Revelation 11:15: “Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”
The 7th trumpet, for Gill, signals a new era of prophetic history that will make every postmillennialist salivate. It inaugurates the glorious Philadelphia church era, in which the world’s antichristian nations suddenly are born again. Gill’s two favorite phrases to describe this era are: (1) the “spiritual reign of Christ” and (2) the “latter day glory.” They’re referring to the same time period. His view is predicated on certain OT prophetic passages, especially in Isaiah.
Isaiah’s Influence on Gill
Gill’s eschatology emerged, in large part, from his understanding of the OT prophets. Isaiah’s prophecies were critical in synthesizing a prophetic calendar (or sequence of events).
For instance, consider Isaiah’s magnificent prophecy of the nations flowing to the gospel:
It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it . . .Isaiah 2:2
The amillennialist spiritualizes this as fulfilled in the NT church. Gill, however, takes it quite literally as fulfilled in the “latter day glory” or “spiritual reign of Christ.” He states:
[A]nd in the latter day . . . the church will be exalted . . . the interest of Christ will exceed all other interests; his religion will be the prevailing one; the kingdoms of this world will become his; and his dominion will be from sea to sea, and from the rivers to the end of the earth.John Gill, comments on Isaiah 2:2
Gill gets even more specific in other places, as we shall see momentarily. However, other prophetic texts in Isaiah (at least) indicate antichristian nations and their kings will be converted. Let me cite but two as examples:
Thus says the LORD: “The wealth of Egypt and the merchandise of Cush, and the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over to you and be yours; they shall follow you; they shall come over in chains and bow down to you. They will plead with you, saying: ‘Surely God is in you, and there is no other, no god besides him.’”Isaiah 45:14
And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”Isaiah 60:3
Isaiah proceeds to indicate kings and nations will come to the gospel light (60:10-14). Earlier, Isaiah suggested the pagan nations will bow to the gospel (45:14) and that world leaders will kiss the beautiful feet of those proclaiming the gospel’s light (49:22-23). Gill sees the 7th trumpet as initiating all of this in a literal sense. We looked at Isaiah only, but he sees the other OT prophets (and the prophetic Psalms) as confirming the same.
Gill and Progressive Revelation
As he comes to the NT, Gill develops his eschatology more. He makes a distinction between: (1) the “personal reign” of Christ and (2) the “spiritual reign” of Christ. Christ’s “personal reign” will begin once he returns, visibly and personally, to begin his 1,000 year reign on earth. His “spiritual reign” began, in some sense, at his first coming, but will appear “with more light and clearness.”1Gill, “On the Spiritual Reign of Christ,” in A Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity (Paris, AR: The Baptist Standard Bearer, reprinted 2007), 449. during the Philadelphia church era. Gill maps out the precise sequence of events in his systematic theology. We’ve mentioned this before, but he repeats it often, and so shall we. He sees several events occurring in rapid succession:
- The destruction of antichrist. The antichrist, in his view, is Rome Pagan and Papal. The gospel will begin to dismantle his world system.
- The conversion of the Jews. Once antichrist’s deception is removed, the Jewish nation “shall be born at once, suddenly.”2Gill, “On the Spiritual Reign of Christ,” 451.
- The two sticks in Ezekiel 37 coming together. Namely, believing Jews and believing Gentiles coming together for two purposes: (a) to place the Jews in their own land and (b) to evangelize the world. This leads to a worldwide gospel surge which converts the antichristian nations.
Here, Gill is fascinating, as he envisions it this way:
And now will the fulness of the Gentiles be brought in; and those vast conversions made among them, prophesied of in Isa. lx . And now will the interest and church of Christ, make the greatest figure it ever did in the world; now kings shall come to the brightness and glory of Zion; her gates shall stand open continually for the kings of the Gentiles to enter in; who will become church-members and submit to all the ordinances of Christ’s house; their kings shall be nursing fathers, and their queens nursing mothers: and this will be the case, not only of one or two, or a few of them; but even of all of them; for all kings shall fall down before Christ, and all nations shall serve him: churches shall be raised and formed every where [sic]; and those be filled with great personages: now will be the time when the kingdom, and dominion, and greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, Isa. lx . 3, 10, 11. and xlix . 23. Psalm lxxii .10, 11. Dan. ix . 27.John Gill, “On the Spiritual Reign of Christ,” in A Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity (Paris: AR: The Baptist Standard Bearer, reprinted 2007), 452 (brackets added).
In this way, Revelation 11:15 is fulfilled, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”
I taught through Isaiah in our congregation, sharing Gill’s views along the way. Two encounters stood out. The first was a faithful man struggling with the idea of a sudden, worldwide conversion of the antichristian nations. “Paul told Timothy,” he exclaimed, “things will get worse, not better” (2 Tim 3:1). In Gill’s view, Paul was talking about the Sardis church era in that passage. 1 Corinthians 15:24, on the other hand, is referring to the end of the Philadelphia church era when Christ delivers the kingdom to the Father (that is, the converted antichristian nations from the Philadelphia church era, along with the preserved remnant from all eras).
The second was a faithful, retired pastor. He said, “I’ve listened to you explain Gill’s views, and sometimes he sounds like a premillennialist, sometimes he sounds like an amillennialist, but tonight he sounded like a postmillennialist! I don’t know what he is!” I see his point. Gill sounds very postmill-ish in the Philadelphia church era . . . or the “spiritual reign of Christ” . . . or the “latter day glory” . . . whichever you prefer. Yet, his premillennialism will come out soon enough.
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