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B. W. Johnson
Vision of the Ages (1881)



The Word of God.--The Great Triumph.--The Fate of the Beast and the False Prophet.--The
Lake of Fire.--The Millennium.--Satan Chained.--The First Resurrection.--The Golden
Age.--The World's Last Battle.--The Judgment Day.--The Glorious City.--The Tree and
River of Life.--The Eternal Glory.

      The nineteenth chapter of Revelation describes some of the events that precede the full acknowledgment of the reign of Christ among the children of men. These have been partly described in preceding chapters. In chapter 14:6 the apostle points out the mighty strides of the gospel of Christ. In succeeding verses he announces the fall of Babylon, a mighty event which is more fully described in succeeding chapters. In chapter 16:13 the gathering of the united hosts of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet, to the battle of Armageddon is pointed out.

      In the sublime imagery of chapter XIX. [331] the same mighty events are declared. The first of these to which I will now allude is the one before symbolized by the angel that flies through heaven with the everlasting gospel, but now presented in a grand vision of the triumphant march of


      "And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man know, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him on white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS."--19:11-16.

      He rides upon the white horse, the symbol of conquest, clothed in a garment dipped in blood, the blood of him who gives it power; out of his mouth cometh a sharp sword, the sword of the Spirit, the word of God and Christ, the LOGOS, the WORD that was with God and was God, which becomes by these conquests the ruler of all, and is acknowledged as the King of kings and Lord of lords.

      "And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their [332] armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him, the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with Which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshiped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with the brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were tilled with their flesh."--19:19-21.

      After this grand, triumphant march of the gospel, thus sublimely symbolized, there is an alliance of the hosts of sin, to check the progress and turn back the tide of the gospel of Christ. The beast calls forth his armies to fight their last battle; the false prophet of chapter XVI. is by his side with his wicked hosts. The kings of the earth, the same manifestation of the dragon power described in chapter XVI, the dragon power exhibited when imperial Rome tried to devour the Man child; the despotic power always shown when earthly kings have tried to drown the gospel in blood, is the third ally in this final conflict.

      What are earthly powers when they fight against God? The kings of the earth "may take counsel against the Lord and his anointed, but he that sitteth upon the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision." The dragon, the beast, the false prophet, and their followers are discomfited. They do not [333] escape, but are taken captive. The two last with all their hosts are cast into the eternal prison house; the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone.

      I would call the attention of the, reader to the fact that the beast and false prophet appear no more on earth. Their work of wickedness is forever ended. They have been weighed in the balance and found wanting. They have been cast into the dark prison house from whence none ever return. The Scriptures show us that the doors of the burning lake open to let the wicked in, but never open for them to come out. To enter there is the second death. For the victims of the second death there is no resurrection. To enter this lake is the second death.

      After this mighty conflict, this crisis of the fate of the world, the apostle beholds the results of the glorious victory. Spiritual Babylon, the beast, the Papacy, overwhelmed in the battle or Armageddon, has disappeared from earthly history. The false prophet, the host of Islam, its ally, has shared its fate. The old serpent, the dragon, the devil, who under so many forms; as pagan Rome, as the imperial power, as the kings of the earth; has persecuted the Church, is now to meet the results of his disastrous failure. [334]

      "And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, 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."--20:1-3.

      The apostle beholds an angel descending from heaven with a chain, and the key of the bottomless pit. That chain I suppose to be the word of God. At this period of the triumph of righteousness the gospel takes such hold of the hearts of men that Satan loses his power over them. We can easily see how this is accomplished by what takes place under our own eyes. A man may be drunken and lawless, but if he repents under the influence of the gospel he ceases to serve Satan. The devil loses his power over that man. When that period shall come for which the saints in all ages have wistfully looked, when the laws of God shall be written upon every heart, then Satan, bound with a chain, the chain of truth, shall be deprived of influence on the earth. During this millennial period the chained enemy of man is cast into a prison house, but not the lake of fire. Had he gone there he should never more return. He shall go there as his ultimate fate, but after the thousand years, he is to return to [335] the earth for a little season, and until the final effort of his long struggle against God he shall be confined in the bottomless pit, from whence there is escape, instead of being cast into the lake of fire, which is an eternal doom. In the bottomless pit the great deceiver shall remain till the thousand years are ended, when for a season he shall regain his power.


      With this discomfiture and restraint of the arch deceiver, the Millennium shall begin. That word means a thousand years. This blessed period is often spoken of by the prophets, but this is the only place in the Bible where its duration is recorded. I am not prepared to say that it shall be limited to a thousand years, but am rather disposed to believe that a thousand years, a round period of great duration, is chosen to show to the longing student of the prophets that there shall be a long, long period of righteousness upon the same earth that has been reddened with blood, filled with crime, and made foul by sin. The characteristics of this golden period of the human race are clearly pointed out by the prophets.

      1. Christ shall have a universal reign.--John saw that those who sat on thrones reigned with Christ a thousand years. "In the last days the [336] mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow into it." Isa. 2:3. Will Christ come visibly to reign in person as an earthly monarch? The personal coming of the Savior is placed by all the sacred writers as the last event before the great judgment day. This great epoch is placed after the millennial period, and also after the overthrow of Satan in his last conflict. If the Savior, then, during this millennial period, is not visibly present upon the earth, how can he reign? Just as he reigns over each saint now. Those who know the Lord accept him as king, but in this period "the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters do the channels of the sea." All men shall hear and obey the gospel, and all shall submit to the beneficent sceptre of Christ. In fact, I suppose that this period of universal righteousness will be ushered in without any supernatural demonstrations that will startle the world. It will apparently come as a grand result in the march of human progress and the growth of righteousness.

      The Millennium will probably come in quietly, in the providence of God; there will be no miraculous unbaring of the arm of the Almighty. The chain of divine truth shall bind [337] the great author of evil so that he will lose his influence for a long period, and men will devote themselves to the practice of righteousness and the arts of peace.

      2. There is another remarkable feature of this period that some have supposed to be fatal to this view of a quiet inauguration of the universal reign of Christ, and that is the announcement of the first resurrection.--Vers. 4-6.

      "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: 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 worshiped 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. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 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."--20:4-6.

      Who are those who have part in the first resurrection? John answers: "I saw thrones and they sat on them, and judgment was given unto them; even the souls of them that had been beheaded for the witness of Christ," These are they "who lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years." Is this a literal resurrection from the grave? I answer decidedly in the negative.

      1. The apostle does not say one word about [338] the resurrection of the bodies of the martyrs, nor does he say that he saw their bodies, or that he saw the martyrs themselves. He is particular to say that he saw the souls or spirits of the martyrs living and reigning with Christ.

      2. They had been put to death in the body and their souls were unseen upon the earth, but there is no intimation in Scripture that their souls had ever ceased to exist. They were alive with Christ, but now they live in some sense different from that existence which they had before. It cannot mean that their souls came to life, for they had never ceased to have existence.

      3. What then does the affirmation mean? That as Christ reigns upon the earth during millennial period by his truth, so the spirit of the martyrs is revived and lives in the Church. The souls of the martyrs live because the Church is composed of those who love Christ better than goods or liberty or life. This glorious reign of Christ pervades the earth because the souls of the martyrs are resurrected and live in all who name the name of Christ, and who are filled with the spirit of the ancient martyrs.

      That is the need of the Church. When self-styled Christians can divest themselves of their envy, jealousy, selfishness, and let Christ and the spirit of the martyrs reign in their souls, [339] then the day of deliverance will be at hand.

      4. This explanation is not forced nor the interpretation of the language unusual. It was predicted by the prophets that Elias must come again before the Messiah. He did come in spirit and power, not in person, but as the stern, fearless, upright reformer of the wilderness of Jordan. In the same sense Ezekiel speaks (chap. 27:12-14) of the return of the captive Jews to their own land: "I will open your graves, oh my people! and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel."

      When the martyr of Bohemia John Huss, was about to die, because he would not receive the mark of the beast, he predicted the triumph of Reformation and exclaimed, "And I, awakening from among the dead, and rising, so to speak, from my grave, shall leap with great joy." When, a century later, Martin Luther was engaged in deadly struggle with the Papacy, Pope Adrian sent a brief to the German Diet at Nuremburg, which contained these words: "The heretics Huss and Jerome are now alive again in the person of Martin Luther."

      The rest of the dead lived not until the end of the thousand years. The sublime faith of the martyrs pervades the saints during this period, and other men, wicked or less noble, sleep [340] in silence, unseen and unknown, without influence upon the earth, until the millennial period is ended. They have no part in the first resurrection, the resurrection of the spirits of the martyrs. There is no room for them, but for men like Paul, who counted all else loss for the excellency of Christ, or like Stephen, who was thankful that he was called on to suffer for Christ, or like the legions of martyrs who marched to the stake or scaffold with buoyant step, sparkling eyes, and serene countenance, counting it the happiest moment of their lives when they were accounted worthy to receive the martyr's crown. On such as had this spirit of old, or on such as those in whom it is revived, the second death can have no power. They all have part in the first resurrection, and shall be approved in the day when the nations shall stand before the great white throne.


      Ah! who would not want to live when this happy period shall come. It was no idle dream when the poets and longing ones of the nation sang of a blissful period in the future ages, when the sorrows of earth should give place to joy. The prophets of God have stood upon the mount of vision and painted in vivid strains their views of the glorious coming day. Then [341] the sword shall be beaten into the ploughshare and the spear into the pruning hook, and men shall learn the arts of war no more. Then none shall hurt or destroy in all the holy mountain of the Lord. Then the lion and the lamb shall lie down together. Then shall the tie of universal brotherhood and Christ-like love bind together the races of the earth. Then shall the constitution of the human family be the golden rule of Christ, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Then shall no fear of our own race, of our own neighbors, of their evil words, evil deeds, and unholy ambition, fill our lives with unrest and care. Then

"Shall love in one delightful strain,
    Through every bosom flow,
And union sweet and dear esteem
    In every action glow."

      Christ shall reign. He shall be King of kings and Lord or lords. There will be no despots to bind on men the chains of slavery. There will be no popes to usurp his power; no councils to stand between him and Ills people; no traditions of men or creeds of ecclesiastical bodies to take the place of the word of God; no sects or priests to estrange from each other the children of one common Father; but universal loyalty to the divine King and his holy [342] word shall prevail. Earth, during this reign of righteousness, shall behold again the primitive happiness of our race.


      "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."--20:7-10.

      These happy centuries shall not glide on forever. Satan shall, when many ages have rolled away, be loosed for a little season. From some cause, that is wrapped in the darkness of the future, righteousness shall wane; wickedness shall revive; the great adversary shall in part regain his influence over our race. But it is cheering to know that his triumph will be short. He shall be loosed only for a little season. Wickedness shall abound, but soon the crisis will come. Events shall move quickly. The hosts of wickedness shall gather. The beloved city, the spiritual Jerusalem, the Church, shall be surrounded, but in the day of her extremity the Lord will. hear her cry for help. Fire from [343] heaven will descend on her enemies. Christ shall come. "As the lightning flashes from the east unto the west, so shall the coming of the Son of man be." Then shall the Lord consume the wicked "with the spirit of his mouth and the brightness of his coming." "The day of the Lord shall come, when the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, and the earth and all its works shall be burned up."

      This is Satan's last battle. His time has come. The great deceiver is not cast into the bottomless pit now. The lake of fire is opened, and we discover there the beast and the false prophet, but they have gone whence none ever return. There the devil is cast and locked up to abide with his allies in wickedness forever.

      "And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the heaven and the earth fled away; and there was found no place for them. 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. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire."--20:11-15.

      This is one more act in the great drama. The throne of judgment is set. The nations, living as well as dead, are called to stand before God.

      The earth and Sea gave up their dead and all [344] are judged by "the things written in the books according to their works." After this judgment day "death and hades" also, death and the unseen land of the dead, disappear forever. They are cast into the lake of fire, the eternal prison house. Until the end of the Millennium and the final judgment men shall die, but after that grand epoch in the history of the Universe, there shall be no more death. The "last enemy, death, shall be destroyed. Then shall come to pass the saying that is written, O! death, where is thy sting. O! grave, where is thy victory."

      There remains one sad story to be told. Into that same lake of fire, that prison house to which have gone the false prophet and the beast, to which has been consigned the dragon, "that old serpent the devil," the "eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels," there shall also be banished those whose "names are not written in the book of life." This is the second death. As far as Inspiration throws its light upon the sad lot of those consigned to that "lake of fire" theirs is an eternal fate. When some one has shown that the doors of this final prison of the Universe have opened to permit the escape of those who have been consigned to its keeping, then we may perhaps indulge some hope that its prisoners will, in [345] the lapse of endless years, escape from their sad environment.


      If the prophet's eyes had not been opened to see beyond these scenes, dark would seem the fate of our race. After a thousand years of purity and triumph history would seem to end in the terror of the judgment day and the darkness of the second death. But our Lord has mercifully lifted the curtain beyond and revealed to us the glorious final destiny of man. After a long and weary struggle, and a history full of dark and eventful episodes, mankind will reach a goal of happiness and splendor that it is vain to attempt to describe or even conceive. When the last battle is ended and the author of evil with all his works, the curses that he has wrought, and the servants that have promoted his ends, are cast into the eternal prison house, and their power to do evil forever broken, then will dawn the bright morning of eternal bliss and glory. The "old heavens and earth," which I understand to mean the old world and its order, so sadly out of joint, pass away at the time of the great judgment, and that old state of things shall be succeeded by a new order. Then there comes the sweet vision of the final condition of the holy Church, the [346] consummation of every hope of the righteous, the ripened fruit of the eternal years.

      "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." 21:1-4.

      On the glories of that city I would love to linger, but my work as an interpreter of prophecy is done. I have followed the history of the Church from its inception to the fullness of its eternal glory. Before I close there are certain features of this fair home of the redeemed that I will pause to note in the briefest way.

      1. The career of man began in a garden, the fitting home of a race few in numbers. It ends, as revealed by the prophet, in a city, the home where multitudes gather. Of this city Jerusalem was a type. The redeemed and holy Church, washed by the Saviour's blood, and obedient to his will as a faithful bride to her husband, is the new Jerusalem.

      2. Of old the Shekinah, the emblem of God's presence, dwelt in the tabernacle [347] between the Cherubim. In this glorious city of the future, God shall make his tabernacle and dwell with men. They shall recognize his presence, his protection, his fatherly and omnipotent care over them.

      3. No sorrow or travail of any kind shall ever enter within the walls of the city. The cry of anguish shall never be uttered, hearts shall never be broken, no tear shall ever dim the eye, and most glorious of all, death shall be unknown. Death began his sway when man was expelled from Paradise; he ends it when the final judgment condemns Satan, death and hades to enter the lake of fire. The new Jerusalem will be painless, tearless, deathless, because it will be a sinless city. "The former things have passed away." Those who were so wedded to sin that they clung to it when Christ offered mercy and pardon, "the fearful and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars," have undergone the second death, the death that has no resurrection, and can never enter or disturb the holy peace of the glorious city.

      4. The apostle beholds a vision of the beautiful city, and is thus enabled by symbols to indicate to us the glories of our eternal home. It shines with jewels and with gold, exhibiting [348] a splendor such as mortal eye has never seen. The walls are of jasper, the gates of pearl, the foundations of precious stones and the streets paved with gold. The dimensions are immense, beyond even human conception, and its gates stand open night and day. The names of twelve apostles of the Lamb are written upon its foundations, and of the tribes of Israel upon its gates. Night never settles down to shut out its splendor, and eternal light, springing from the brightness of God and the Lamb, precludes the need of a sun or moon. The whole description portrays to us a home, perfect, glorious, not wanting in a single feature that can add to its splendor, or to the eternal bliss of redeemed humanity.

      5. John saw no temple in the city, as at Jerusalem. It was all temple. God and the Lamb were present in it everywhere and every spot was holy. Wherever the knee was bowed the Lord was present to see and hear. The whole of the new Jerusalem will be an abode of praise.

      6. The gates were never shut. This implies, first, that the city has no fear of any foes. These have all been conquered and subdued. The struggles have been ended forever and no enemies remain to invade its happy precincts. It implies, in the second place, that "the [349] nations of the saved" can always enter. There is always admittance freely to those "who have the right to enter in through the gate into the city." "But there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie; but they that are written in the Lamb's book of life."

      7. Eden had its rivers. Through the new Jerusalem runs "a pure river of the water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and the Lamb." There was a tree of life in Paradise. In the new Jerusalem, on either side of the river stands the tree of life bearing twelve manner of fruits, or rather fruit twelve times a year, every month. The river and the tree are symbols of the life bestowed by the grace of God. The river flows from the throne of God and the Lamb; from the fountain whence life and immortality come. The tree yields its fruit at all times, so that the supply never fails. Everything about the tree is healthful. Even the leaves are for the healing of the nations. There is a book, a river and a tree of life. Christ is the life, and all refer in some way to Christ. Trees and rivers presented most attractive features in an oriental city, and are beautiful emblems of the full supplies of life, grace and bliss that shall pervade the heavenly city. [350]

      8. The curse came upon those in Paradise on account of their sins. There shall be no more curse, for no sin shall ever enter the new Jerusalem. Every curse that has ever blighted the life of man, must be ascribed to sin. Not a throe of pain has ever been felt by the human body, not a pang has ever pierced the human heart, or a shadow of sorrow passed over the human spirit, which was not due, either directly or indirectly, to transgression. As sin can never pass the gates of the Celestial City, there will be no more pain. No fear of impending evil shall ever cloud the future of the saved. The bliss will be sweetened by the thought that saints are absolutely secure and their happy state shall never end.

"Jerusalem, my happy home,
    Oh, how I long for thee;
When will my sorrows have an end--
    Thy joys, when shall I see.

"Thy walls are all of precious stones,
    Most glorious to behold;
Thy gates are richly set with pearl,
    Thy streets are paved with gold."

      My work is ended. I close by pleading with my reader to seek an eternal home in the city where there is no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither any more pain. I will bid him adieu with the hope that, when that bright [351] morning of eternity comes, we shall walk together there and feast upon the glories that filled our souls with rapture and cheered us while we traversed the journey of life. "The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth, say Come. And let him that is athirst, come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." [352]

[VOTA 331-352]

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B. W. Johnson
Vision of the Ages (1881)