Spurgeon's Millennial View
There has been some considerable difference of opinion regarding the position that C. H. Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher from the 19th century, held in the area of Eschatology regarding the doctrine of the Millennium. Each of the three major divisions within this area of doctrine have proponents who claim Spurgeon as one of their own. Many times authors claim a different millennial view than what Spurgeon actually believed.
It is not our task to sort out the arguments for each view. Such an assignment would take a very large volume (many are available) and the issue would still not be solved for all. We would simply like to define the basic positions and then demonstrate from Spurgeon's own words which one view he held.
The first view regarding the Millennium is that of PREMILLENNIALISM. The prefix, "Pre," denotes "before." The prefix is telling us at what point in relationship to the millennium that Christ will come. This view holds that our Lord will literally return before a 1,000-year reign of Christ begins. The millennium of Revelation 20 is taken to be literal. If not literal, it at least is speaking of an indefinite period of time following the coming of Christ during which there will be perfect peace on the earth.
Within the premillennialist camp, there have come to be two identifiable views: the "dispensationalist" position, and the "historic" position. For further information defending each of these views, one should consult Reese's The Approaching Advent of Christ [historic] and Dwight Pentecost's Things to Come [dispensational]. Though the differences between the two are important, it is not within the scope of our purpose here to delve into such matters.
The second view is called AMILLENNIALISM, or sometimes called "realized eschatology". The prefix, "A-," means "no". This would suggest that those who hold this view do not believe in a millennium. This is somewhat misleading, however. This view is the the product of a consistent spiritual interpretation of prophetic literature. To those, the millennium is not some future physical reign, but the present reign of Christ in the hearts of believers. The "millennium" is an indefinite period of time (the present age) after which Christ will physically return. Prophecy in the Church, by Oswald Allis, is a standard work for the amillennial position.
This is the position of the Roman Catholic Church, also many other Protestant denominations. It grew out of St. Augustine's spiritualizing of these issues in his writings, and the tendency of many early Christian writers to see the Church as the "new Israel" and therefore the recipient of the promises of the Old Testament for the Jewish nation. Those who hold this view do not speak of the millennium as a future happening. It is, to them, a present reality.
The third, and last, major view is that of POSTMILLENNIALISM. "Post" speaks of "after." This teaching promotes the view that the physical return of Christ will follow an actual millennium. The influence of Christianity will over-take the world for an extended period of time, then Christ will return.
This view appears to be a mixture of the principles that work to produce the first two views. It is not consistently spiritual or literal in its interpretation of the prophetic material relevant to this issue. Perhaps the foremost writing for this position today is The Millennium, by Loraine Boettner
With basic definitions before us, then, let's look at some quotes from Spurgeon to see what his position was on the Millennium.
"If I read the word aright, and it is honest to admit that there is much room for difference of opinion here, the day will come, when the Lord Jesus will descend from heaven with a shout, with the trump of the archangel and the voice of God. Some think that this descent of the Lord will be post-millennial that is, after the thousand years of his reign. I cannot think so. I conceive that the advent will be PRE-millennial that he will come first; and then will come the millennium as the result of his personal reign upon earth. But whether or no, this much is the fact, that Christ will suddenly come, come to reign, and come to judge the earth in righteousness." [from Justification & Glory MTP Vol 11, Year 1865, pg. 249, Romans 8:30 (age 31)]
Spurgeon here specifically identifies the Postmillennial view and denies his adherence to it. Those who attempt to claim Spurgeon for this viewpoint do not demonstrate their contention by referring to clear comparisons such as this one. They rather go to sermons not specifically dealing with both positions and pull out of them ideas that are "compatible" with Postmillennial thinking. This is a faulty way of proving a point, however especially when they meet squarely with a Spurgeon statement like the one above & those below. [MANY postmillennialists (especially GARY NORTH), are guilty of misrepresenting Spurgeon constantly in articles and books; NORTH has alleged that "Spurgeon was Postmillennial" yet neither his supplied quotations "say" so, or, he deliberately does not present a statement by Spurgeon which North can speculate "implies" a Postmillennial position.]
Again, consider Spurgeon's View here in light of Postmillennial teaching...
"Paul does not paint the future with rose-colour: he is no smooth-tongued prophet of a golden age, into which this dull earth may be imagined to be glowing. There are sanguine brethren who are looking forward to everything growing better and better and better, until, at last, this present age ripens into a millennium. They will not be able to sustain their hopes, for Scripture gives them no solid basis to rest upon. We who believe that there will be no millennial reign without the King, and who expect no rule of righteousness except from the appearing of the righteous Lord, are nearer the mark. Apart from the second Advent of our Lord, the world is more likely to sink into a pandemonium than to rise into a millennium. A divine interposition seems to me the hope set before us in Scripture, and, indeed, to be the only hope adequate to the occasion. We look to the darkening down of things; the state of mankind, however improved politically, may yet grow worse and worse spiritually." [from The Form of Godliness Without the Power MTP Vol 35, Year 1889, pg. 301, 2 Timothy 3:5 (age 54)]
"We are to expect the literal advent of Jesus Christ, for he himself by his angel told us, 'This same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven,' which must mean literally and in person. We expect a reigning Christ on earth; that seems to us to be very plain, and to be put so literally that we dare not spiritualise it. We anticipate a first and a second resurrection; a first resurrection of the righteous, and a second resurrection of the ungodly, who shall be judged, condemned, and punished for ever by the sentence of the great King." [from Things to Come MTP Vol 15, Year 1869, pg. 329, 1 Corinthians 3:22 (age 35)]
Here, stress is laid upon the literal nature of the second coming. Also, after this literal return is stressed a reigning upon the earth.
"We have done once for all with the foolish ideas of certain of the early heretics, that Christ's appearance upon earth was but a phantom. We know that he was really, personally, and physically here on earth. But it is not quite so clear to some persons that he is to come really, personally, and literally, the second time. I know there are some who are labouring to get rid of the fact of a personal reign, but as I take it, the coming and the reign are so connected together, that we must have a spiritual coming if we are to have a spiritual reign. Now we believe and hold that Christ shall come a second time suddenly, to raise his saints at the first judgment, and they shall reign with him afterwards. The rest of the dead live not till after the thousand years are finished. Then shall they rise from their tombs at the sounding of the trumpet, and their judgment shall come and they shall receive the deeds which they have done in their bodies." [from The Two Advents of Christ MTP Vol 8, Year 1862, pg. 39, Hebrews 9:27-28 (age 28)]
[from The Sinner's End MTP Vol 8, Year 1862, pgs. 712-713, Psalms 73:17-18 (age 28)], Spurgeon is discussing the final condition of the sinner
"Let us go on to consider their end. The day of days, that dreadful day has come. The millennial rest is over, the righteous have had their thousand years of glory upon earth."
In the quotes above, the order of events fits perfectly the PRE-millennial point of view. The final end of the sinner is faced after the righteous have enjoyed a thousand years with Christ.
"Our hope is the Personal PRE-MILLENNIAL Return of the Lord Jesus Christ in glory." [August 1891, age 58]
by Charles H. Spurgeon
Of the various articles and writings by those who deny the conclusion that we feel is obvious, none that I have found bases itself on the same type of quotes we have produced (many others could have been given see more below). To the contrary, their's are based on "interpreting" Spurgeon's statements apart from such quotes that we have given.
We feel safe in concluding, then, that of the three views we began with, Spurgeon expressly states that he believes in a literal return of Jesus Christ before a literal millennium on the earth.
Also Read C. H. SPURGEON on " PRETERISM "
Spurgeon (age 43) There is moreover to be a reign of Christ. I cannot read the Scriptures without perceiving that there is to be a pre-millennial reign, as I believe, upon the earth and that there shall be new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness...
Spurgeon (age 49) Then all His people who are alive at the time of His coming shall be suddenly transformed, so as to be delivered from all the frailties and imperfections of their mortal bodies: The dead shall be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed. Then we shall be presented spirit, soul, and body without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; in the clear and absolute perfection of our sanctified manhood, presented unto Christ Himself.
Spurgeon (age 50) When the Lord comes there will be no more death; we who are alive and remain (as some of us may be we cannot tell) will undergo a sudden transformation for flesh and blood, as they are, cannot inherit the kingdom of God and by that transformation our bodies shall be made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.
Spurgeon (age 52) His coming will cause great sorrow. What does the text say about his coming? All kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Then this sorrow will be very general.
Spurgeon (age 30) [from The Restoration & Conversion of the Jews MTP Vol 10, Year 1864, pgs. 427-430, Ezekiel 37:1-10] Under the preaching of the Word the vilest sinners can be reclaimed, the most stubborn wills can be subdued, the most unholy lives can be sanctified. When the holy "breath" comes from the four winds, when the divine Spirit descends to own the Word, then multitudes of sinners, as on Pentecost's hallowed day, stand up upon their feet, an exceeding great army, to praise the Lord their God. But, mark you, this is not the first and proper interpretation of the text; it is indeed nothing more than a very striking parallel case to the one before us. It is not the case itself; it is only a similar one, for the way in which God restores a nation is, practically, the way in which he restores an individual. The way in which Israel shall be saved is the same by which any one individual sinner shall be saved. It is not, however, the one case which the prophet is aiming at; he is looking at the vast mass of cases, the multitudes of instances to be found among the Jewish people, of gracious quickening, and holy resurrection. His first and primary intention was to speak of them, and though it is right and lawful to take a passage in its widest possible meaning, since "no Scripture is of private interpretation," yet I hold it to be treason to God's Word to neglect its primary meaning, and constantly to say "Such-and-such is the primary meaning, but it is of no consequence, and I shall use the words for another object." The preacher of God's truth should not give up the Holy Ghost's meaning; he should take care that he does not even put it in the back ground. The first meaning of a text, the Spirit's meaning, is that which would be brought out first, and though the rest may fairly spring out of it, yet the first sense should have the chief place. Let it have the uppermost place in the synagogue, let it be looked upon as at least not inferior, either in interest or importance, to any other meaning which may come out of the text.
The meaning of our text, as opened up by the context, is most evidently, if words mean anything, first, that there shall be a political restoration of the Jews to their own land and to their own nationality; and then, secondly, there is in the text, and in the context, a most plain declaration, that there shall be a spiritual restoration, a conversion in fact, of the tribes of Israel.
The promise is that they shall renounce their idols, and, behold, they have already done so. "Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols." Whatever faults the Jew may have besides, he certainly has no idolatry. "The Lord thy God is one God," is a truth far better conceived by the Jew than by any other man on earth except the Christian. Weaned for ever from the worship of all images, of whatever sort, the Jewish nation has now become infatuated with traditions or duped by philosophy. She is to have, however, instead of these delusions, a spiritual religion: she is to love her God. "They shall be my people, and I will be their God." The unseen but omnipotent Jehovah is to be worshipped in spirit and in truth by his ancient people; they are to come before him in his own appointed way, accepting the Mediator whom their sires rejected; coming into covenant relation with God, for so our text tells us "I will make a covenant of peace with them," and Jesus is our peace, therefore we gather that Jehovah shall enter into the covenant of grace with them, that covenant of which Christ is the federal head, the substance, and the surety. They are to walk in God's ordinances and statutes, and so exhibit the practical effects of being united to Christ who hath given them peace. All these promises certainly imply that the people of Israel are to be converted to God, and that this conversion is to be permanent, for the tabernacle of God is to be with them, the Most High is, in an especial manner, to have his sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore; so that whatever nations may apostatize and turn from the Lord in these latter days, the nation of Israel never can, for she shall be effectually and permanently converted, the hearts of the fathers shall be turned with the hearts of the children unto the Lord their God, and they shall be the people of God, world without end.
We look forward, then, for these two things. I am not going to theorize upon which of them will come first, whether they shall be restored first, and converted afterwards, or converted first, and then restored. They are to be restored, and they are to be converted too. Let the Lord send these blessings in his own order, and we shall be well content whichever way they shall come. We take this for our joy and our comfort, that this thing shall be, and that both in the spiritual and in the temporal throne, the King Messiah shall sit, and reign among his people gloriously.
Spurgeon (age 30) [from The Lamb the Light MTP Vol 10, Year 1864, pg. 439, Revelation 21:23] (Spurgeon says of the millennial earth), They shall not say one to another, "Know the Lord: for all shall know him, from the least to the greatest." There may be even in that period certain solemn assemblies and Sabbath-days, but they will not be of the same kind as we have now; for the whole earth will be a temple, every day will be a Sabbath, the avocations of men will all be priestly, they shall be a nation of priests distinctly so, and they shall day without night serve God in his temple, so that everything to which they set their hand shall be a part of the song which shall go up to the Most High. Oh! blessed day. Would God it had dawned, when these temples should be justify, because the whole world should be a temple for God. But whatever may be the splendours of that day and truly here is a temptation to let our imagination revel however bright may be the walls set with chalcedony and amethyst, however splendid the gates which are of one pearl, whatever may be the magnificence set forth by the "streets of gold," this we know, that the sum and substance, the light and glory of the whole will be the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, "for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof." Now, I want the Christian to meditate over this. In the highest, holiest, and happiest era that shall ever dawn upon this poor earth, Christ is to be her light. When she puts on her wedding garments, and adorns herself as a bride is adorned with jewels, Christ is to be her glory and her beauty. There shall be no ear-rings in her ears made with other gold than that which cometh from his mine of love; there shall be no crown set upon her brow fashioned by any other hand than his hands of wisdom and of grace. She sits to reign, but it shall be upon his throne; she feeds, but it shall be upon his bread; she triumphs, but it shall be because of the might which ever belongs to him who is the Rock of Ages. Come then, Christian, contemplate for a moment thy beloved Lord. Jesus, in a millennial age, shall be the light and the glory of the city of the new Jerusalem. Observe then, that Jesus makes the light of the millennium, because his presence will be that which distinguishes that age from the present. That age is to be akin to paradise. Paradise God first made upon earth, and paradise God will last make. Satan destroyed it; and God will never have defeated his enemy until he has re-established paradise, until once again a new Eden shall bless the eyes of God's creatures. Now, the very glory and privilege of Eden I take to be not the river which flowed through it with its four branches, nor that it came from the land of Havilah which hath dust of gold I do not think the glory of Eden lay in its grassy walks, or in the boughs bending with luscious fruit but its glory lay in this, that the "Lord God walked in the garden in the cool of the day." Here was Adam's highest privilege, that he had companionship with the Most High. In those days angels sweetly sang that the tabernacle of God was with man, and that he did dwell amongst them. Brethren, the paradise which is to be regained for us will have this for its essential and distinguishing mark, that the Lord shall dwell amongst us. This is the name by which the city is to be called Jehovah Shammah, the Lord is there. It is true we have the presence of Christ in the Church now "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." We have the promise of his constant indwelling: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." But still that is vicariously by his Spirit, but soon he is to be personally with us. That very man who once died upon Calvary is to live here. He that same Jesus who was taken up from us, shall come in like manner as he was taken up from the gazers of Galilee. Rejoice, rejoice, beloved, that he comes, actually and really comes; and this shall be the joy of that age, that he is among his saints, and dwelleth in them, with them, and talketh and walketh in their midst.
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