The Importance and Exegesis of Revelation 20:1-8 -- By: Merrill C. Tenney

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 111:442 (Apr 1954)
Article: The Importance and Exegesis of Revelation 20:1-8
Author: Merrill C. Tenney


The Importance and Exegesis of Revelation 20:1-8

Merrill C. Tenney

For almost a century and a quarter Eschatology has been prominent in the thinking of the evangelical church in America. Beginning with the Millerite movement which predicted the coming of the Lord in 1833, and continuing to the present program of the World Council of Churches, which has named for its theme of the coming general assembly at Evanston “Christ—the Hope of the World,” the expectation of the return of Christ has occupied a place in its active theology. In general one can say that the more evangelical a church is, the more attention it has paid to this topic. The non-evengelical church has also been compelled to consider it; and even if its reaction has been denial or ridicule, Eschatology has played some part in its thinking.

Eschatological Systems

Three views have been successively dominant in the Eschatology of the church. First came postmillennialism, originating from Augustine’s teaching in “The City of God,” and developed largely within the Roman Church of the Middle Ages. The churches of the Reformation were too much engaged in fighting the battles of salvation by faith and of liberty in polity to pay very much attention to eschatological questions. Consequently, they simply followed in the tradition of the Roman Church by accepting the view that church and kingdom were one; that the gospel of Christ would ultimately conquer the world; and that when heathenism had been largely eclipsed by the growth of the church Christ would come to judge the living and the dead, and to bring about “the end of the world.” The millennium or the reign of peace

under the gospel, would be the product of the church’s activity, and would precede the second coming; hence the coming would be postmillennial.

The optimism of this view, which was generally connected with a concept of inevitable progress in righteousness, was quite prevalent during the Victorian period and down to 1914. The colonizing advances of the so-called Christian nations, the growth of Christian missions, the increase of revival movements, and the success of some social reforms seemed to support it. With the first World War, however, the dreams of those who expected the automatic growth of a social and political millennium were rudely shattered. Humanity was not getting better. All the jealousies and brutalities came out from behind their masks. War, greed, and starvation stalked through the world again; and the hope for Utopia vanished.

Once again the evangelical church turned to the Scriptures, and came up with a different answer. Fifty years before some voices, like those of Joseph Seiss, had called a...

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