance not before clearly described. And I saw always implies a new view, or another vision. 11th verse: "And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the heavens and earth fled away; and there was no place found for them." This is the same throne that Daniel saw, vii. 9-14: "I beheld till the thrones were cast down and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire." 12th verse: "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works." This is the same as Daniel saw, vii. 10: "A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him; thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The judgment was set, and the books were opened." It is very evident that this is the beginning of the judgment, when Christ comes in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory, to raise and judge his saints, and to reward every man as his work shall be. 1st, because it is when the judgment first sets; 2d, because the book of life is there, and open; and, 3d, because it was at the time or before antichrist was destroyed; and no one can believe that the antichristian beast can be on the earth during or in the millennium. 13th verse: "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them." I conclude the apostle, after he had seen the righteous dead raised, small and great, and stand before God, and saw the book of life open to justify them, and saw them judged and rewarded, he then glides down to the end of the thousand years, and beheld the wicked dead given up by those elements and places wherein they had been confined during the millennial period, to be judged in the flesh, every man according to his works.
This only can reconcile some of those conflicting passages (or seemingly so to us) concerning the resurrection; and I cannot see any impropriety in thus understanding these prophecies; for it is the common manner of the prophets, a little here and a little there. In all the descriptions of the resurrection of the righteous dead, they are represented as being gathered by the angels of God, from the four winds of heaven, when the seventh or last trump shall sound; and it is equally as evident that their works are brought into judgment. Although they may not be justified by their works, but out of the book of life, yet the apostle Paul says, speaking of his brethren, "We must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ." Rom. xiv. 10. And again, 2 Cor. v. 10, "For we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." And, 1 Cor. iii. 13-15, "Every man's work shall be made manifest; for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: yet he himself shall be saved, so as by fire." We see, by these texts, that the books of every man's works will be open, as well as the book of life, in the first resurrection; but, in the second resurrection, there is no book of life open in that part of the judgment, neither are they gathered by the angels of God; but the sea, death, and hell, delivered up the dead which were in them, and they were judged every man according to their works; and Satan is the means of gathering them around the beloved city, where they are judged in the flesh. By the sea, death, and hell, I understand the sea, grave, and place of punishment. The sea and the grave would give up the dissolved particles of the body, and hell (or Hades) would give up their departed spirits; this would constitute the second resurrection. "And they were judged every man according to their works." They had chosen, in this life, to stand on their works; they had refused to believe in a Mediator; they had not followed his commands, neither had they professed his name before men, or suffered persecution for the sake of his testimony. They had treated his word with total neglect, or called his grace tyranny. They had said he was a hard master, and buried their talent in the earth. They had placed their supreme affections on the world, and made fine gold their trust. They had persecuted the children of God in this world, and showed that they were the children of that wicked one who slew his brother. They had prostituted their bodies to whoredom, and sacrificed to Bacchus and Venus their first-fruits. They had professed damnable heresies, and filled the world with their delusive schemes and sects. They had worshipped the creature, and neglected prayer to the Creator. They had filled the world with their lies and abominations, and gloried in their shame. 14th verse: "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death." By death and hell I understand the body and spirit. 15th verse: "And whosoever was not found written in the Lamb's book of life, was cast into the lake of fire." "But the fearful and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." Rev. xxi. 8. "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie," Rev. xxii. 14, 15. Then our text says, "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection." This we have proved is the resurrection of the righteous dead, who died in faith in Jesus Christ, and who should live with him at his coming; on them the second death should have no power, "but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years."
To be priests unto God and unto Christ, is to be holy; to be a kingdom of priests of a peculiar people, that should show forth his praises by declaring to the universe that out of nature's darkness they had been redeemed by his blood, called by his grace unto his glorious, happy, and holy kingdom, and that they should dwell on the earth. See Rev. v. 9, 10, "And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book and to open the seals thereof; 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." See, also, Rev. i. 6, "And hath made us kings and priests unto God, and his Father." Again, 1 Pet. ii. 5, 9, "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood." "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people." The passages to which I have cited your minds, prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the thousand years spoken of in the text is between the two resurrections in a state of happiness, of glory, of holiness, and that it shall be on the earth. It is a state of immortality, as abundant scriptures evidently prove. Where, then, you may inquire, is the spiritual millennium which our theorists, in the present age, are teaching us to expect? I answer, There is not a thousand years spoken of in Scripture, except in 2 Pet., 3d chapter, and in which the judgment day is the subject of discussion, and in the chapter of which our text is a part; and in neither of these places is any thing said about spiritual reign; neither can we find any thing in the word of God by which we could fairly draw the conclusion of such a reign; and as it is not proper for me to show the negative, I call on all of you to show where we may find the evidence, that is, all of you who believe in a spiritual reign. If there is such a reign, it must be before the second coming of Christ; for when he comes, he will receive us to himself, that where he is there we may be also; no more away from his people, for he says he will be with them, and make his abode with them, and he will be their light, and will dwell with them, and make his abode with them, and they shall dwell on the earth. Where, when, or how the idea of a spiritual reign of a thousand years should or could obtain a place in our faith, having the word of God as our evidence, I cannot tell. Some say that the prophets speak often of times or things which have not been fulfilled in our day, or under the present dispensation, and which would be too gross to be admitted into a state of immortality. There may be such--yet I find no difficulty in understanding all those passages which have been presented, or come under my consideration, to refer to the gospel day. But how long do the prophets say that time shall be? Do they designate any time? No; neither one, ten, one hundred, or one thousand years are mentioned in any of those passages. Why then call it a millennium? Because Peter and John have mentioned a thousand years. This cannot be admitted to mean any state this side of the state of immortality; for Peter says plainly, "Yet, nevertheless, we look for a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." This would be a new state, surely--nothing gross or vile in this kingdom, whoever may be king; and John expressly says, "They lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years," and says, "This is the first resurrection." Now, admit there is such a time, how or by what rule shall we call it a thousand years?
Again, where, in all the prophecies, can any one show me that the church will be blessed and holy, or happy and righteous, as it may be rendered, until he comes, that is, at Christ's second appearance? And where in the word are we to learn that the kingdoms of this world are to be destroyed before the coming of the Ancient of days? Do we believe that the anti-Christian beast, or mystical Babylon, will be on the earth during this millennial reign? No, it cannot be; yet all must acknowledge that she is only destroyed by the brightness of his coming. Who can read the 19th chapter of Revelation, without being convinced that the marriage supper of the Lamb, the treading of the wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God, and the supper of the great God, are events which must take place before the millennium? And if so, who can believe that after the marriage of the Lamb to the bride; after she is arrayed in linen clean and white, which is the righteousness of the saints; after they have received a crown of righteousness, which the righteous Judge shall give to all them who love his appearing in that day,--Christ will not be with her in person? None. But our text tells us he will live and reign with them, and they shall be priests to God.
Again: while in this state of mortality and trial, we are called the servants and ministers of Christ; but then, in the millennial blessedness, we shall be called priests of God and of Christ. You may ask, "Why this distinction in the language?" I answer, There is a great difference between the kingdom of Christ, as it was established when Christ was here on earth, and the kingdom given up to God, even the Father. The subjects of Christ's kingdom, in this state of things, may be, and in fact are, imperfect. Hypocrites and false professors may and do obtain an entrance into it; for an enemy hath sown tares. But the kingdom of God, no man, says Christ, can see, or enter, without being born of God. Here they may deceive the sentinels which guard the kingdom of Christ; but in the kingdom of God "there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination or maketh a lie; but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life." Here the children of the kingdom are persecuted, tormented, perplexed, cast down; but in the kingdom of God their enemies are all slain; they are comforted, glorified, justified, exalted; and not a dog to move his tongue. Here they weep, but there will rejoice: here they sin and repent; they there will be holy without fault before his throne. "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection." Amen.