If the Puritan writers of the 17th century who wrote so confidently of a Latter Day Glory had known that within three centuries of their time the Reformation (of which they were second- and third-generation children) would have ended;
--that Unitarianism, atheism, or a mass return to Roman superstition would have devoured the poor remains of four centuries of Protestant ascendancy;
--that religious establishments throughout the Western world would have fallen, and the Protestant churches be the nest and the breeding ground of atheistic unbelief;
--that the Roman church, which they viewed as the embodiment of antichrist and which they confidently hoped was on the road to extinction, would after sinking almost to the lowest point of international contempt have staged the greatest come-back in history;
--that the Western world, the scene of the greatest Reformation triumphs, would turn itself into a new and worse Sodom and Gomorrah;
--that heathenism would return to submerge not only the Asiatic and African tribes, but also in more sinister form would triumph over all the territories wrested by Luther, Calvin, Knox, Tyndale, and Zwingli from the hand of antichrist;
--if they could have foreseen that sodomy would be legalized in Great Britain (the very citadel and conserve of the Reformation testimony);
--that the unspeakable obscenities of naked and shameless pornography would be tolerated, licensed, or openly encouraged, and the State be powerless or unwilling to restrain it;
--if they could have known that drugs, acids, and deadly herbal concoctions, calculated to destroy the mind and demoralize youth, would in ten years flood the Western (Protestant) world so as to be utterly beyond the power of governments to arrest or suppress;
--if they had known that during the same brief period of time Satanism would triumph over every standard of decency and morality so that St. Paul’s Cathedral in London would be the scene of a crowning blasphemy--the celebration of Holy Communion in honor of the actors and actresses performing in one of the most grossly immoral and polluting plays ever to be heard of in the civilized world;
--if they could have foreseen that in this same calamitous decade, “audience participation,” nakedness, masturbation, copulation, would become accepted parts of public performances in London and elsewhere;
--if they could have foreseen the invention of television and have anticipated that programs would be devised and school books printed to portray and propagate before the young, behavior patterns that might have made even the citizens of Gomorrah to blush;
--if they could have known that in this same disastrous decade of decline in the second half of the 20th century a dignitary of the Church of England would have been permitted to voice the most repulsive of blasphemies about the human nature of the holy Son of God, and would have been rewarded--not by being unfrocked and disgraced in public--but by being awarded (after the lapse of a decent period if time) a pair of gaiters and a bishop’s apron, and elevated to an important bishopric;
--if they had known that about the same time in Scotland, the home of the Reformation’s greatest triumphs, the Church of Scotland in its official magazine, Life and Work, would in one issue have printed an article in toleration of the use of foul language and another excusing the act of sodomy on the grounds of the atheistic-materialistic view of human nature;
--if they had known these things at the time they were writing so optimistically of a Latter Day Glory;
THEY WOULD NOT HAVE BELIEVED IT, and there is not the shadow of a doubt in our mind that had they been convinced of the fact of it, they would have torn up and burned their books and gone back to their Bibles to do some real work of prophetical investigation instead of issuing the pitiful literary excursions which they made into regions they were never qualified or furnished to explore.
We have little doubt also that many of those who admire (as we do) the Puritans for their soundness in the basic doctrines of the Christian faith, but who fellow them blindly into other regions where those excellent men gave less cause for eulogy--that these modern admirers, once they use their undoubted talents in the endeavor to establish valid principles of prophetic interpretation--once they face the facts of life at this end of the 20th century and realize that the writers of long ago whom they follow with such enthusiasm did not themselves proclaim or grasp the most elementary principles of the interpretation of prophecy--they will apply themselves seriously td the work of exegesis and abandon with dismay those errors which raise delusive hopes of a future millennium and which play havoc with the very basis of the true Christian hope.
Alas! Like their modern successors, the Puritan chiliasts had no prophetical guidelines to direct their eschatological studies, but in brash enthusiasm they fitted out their optimistic theories of the future with a selection of texts carefully isolated from their contexts so as to give the greatest possible plausibility to their conclusions.
THE NEW DARK AGES
There might have been some excuse for the enthusiastic expectation of the Puritans and their immediate successors for a steady progression of humanity upwards towards a Latter Day Glory, but we cannot find the same excuse for their admirers today who fail to recognize the positive Satanism of the LATTER DAY APOSTASY. The Puritans lived before the unleashing of Rationalism, the Evolutionary Heresy, and the 1914 war. Those who live after these world-shaking events may treat the Latter Day Apostasy as a passing phase in the general uplift of humanity towards Latter Day Glory, but they do so at their peril. They would be wiser if they gave full value to the gravity of the present situation and saw it not only as the end of an era of enlightenment and progress, but as the beginning of a new Age of Darkness and Violence such as the world has not known since the days before the Flood:
The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth. (Genesis 6:11-13)
If the last days of the human race on the earth are destined to be after the example of the judgment of the Flood and later of Sodom (see Matthew 24:36-39; Luke 17:26-30; Jude 5-7), where then is the Latter Day Glory? What will be the state of humanity when Christ returns in all the judicial vengeance of eternal fire to deliver His people and to pour the vials of His wrath upon an apostate world? For that, dear reader, is the dilemma of all those who expect a Jewish Restoration and a Golden Age of one thousand (or more) years to mark the complete triumph of Christ upon the earth.
It is small wonder that Revelation 20--with its dark foreshadowing of the greatest apostasy of all time to mark the failure of a thousand years of righteous rule and Latter Day Glory--that this chapter is too dark for our friends to interpret. Even the excellent Andrew Boner; who early fell a victim to Edward Irving’s premillennialism, could write such a prophetical book as his Redemption Drawing Nigh, in which he lightly dismisses the awful scene with which the Golden Age closes. “How does Satan get so numerous an army so quickly after the Millennial days?” he asks. His reply is, “This is a question equally puzzling to Millenarian and anti-Millenarian. We do not enter upon it.” A little later Dr. Bonar adds that during the millennium some ungodly will continue to exist in the farthest parts of the earth (wherever that may be:), and “while the knowledge of the Lord covers the earth as the waters cover the sea, there shall be a casting out of the scum and filth on the shores of this sea, viz., the four corners of the earth. There will Satan find his materials for an army when he is let loose and his hosts form an array more numerous than the sands of the sea.”
Dr. Boner’s parting salvo as he retired from the field of battle is, “There will be much more light cast on this subject during the thousand years.”
To such extremities are good men driven in the fruitless attempt to explain away the greatest apostasy in the history of the world. We turn from the millennial illusion with relief to our gospel millennium set up, as we shall presently see, when Satan’s kingdom fell at the Cross and the Tomb--a millennium which introduced the triumph of Christ over a world which had lain in darkness from the beginning. “Behold, darkness shall cover the earth and gross darkness the people, but the Lord shall arise upon thee and his glory shall be seen upon thee and the gentiles shall come to thy light and kings to the brightness of thy rising” (Isaiah 60:2-3). This has been and is still being fulfilled.
AGE OF OPTIMISM
The Puritan Hope (so-called) was conceived in an age of optimism which had seen the Church emerge from the titanic struggles of the Reformation century into the era when the Protestant cause was in the ascendancy in Britain and northern Europe and was about to cross the Atlantic Ocean to the New World then being discovered and conquered. Art, music, letters, all were emerging into a new era of phenomenal advancement. The Dark Ages were past. The world was being deluged with light such as had not been known for a thousand years.
The Elizabethan heroes blunted the sword of the Spaniard in accordance with the divine decree that antichrist should not rule in North America, which providence was reserving for the refugees and emigrants from the Old World. Virginia had already been named in honor of the Virgin Queen, whose successor, James I of England and VI of Scotland, came south to London to wear the crown of a united kingdom destined to play a formidable part in the progress of civilization and the Word of God. The new king--the “wisest fool in Christendom”--orthodox treacherous, could be relied upon to uphold the Protestant establishment, always provided that it be Episcopalian (and he a Presbyterian!). “No bishop, no king” was the formula of his policy, as he laid the foundations of a new (Protestant) tyranny which would drive across the Atlantic those who would carve out of the wilderness a new world of liberty and dynamic energy.
On the other side of the English Channel lay the territories of antichrist, whom our Puritan forefathers had no difficulty in recognizing in the Papacy (an opinion in which we, at any rate, concur). They confidently expected the early fall of antichrist, and as late as John Bunyan we find this opinion enthusiastically propagated. John Bunyan has enshrined that opinion in a curious picture he gives us in The Pilgrim’s Progress:
Now I saw in my dream that at the end of this valley (of the Shadow of Death) lay blood, bones, ashes, and mangled bodies of men, even of Pilgrims that had gone this way formerly. And while I was musing what should be the reason) I espied a little before me a cave where two giants, Pope and Pagan, dwelt in old time; by whose power and tyranny the men whose bones, blood, ashes, etc., lay there were cruelly put to death. But by this place Christian went without much danger, whereat 1 somewhat wondered: but I have learned since that Pagan has been dead many a day. And as for the other, though he be yet alive, he is, by reason of age and also of the many shrewd brushes that he met with in his younger days grown so crazy and stiff in his joints that he can do little more than sit in his cave's mouth grinning at Pilgrims as they go by and biting his nails because he cannot come at them.
So I saw that Christian went on his way. Yet at the sight of the old man (i.e., the Pope) that sat in the mouth of the cave, he could not tell what to think, especially because he spoke to him, though he could not go after him, saying, “You will never mend till more of you be burned.”
A few years before Bunyan wrote this quaint note on the Pope, Milton composed his sonnet on the massacre of the Protestants in Piedmont, with the terrible and moving words:
Avenge, O Lord! Thy slaughtered saints whose bones
Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold.
...Their martyred blood and ashes sow
O’er all the Italian fields, where still doth sway
The triple tyrant; that from these may grow
A hundredfold, who having learned Thy way,
Early may fly the Babylonian woe.
Perhaps Bunyan had forgotten this. Perhaps also he had forgotten the awful massacre of the Protestants of Ireland in uncountable numbers and horror scarce twenty years before (in 1641) when upwards of 150,000 men, women, and children--there might have been double that number--were cruelly butchered, drowned, or thrust out to perish in nakedness and wintry cold. The so-called Massacre of Drogheda, when Cromwell’s army ten years later put to the sword two or three thousand fighting men who refused honorable surrender terms, is preserved in Irish political memory and by subtle insinuation has corrupted British history of those times, while the massacre of the Protestants is unknown except to the occasional historian. A similar propaganda war is now being waged in Northern Ireland--and all the world wonders.
The butchery of non-Catholic Serbs in Yugoslavia during the last war is also forgotten, while the subsequent tribulations of Archbishop Stepinac when the Allies triumphed over Italy and Germany are remembered as a kind of horrible political crime, for which the bloody archbishop was duly honored by the Pope.
Perhaps Bunyan and his contemporaries were overmuch dazzled by the Protestant ascendancy in their day, but sure it is that they expected the early eclipse of antichrist and looked for texts which should give color to their expectations of the Latter Day Glory.
THE REVIVAL OF ROME
But we of the 20th century have witnessed the greatest miracle of modern times: in one lifetime the Reformation has collapsed in ruins. The dregs of Protestantism have become more bitter and contemptible than the Papacy at its worst. The sun of antichrist has risen again in greater political and ecclesiastical splendor than at any time in hundreds of years. We have lived to see all (Protestant) roads leading to Rome, and the Archbishop of Canterbury hailing the Pope with a brotherly kiss--the kiss of death. The Pope has become once again the honored and accepted head of Christendom, fawned upon and courted by monarchy and parliament of Britain, acclaimed with a hero’s welcome on the streets of New York, with bishops, moderators, and statesmen jostling one another for a share of the Papal smile. Meanwhile a hundred ministers of the establishment founded by John Knox have met in retreat with Jesuit priests for lectures on the Mass.
As late as 1870 when the Pope was toppled by the Risorgimento of Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel, the Papal States were regarded as a disgrace to civilization and a British Prime Minister (William Ewart Gladstone) wrote a book on “Vaticanism” (which we have at hand as we write), in which he denounced in classical English the tyranny and the evil pretensions of the Papal system.
We are a century on, and the Pope is restored to unprecedented credit and influence, while the term “Protestant” has become contemptible, and the Reformation is viewed as a historic disaster.
Even our friends who write so earnestly about “the Puritan Hope” seem uncannily dumb concerning the fate of the Reformation, that hinge upon which all our church history turns.
From 1815 (Waterloo) to 1914 was the age of the Pax Britannica, when the Mistress of the Seas swept with her mighty besom the oceans and continents of the world and sent her sons far and wide, from utmost east to utmost west, some to carry the flame of the gospel and others to spread the advantages of civilization, justice, law, and freedom over one quarter of the world's population. Slavery was abolished and suppressed.
The advance of science and the increase of knowledge and engineering skill in that great century bade fair to bring to fulfillment the hopes of humanity. Peace and its arts were to flourish world-wide. The 20th century would do it. The 19th century of optimism and achievement would see to that.
THEN CAME 1914
Then came 1914 and the holocaust of the nations. The flower of Europe’s manhood perished on the fields of Flanders in four terrible years. The appalling disaster of the Great War not only swept away a generation, but it wrecked the foundations of society and created a vacuum into which were poured sinister and mighty influences in politics, culture, and social economy.
The traditional standards of Christian morality and education began to fall. In 1918 the West emerged into moral bankruptcy and decay. Liberty and light went out over half the world, and the nations spent an uneasy twenty years preparing for the renewal of the carnage which by 1945 would leave (and has left) the World powerless to arrest or control the terrible evils which have now swallowed up what remained of the 16th century Reformation. Only the Bishop of Rome survives the wreck, blandly to survey a world scene in which all his historic enemies have eliminated themselves and he has but to await the last act to enthrone him officially as the titular head of Christendom.
HE WHOM THE PURITANS LOOKED UPON AND DENOUNCED AS ANTICHRIST HAS TRIUMPHED AFTER ALL AND IT IS PURITANISM AND PROTESTANTISM WHICH HAVE FALLEN AND BEEN BURIED.
Nineteenth-century “post-millennialists” who slavishly and blindly followed the Puritan illusion of a gradual conquest of all the world for Christ would not have believed it. We are confident that Mr. Spurgeon would not have believed it or he would have abdicated his somewhat nebulous prophetical views and studied with care and with that intensive grasp of issues which his fine mind was so well able to contain, those prophetical rhapsodies which all his life he took too much for granted.
Truth to tell, the sinister rumblings of the coming earthquake were already clearly to be detected in Western society even prior to the Puritan Age, but there was no prophet among those good men, none to disrobe them of their illusion of a Latter Day Glory. Obsessed with the triumphs of the evangelical cause in Britain and Europe, they found it only too congenial to seek, and perforce to discover, suitable texts to be taken from their setting and woven into an eschatological scheme based upon no known rule of interpretation, by which it was easy to forecast the fall of antichrist and the rise in full glory of a Kingdom of Christ on earth.
While they were busy with their books of prophetical fantasy, Satan was busy preparing the downfall of their illusory empire. His weapon?
THE LAST GREAT BAAL OF RATIONALISM. With the watchword of LIBERTY, ENLIGHTENMENT, HUMANITY, which added together were to spell ATHEISM, he prepared his final campaign against God and Truth.
IT BEGAN IN ENGLAND
Why (oh, why?) did the great men of the Puritan age not perceive it? And why do their enthusiastic followers today write books which ignore the facts of life? The seeds of universal atheism were planted in Britain while Puritanism was at its zenith, but they knew it not.
We now trace for our readers the true origins of the present-day wreck of the Protestant and Puritan Reformations. All too little information seems to be available on this subject, and we are therefore bold to ask our readers to examine this record with great deliberation.
It is the history of the rise and triumph of rationalism in Western thought. By rationalism we mean that human philosophy which denies the necessity for, and the fact of, a divine revelation. Rationalism takes the position that human intellect is sufficient of itself to make man the master of his own future. The basis of man’s existence is therefore not divine but materialistic, and the question of immortality is irrelevant.
Modern rationalism was already incubating in Europe in pre-Reformation times. Pope Leo X (the pontiff of Luther’s day) was certainly a skeptic, but expediency preserved outwardly the monolithic structure of the Church and the form of Christian belief.
The Reformation by dividing Europe and releasing thought from the authoritarian suppression of all dissent conferred a freedom which the latent elements of Rationalism were quick to exploit. It is nevertheless fallacious for the Romanist to blame the rise of unbelief upon the Reformers. The materials of the modern revolt against faith were lying around Europe long before the 16th century dawned. The history of Roman Catholic France since the Reformation shows how ready were the Pope’s territories at all times to burst into the flames of atheistic revolt.
ENGLAND LEADS IN UNBELIEF
But it was in England that the revolt against the faith first showed itself openly. We quote from a too much neglected work of Dr. Theodore Christlieb, University Preacher and Professor of Theology at Bonn, Germany (Modern Doubt and Christian Belief, first published in 1874):
In the 15th and 16th centuries, Italy had taken the lead in free-thought; in the 17th and 18th England and France are the first to show the way. In England from the middle of the 17th to that of the 18th century, one portion after another of the great body of Christian faith is dissolved in the crucible of a Hobbes or a Hume, or under the attacks of the long series of the English deists--Herbert of Cherbury, Toland, Collins, Woolston, Shaftesbury, Tindall, Chubb, Bolingbroke, and others. Unitarians having begun with the denial of the Trinity and the incarnation, these deists soon follow, first with the rejection of the prophecies and miracles of the Old Testament, and then of the New Testament, as opposed to reason and the laws of nature; and finally, with the denial of a special providence, or any possibility of a divine revelation. From about the year 1690 to the rise of Methodism and the consequent revival of evangelical religion in the Church of England and among Protestant dissenters, it might be said that in many a circle of English society the denial of all that was specifically Christian or in excess of the axioms of natural religion, had come to be regarded as a sign of superior intelligence, and the maintenance of contrary opinions as a proof of being quite behind the progress of the times.
The results of English free-thinking were speedily introduced into France by Condillac and others. Jesuitism had in that country been slowly but surely undermining all the foundations of true religion and morality. Pascal, the man of conscience (a Protestant without knowing it), and Malebranche were the last philosophers of France who reverenced Christianity.
What the French literature of unbelief did for the general public, English literature accomplished among the learned. Rationalism, however, properly so-called, that is, the denial of all dogmas which seem incomprehensible to the ordinary understanding, is an outgrowth of our own (i.e., German) soil. The Leibnitz-Wolfian philosophy which laid the foundation for a mechanical, formal treatment of Christian doctrines contributed largely to the general alienation from the Christian faith. A sort of natural religion began to be taught, in which it was endeavored to demonstrate the principles of the Christian faith entirely by those of natural reason. Revealed religion under this process soon appeared to become a superfluity, and whatever in it could not be demonstrated by reason was quietly abandoned.
It must then be confessed that the church theology of the last two centuries deserves the chief blame for the general apostasy which then began from the ancient faith. ...It was adopted, cherished, and promoted by the church itself. From the middle of the 18th to the end of the first third of the 19th century, the chief authorities in pulpit and university were promoters of rationalism. ...We theologians reap that which ourselves have sown.
We often complain of our great (German) poets and our classical literature in general, that they exhibit such indifference, not to say hostility, to positive Christianity. Who is to blame for this? Once more, the Protestant Church. How could it be otherwise than that those great and leading spirits should, one after another, turn aside and separate themselves from her? What was it but the cold and stiff morality, the absence of all spiritual life and fervor, and the hard unsympathetic deism of our preachers and theologians, which repelled such ardent and poetic minds like Schiller and made them turn as he does in the “Gods of Grace” to the beautiful forms of ancient paganism in preference to the teachings of a degenerate Christianity? Schiller is assailing not the religion of the gospel, but the vulgar rationalism by which it was defaced.... He only can mistake Schiller’s true meaning who has no conception of the angry feelings which inspired the man who, never cheered by any true teaching as to the faith of Christians, cries out for help and finds it denied him; desires intercourse with the living God but receives from his age no other revelation than that of a dumb, mechanical idol of the understanding, enthroned in mere astronomical sublimity above the subject world.
Christlieb saw coming upon England what has long since his time reached its full maturity--the spread of the same doubt and unbelief in our native churches. “The want of experienced leaders through the thickest labyrinths of modern criticism is painfully felt.”
SATAN WAS AT WORK
So while the Puritans were engrossed with the sickness of the Papal antichrist and the enlarging and illusory prospect of the “Puritan Hope,” the real enemy was unrecognized. Satan was patiently and ceaselessly constructing his last great system of unbelief.
In Scotland, traditional home of pure religion, the process was much slower than in England; but once established, it came to a rapid maturity. The Disruption in the Church of Scotland in 1843 for a short season held back the rationalistic tide, but following the untimely death of Dr. Thomas Chalmers, the next generation was overwhelmed by the full force of the rationalistic theology. There are few ecclesiastical disasters in history so devastating as that which overtook the Free Church of Scotland (of 1843) in less than half a century. Today Scotland is a more extensive spiritual wilderness than its sister kingdom. The virtual monopoly established in Scotland by the reunion of the two main segments of Presbyterianism is barely matched in England where there has always been a powerful nonconformist tradition to oppose an Anglican monopoly, but no one can say how short the time before ecumenicalism triumphs south of the border.
IN THE U. S. A.
The problem in the United States of America, with the congenital antipathy which exists there against establishments, is different from that of the Old World. In America the fragmentation of Protestantism has been much more thorough, but it is to be feared that this very fact has prepared the field all the more for the rising tide of unbelief. Fragmentation has encouraged in America a general watering down of the standards of preaching. Expository ability is at as low an ebb there as in Britain, Millennialism has done a fell work in removing large areas of the Divine Word from the use of the Church. Bible knowledge, exegesis and exposition have been inhibited by false and easy techniques of “interpretation.”
Another factor of which the Puritans knew nothing, but which in our day has proved to be the trump card of the devil’s last atheistic deal, has been the rise of the evolutionary philosophy in natural science.
THE EVOLUTIONARY HERESY
The scientific heresy of evolution has in one century engulfed the Protestant Church. The capitulation to this grossly atheistic doctrine is now complete. The concept of a divine creation has been destroyed, and all education from infancy to university is now governed by this essentially materialistic dogma. It has created a psychology based on materialistic determinism and has given rise to such demoralizing fallacies as the so-called “population explosion” with governmental encouragement of contraception, the inevitable end of which is racial suicide. Evolution has destroyed all bases of fixed moral standards and quenched the hope of immortality. Its psychological doctrines are now busy undermining all conception of law and order in society.
That this appalling lie should have been foisted on mankind just at the time when the evangelical forces released by the Reformation were ebbing fast is not to be attributed to any coincidence. We see it as part of a total conspiracy by the powers of darkness to overthrow truth and destroy the image of God in man. We see more. If, as the last book of the Bible assures us, the last state of man shall be a Loosing of Satan and a season of worldwide revolt against God and truth, this could well be the moment in history when not a Latter Day Glory will mark man’s last chapter on earth, but a last battle of the saints against universal Satanism.
REVELATION 20 AVOIDED
We have already noted in a previous issue in this series that our esteemed friend, the author of the book entitled The Puritan Hope, prudently avoids any entanglement with the 20th chapter of Revelation, declaring it (in a quotation of which he obviously approves) “the darkest passage in all the Bible.”
This extraordinary superlative is hardly to be justified in a book dedicated to the promotion of beliefs which (whether the author likes it or not) find their original ground in that very chapter. It is clear that without the 20th of Revelation the Church and the world would never have heard of any millennium, seeing it is the only place in the Bible where a millennium as such is mentioned. Our friends cannot contract out of this chapter by denying that they are millenarians, because “the Puritan Hope” which they aim to propagate is essentially millenarian as to its character. In view of the history of the chiliastic teaching, no one in the 20th century need feel encumbered by the label.
It is true that “widely different meanings” have been given to this chapter. But widely different meanings are given to many another chapter of Holy Writ, and if we were to avoid writing and preaching upon them we should have to abandon the Bible itself.
This “dark” and mysterious chapter is not so dark when the full light of the Church’s history is turned upon it and spiritual things are compared with spiritual. It tells us plainly enough that the last state of man on earth, millennium or no millennium, is one of total apostasy. It speaks of the end being a time of the loosing of Satan and the gathering of the universal forces of unbelief against the testimony and the people of Christ. This unexampled and total revolt against God and truth at the end of a supposed age of Latter Day Glory or the reign of the saints on earth makes nonsense of all millennial theories save one--that theory which sees the thousand years as the complete period of time between the first and second advents of Christ. During that time Satan is bound as to his former liberty to hold in bondage the nations of the world.
The fall and binding of Satan and his subsequent loosing for the last “little season” of man’s history is the internal picture of gospel history, as we shall now proceed (God helping us) to show. The thousand years are a symbolic period of time, fixed by God but indefinite to man, indicating that the second coming of Christ is separated from the suffering saints of John’s day (to whom his book first came) by a great period of time. Yet the prophecy is so presented that a generation subsequent to the apostle’s time could for certainty say that Christ would or would not soon appear. In the meantime, death means “reigning with Christ,” and this reigning is “the first resurrection.”
The chapter opens with the picture of an angel descending from heaven with the key of the “bottomless pit” and a great chain. He binds Satan in his old dragon and serpent form, seals him in the pit, and it is decreed that Satan shall not any more deceive the nations as hitherto, for the period of the thousand years. Satan bound and confined! With what chain? In what locality? The chain can only mean the restrictive decrees of God as touching Satan’s activities, and the bottomless pit is not a location but a state or condition. It is the special domain of Satan from which he cannot free himself except by divine permission.
Those who imagine a contradiction here between the binding of Satan and his worldwide activity “going about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” should consider what Satan’s state was before Calvary and the resurrection.
THE FALL OF SATAN
There are scriptures which tell us plainly that Satan suffered a fearful and irrecoverable fall when the gospel came in. His worldwide dominion over the heathen nations came to an end. Heathenism received a blow from which it has never since fully recovered, and this is in accordance with the prophecy of Jeremiah 10:11, “Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens.”
In the original, these words of Jeremiah are not in Hebrew but in Chaldee, the purpose being to comfort the people of God during the Chaldean captivity with the knowledge that the day would come when the gods of the heathen would fall and their very names perish from the earth. The true God, the Creator of all things, must in the end prove victorious. Thomas Scott believed that this verse was an express prediction of the total extirpation of idolatry from the earth, and it is certainly true that since the gospel came in and began its worldwide conquest the very names of the great heathen gods perished from the earth and are unknown today except to the historian--though the spirit of heathenism lives on in the heart of man.
Of this fall of Satan from his heathenish dominion, Christ speaks to His disciples when He says, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven” (Luke 10:18). It is of first importance that we should see how Christ’s words followed the triumphant joy of the disciples when they were able to say, “Even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.”
When did this fall of Satan from heaven take place? The words of Christ are not to be taken in the Miltonic sense as of the original fall of Satan from his created perfection in heaven, but to that fall which he suffered when Christ rose from the dead and thus destroyed Satan’s dominion over mankind. Paul gives us the theology of this in Hebrews 2:14-19) “That through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” Satan is destroyed as to the exercise of his former dominion.
Again, the Lord refers to this fall of Satan when He declares shortly before His crucifixion, “Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out, and I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all men unto me”. (John 12:31-32).
By this declaration the Lord indicated how Satan would fall and be cast out before the power of the gospel, so that the light and truth of the saving Word might penetrate those uttermost regions where the prince of darkness so long had reigned undisturbed. The lifting up of Christ for our redemption was followed by the drawing of all men to Christ, that is, His kingdom extends to the utmost bounds of humanity, and the entire human race is affected thereby as the heathen gentiles come from north, south, east, and west to sit down in the Kingdom of God. That was a great fall of Satan indeed, and a great binding of the prince of hell when the light of the gospel penetrated all lands so that the heathen gods fell before it.
In another place the Lord declares that only by the binding of Satan can the gospel do its work in regions formerly given over to darkness. “If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man's house and spoil his goods except he first bind the strong man? and then he, will spoil his house”. (Matthew 12:28-29)
Returning to Revelation 20, we now see that it is in this sense that Satan is bound and set under seal. He is not bound as to his power to tempt and to try. Nor is he bound as to his age-long campaign opposing the Kingdom of God. He is bound as to his former dominion over the nations to hold in darkness the great masses of mankind. Paul speaks of this altered state when addressing the heathen Greek philosophers: “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent”. (Acts 17:30) Again, “In times past God suffered all nations to walk in their own ways". (Acts 14:16)
That in all cases the “binding” of Satan is relative only and not absolute is also clear from the words of Jude: “The angels which kept not their first estate but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day”. (Jude 6)
This remarkable verse (Jude 6) tells us that the liberty of evil spirits to tempt and oppress is quite consistent with the fact of their having been bound in everlasting chains under darkness till the judgment day.
Since the gospel came in, Satan has “fallen from heaven,” has been bound and cast out, and is laid under chains of darkness.
The false liberty which Satan appears to claim is a binding to act according to the divine decrees only, and this is shown supremely at the crucifixion of Christ, where the enemy and his agents could do only what God’s hand and counsel determined before to be done (Acts 4:28).
THE THOUSAND YEARS IDENTIFIED
The thousand years of Satan’s binding are therefore the mystic thousand years of the triumph of the gospel. We repudiate for ourselves the recently coined and artificial word amillennialism, which grammatically can only signify “no millennium.” No one believes that, and certainly we do not. What we believe is that the millennium is a gospel millennium, spiritual in its nature, and not a millennium on the earth as a visible Kingdom of God. During this spiritual millennium, which began with the resurrection and is still running its course, Satan is bound and powerless to prevent the worldwide conquests of the gospel penetrating the darkest recesses of his ancient domain of ignorance and sin.
We are reinforced in this belief by the weighty words of John Owen, the greatest of the Puritans:
Christ has made a conquest over the evil powers (angels), prevailing absolutely against them, and they are put in subjection to Him for ever. They are subjected to Him as to their present actings and future condition. He now rules them and will hereafter finally judge them. And in so far as in His holiness and wisdom He suffers them to act in temptations, seductions, and persecutions, He bounds and limits their rage, malice, and actings; He orders and disposes these events to His own holy and righteous ends and keeps them under chains for the judgment of the last day. (Owens, Hebrews, Volume 2, page 52).
In short, the sign of the Kingdom of God (that is, the gospel) is the casting out of Satan, according to that word of Christ, “If I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you (Luke 11: 20). The Jews did not recognize their Messiah or His kingdom when He gave them this sign of the casting out of Satan.
THE LAST BATTLE
And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Revelation 20:7-10)
The theory of the excellent Dr. Bonar (whose name we truly revere) that the devil will gather his millennial recruits from the scum of humanity washed up by the glorious millennial sea is quite inadequate to represent this grave scene of a world in complete revolt against its God. The names Gog and Magog denote the primeval heathenism of the fallen human race. “The four quarters of the earth” denotes universalism; four is the Bible signature for the world as a whole, in its universality. The loosing of Satan is effected by the same hand which bound him. Satan loosed is a judgment upon a world which has spurned two thousand years of gospel light. They who choose Satan shall have Satan as their prince.
David, in the Second Psalm, tells us of the divine decree which at the resurrection proclaimed Christ as Lord over all. “I have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.... Ask of me and I will give thee the heathen (i.e., the gentile nations) for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.”
Having completed His task of assembling His elect from the utmost limits of the earth, the point is reached in history when the earth ripens for judgment and the lifting of the restraining hand of God permits the last release of Satanic power upon a world which has given itself over (as in the days before the Flood) to uncontrolled wickedness and atheism.
THE LOOSING OF SATAN
This may be of crucial importance to us in the 20th century. Hengstenberg observes: “The deceiving can only return by a return being first made to heathenism. Then Satan makes himself known as the organizing principle of opposition to the Kingdom of God.” What this means in terms of our own times is only too ominous and clear. For over a century the Western World has been departing from the ground of faith, in theology, science, and latterly even in art and music. The air vibrates with the rhythms of the tom-tom, and the endless and oppressive discords of a jungle culture. The frightful daubs and meaningless twisted and distorted forms which are purveyed in the salons of the Western World at enormous prices, indicate a condition in the minds of men which can only arise as the heathenish spirit moves into the vacuum which has been created by the agnosticism and atheism of the age. Philosophy largely proceeds today on the assumption that there is no God, and science with its evolutionary foundation has long since, in effect, banished the idea of a Creator from creation (however pious some individual scientists may be). Poetry, literature, have gone the same way. In most theological halls it is impossible for a young man to be trained for ordination without dire menace to whatever faith he may have when he enters. The new psychology (founded for the most part by an agnostic Jew) is entirely materialistic in its treatment of the human mind and soul. “Humanity,” as Dr. Gresham Machen once said, “has become dumb.” Since faith went, great composers of music, poets, philosophers, artists, and divines have gradually faded out--or almost so.
In short, if there is one passage in the Book of Revelation which specially applies to the precise time in which we now stand, that passage is “THE LOOSING OF SATAN FOR A LITTLE SEASON” in Revelation 20.
One advances this statement with the utmost caution, but nothing can be more clear than that the unique, the “new” situation of our own time, is the eclipse of faith, the darkening of the intellect, the recrudescence of heathenism as a national condition after a thousand years of restraint, and the re-emergence of the devil, in the very crudest of his forms, in his last naked and open attack on the Christian faith, on the Word of God, and on the Kingdom of Christ. If such a time as this has not been the subject of some special warning in the Bible one can only say in all reverence, “It ought to have been.”
We could certainly be wrong in our chronology of this event, but we could just as well be right. A “little season” in prophetic time could well be a century or longer.
THE REVIVAL ILLUSION
But what about the hope of revival? We would remind our friends who are always anticipating new awakenings similar to those which restored religion in previous centuries that ours is the first century since the Reformation in which there has been no general awakening. The memories of some of us go back upwards of fifty years, embracing two world wars, and all our days revival has been expected, prayed for by earnest people (including ourselves), and many sermons have been preached that we might expect it. Bolder spirits have told us exactly how it may come about, and how God is waiting only for us to do something so He can reward us with revival.
Leading figures in the evangelistic world forecast “revival” very persistently and assure us with every fresh “campaign” that revival is just on the brink. But there has been no revival. The latest example as we go to press is of one of the leading exponents of this theory taking stock of the pathetic ‘Jesus’ movement now being engineered in America. He assures us on the strength of this movement that we are again on the verge of revival. We shall see.
Meantime our readers should be assured that the Holy Spirit has never altered His methods from the foundation of the world and is scarcely likely to do so now. Those methods are always the clear exposition of the Word of God by men competent to enter fully into the deep treasures of Christ and unfold those treasures in preaching.
We are not short of theologies today. We are short of divines. It is a crime against the people of God and against Christ to raise hopes of revivals emerging from the trivialities (to put it no lower) of modern preaching and methodology.
We who write these lines are not pessimists, but neither are we so foolish as not to read the signs of the times.
THE LAST WITNESS
Truly God is able to do the impossible, but whether this means we have a right to expect that God will act in the way many suppose when they speak of revival is a totally different question. If our age is an age rapidly running down to judgment; if ours is an age which exhibits all the features of those historic times which immediately preceded the pouring out of the wrath of God--the age of Noah, the age of Lot, the age of Jeremiah--we have every reason to believe that the next event which lies before us is JUDGMENT, not REVIVAL.
Those who think they see by their prophetical interpretations a greatly lengthened future still for this world no doubt will be complacent, but that is their responsibility. For ourselves, we think all the signs are present of a complete and worldwide revolt against everything which is called God, leading directly to the consummation of all things in judgment.
Satan is waxing bold. Not since the Garden of Eden has he been in such a paradise. He has the ear of humanity, and no lie, conceit, or daring blasphemy is now withheld from a generation which in other fields beside that of religion exhibits the most alarming symptoms that humanity has lost its soul. The Age of Faith had its triumphs in every field of human culture, but for over a century the Western World has been departing from the ground of faith. What rationalism has done for Protestantism, materialism has done for science and culture. We have a creation without a Creator and a universe without meaning, purpose, or plan. Atheistic evolution reigns, and there is no iniquity, blasphemy, or vice which is not now brazenly uttered and publicly defended.
What then? If revival after the traditional pattern may no longer be feasible, but only the expectation of judgment, what is the believer to do? Is there to be no light in the prevailing darkness?
The answer should thrill every true believer who is jealous for the glory of the Redeemer. Ours is the privilege in a falling age of bearing the last witness against the devil and all his works. In the hour of his unloosing, he is to be resisted and fought with all the weapons in the army of God. We will lift up our voice for Christ and truth whether the people hear or whether they forbear. Like Noah in the ancient world, like Lot in Sodom’s last night, like Jeremiah in Israel’s last apostasy before the judgment of the captivity, it is our privilege to bear witness against the unbelief of the present age. We are destined to be the Camp of the Saints compassed about by the heathen and atheistic multitudes of Gog and Magog, until fire falls from heaven to consume the transgressor.
The question of “revival” is irrelevant to that testimony, as it may be irrelevant to the hour in which we live. What we look for is that our God should pluck His hand out from His bosom and vindicate the testimony of His people, so that the nations may know there is a people in the midst of the earth whose God is the Lord. That vindication is more likely to take the form of judgment than of revival.
Are we ready for such a testimony? Are there enough men who know their God and their Bibles well enough to arouse by their preaching the enmity of Satan’s multitude? We doubt it. There is an appalling evangelical sickness which prevents a robust and convincing testimony to the glory of Christ. If some of the energies expended in the vain search for “experiences” were devoted to the creation of a company of preachers adequate under God to the task, the evangelical position would be changed over night. It might not--in our opinion it would not--spell revival in the sense in which that almost discredited word is now used, but it would mean TESTIMONY, and testimony would mean the opposition of Satan, suffering, persecution, loss, and shame. But why should WE escape the penalty which our fathers were called upon to pay for their devotion to Christ’s crown and covenant?
F 0 G --- 1 9 6 0
(On Returning Home in Fog and Hearing a Schubert Symphony Coming “over the Air”)
A Poem by Charles D. Alexander
Clinging damp, and deadened sound,
Dingy, dark, and sodden ground,
Gaslight ghostly, halo dim
As the moonbeam’s ghastly rim—
Presage dismal, hell’s augur,
Of the storm premonitor.
Blanket heavy, stifling breath,
Blind and dumb, horizonless;
Groping, fearful, sinister,
Loss of truth—hell’s minister;
Melancholy’s minor key,
Undertone of falsity:
Discord, strife, disharmony,
...what waves of music chime,
Piercing, scattering the grime
Of the fetid air which bends
To this master; yields and rends.
Regnant, elevating, calm,
Rule of order, Gilead’s balm;
Glow of warmth from curtained hall,
Flesh submerged, raised the soul;
Charm of sweet melodic wand,
New horizons, ground enchant—
All confusion banishing,
New-born spirit ravishing;
Beauty, youth, serenity.
Of the Master’s composition.
Schubert ‘tis whose sweet sonata
Rides upon the grey miasma:
Vibrant bridge across the abyss,
Bow of music’s gay Adonis;
Trembling, yearning, modulation,
Pleading, peaceful, jubilation!
...well-loved who short did linger,
Us to charm. Thy subtle finger
Swept the lyre and gave untarnished
Melody of love Unfinished.
Hast thou gone for task’s completion,
To that vastness where the vision
Shines unhindered, and no longer
Wayward spirits, restless wander,
As did thine when thou west with us,
In the mist and fog of falseness,
Playing out thy fantasia
Till the latest Miserere?
Yet though thou didst stumble, stray,
From the ether came the play,
Serenade of heaven sounding
On thy strings of understanding.
...the last of music’s flower,
Few thee followed, minstrel pure.
Passed the age of inspiration;
Partner for thy rich invention,
None thou leavedest. Human nature
Now declines in alien culture.
Severed link with heaven’s breathing,
Stifled art and darkness brooding;
Swirling fogbank, lost the vision.
Pride, distortion, modernism,
Raise enthroned the love of gaining,
Commerce, lucre, panting, straining.
No more felt, the meek pulsations
Of the Spirit’s subjugations.
Age of faith to age of reason?
Loud the boast!
But winter’s season.
Science, poesy and art,
Compassless, without a chart.
“Let us break their bands asunder!”
This their only rule -- O wonder
Of iniquity, so blinding,
Heavenly secret, all-deriding,
Of true art the code of beauty
Spelt by letters four so simply--
...who strings the purest lyre,
Kindles inspiration’s fire.
He who did the awful Passion
Of his God, in music fashion—
Mystic Bach, from thee did kindle,
Virgin chaste, his bosom’s candle.
Fell thy flame on Handel’s spirit,
Fumed and burned to heaven’s limit;
Roamed his soul through constellations,
Ages, astral worlds, creations,
Catching fiery points of burning
Till his spirit, longing, yearning,
Found at last the worthy measure,
Fit to show Messiah’s treasure.
Passed the torch to gentle Haydn,
Troubadour of God’s Creation.
Reverent then the Maiden stole
To an infant’s tender soul,
Roused in Mozart her enchantment;
Youth to age, that great enrichment
Sang his life into a hymn,
Till the last dear Requiem.
Another texture then she tried—
A troubled man, by woe betide:
Great and mighty music monarch,
Ludwig Beethoven the hierarch
Of them all; on whose soul’s tempest
Heaven breathed its awful conquest.
Added then was Schubert’s token—
After him the mould was broken.
Fell the Muse, her weakening pinions
Beating vainly those pure regions.
Want of air to float her plumage—
Air of faith. Now rose the mirage
Of creation accidental,
Reft of mind and purpose fateful.
False goddess with serpent locks,
Men of letters turns to stocks.
Circling down in narrowing flight,
The wounded Muse is lost in night.
Within the Holy Temple Veil
Hideous rose the last great Baal:
Ugliness and anarchy,
Formless, mindless, atrophy;
Darkness of the latter time
Closing thick upon the brain.
Poisoned breath and jungle rhythm,
Beat of tom-tom, heathenism.
Shock, revulsion, parody
Of love’s purest harmony.
Slain the soul of inspiration—
This--the Devil’s Little Season.
...the music of the Spirit
Breaks within the fogbound limit
Of miasma-ridden time.
It must come--that holy chime--
Whence or whither, who can tell?
‘Tis enough, ‘tis with us still:
Notes of angel harmony,
Heaven’s last glorious Symphony.