John Gill & the Destruction of Antichrist

Hammer

Revelation 15:1: “Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished.

            How will the destruction of antichrist occur? Gill suggests it will be by faithful Gospel ministers faithfully preaching the gospel. The power of the gospel will be the “downfall of Popery.”1See Gill’s comments on Rev. 15:1. Remember, he sees the succession of popes as the antichrist. With the “man of lawlessness” removed, Gill anticipates a worldwide gospel surge like nothing ever witnessed before. Gill believes Revelation 15 prepares the reader for these two glorious happenings: (1) the destruction of antichrist and (2) the latter-day glory spread. 

The Destruction of Antichrist

Gill disconnects Revelation 15 from Revelation 14. Rather, he sees Revelation 15 as a continuation of Revelation 11 (commensurate with the 7th trumpet and the 3rd woe). He places these events in the Philadelphia church era when antichrist is removed and the “spiritual reign” of Christ appears more visible and glorious than his “spiritual reign” presently appears. 

The seven angels, then, represent human Gospel ministers during the Philadelphia church era. He states, “[T]he destruction of antichrist will be by the breath of Christ’s mouth, or by the preaching of the Gospel.”2See Gill’s comments on Rev. 15:1. Revelation 15 presents a scene in which those who came out of the great tribulation anticipate this destruction and joyously sing a victory song. 

The Latter-Day Glory

Antichrist’s destruction triggers one of the more exciting aspects of Gill’s eschatology; namely, the latter-day glory. Gill sprinkles that phrase, “latter-day glory,” throughout his biblical commentaries, especially the OT prophetical books. He believes the gospel will surge, worldwide, with no antichrist to hold it back. If he’s right, it is a glorious era, indeed; and triggers a rapid-fire chain of events. 

Antichrist’s destruction triggers one of the more exciting aspects of Gill’s eschatology; namely, the latter-day glory.

First, the Jewish nation is born again at once. Gill states, “At this time, the people of the Jews shall seek after Christ.”3See Gill’s comments on Rev. 15:4.

Second, in alignment with redemptive predictions of the OT prophets, the Gentiles will assist the Jews in spreading the gospel from Jerusalem to the antichristian nations. Gill continues, “[T]he forces of the Gentiles shall be brought to Zion, whose heart shall then fear, and be enlarged; the fear of the Lord will be in all places, and in all men, both Jews and Gentiles, Hos. iii [3].5. Isa. lx [60]. 5.”4See Gill’s comments on Rev. 15:4.

Third, the gospel will surge worldwide, and the antichristian nations will become the kingdoms of Christ. Gill envisions:

[T]he Gospel shall now be preached to all nations, and the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of it; the kingdoms of this world will become Christ’s, and his kingdom shall be to the ends of the earth, and all people shall obey him.

John Gill, comments on Revelation 15:4

He cites Psalm 86:8-10 as justification, which speaks of “all” nations bowing before Christ in worship. We understand the amillennialist sees this fulfilled in “all” ethnicities flowing into Gospel congregations, but Gill takes it quite literally. In fact, he goes further. In his systematic theology, for instance, he suggests that kings, governments, and entire nations will convert to Christianity and bow before his majesty.5See A Body of Practical Divinity, Book 5.14.3. Here are his precise comments on Revelation 15:7:

[C]ivil magistrates, and very principal ones, as kings of the earth, who, in this state of things, and times, will belong to the churches and will be the instruments of destroying antichrist . . . and because these great men will be stirred up by the ministers of the Gospel, and by their ministrations, to do this work.

John Gill, comments on Revelation 15:7

Clearly, Gill sees the gospel of peace changing Gentile hearts. Yet, he also sees political and societal change with this sweeping gospel spread. In a real sense, Gill believes the gospel is powerful enough to convert the kingdoms of this world to Christ such that, when he returns, the kingdoms of the world really are his! Oh, what glorious thoughts, if true!

Reflections

Yet, are they true? Of course, this depends on your eschatological views. We’ve critiqued Gill’s “prophetical history” concept before. We’ve also questioned his frequent allegorical tendencies such as equating angels (“in heaven,” Rev. 15:1) with human Gospel ministers. Yet, his broader, future history sweeps do seem to incorporate the OT anticipations with the NT material. For instance, I’m currently teaching through the OT prophets on Wednesday nights, Paul’s letters on Sunday mornings, and (in between Paul’s letters) the Psalms. The more time I spend in those three areas (Psalms, Prophets, and Paul), the more I find myself warming up to the case Gill makes. 

The more time I spend in those three areas (Psalms, Prophets, and Paul), the more I find myself warming up to the case Gill makes. 

The more time I spend expounding the OT prophets, the more Gill’s sequence of events makes sense. We often read Calvin more than we do of the actual OT prophets. Calvin was brilliant. Yet, on difficult texts, he is comfortable spiritualizing the texts to find complete fulfillment in the NT church. The OT prophets, though, clearly envisioned a literal land and the nations flowing to Jerusalem to worship. For instance, Isaiah 2:2, 4b:

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 nations shall flow to it . . . and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn anymore.

The prophet, Isaiah

When has this happened? I know the amillennialists say it happens in the NT churches. Yet, later Isaiah goes farther, Isaiah 60:10-12:

Foreigners shall build up your walls and their kings shall minister to you . . . Your gates shall be open continually; day and night they shall not be shut, that the people may bring to you the wealth of the nations, with their kings led in procession. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve you shall perish; those nations shall be utterly laid waste.

The prophet, Isaiah

Unless we spiritualize these passages (and other similar ones), then the latter-day glory era seems to be the logical place they fit; not the only place, perhaps, but a logical one. 

The OT prophets clearly envisioned a physical dirt-land. For instance, Ezekiel points his finger to the Gospel times, and states, Ezekiel 36:28:

You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers . . .

The prophet, Ezekiel

If this “land,” is metaphorical for the NT church, we must be prepared to say the OT prophets either “spoke better than they knew” or else they simply misinterpreted God’s meaning. The Apostle Peter indicates the OT prophets inquired as to the time and person, but he never mentions they were confused as to the substance of their prophecies (1 Pet 1:10-11). Yet, the “spiritual reign” of Christ in the latter days, if true, allows us to affirm they knew exactly what they were saying. 

As well, the more time I spend expounding the Psalms, the more Gill’s view makes sense. In addition to Psalm 86:8-10, David anticipated the nations worshiping. Psalm 22:27 states, “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you” (see also Ps 67, 87, 96, 98, etc.). This could refer to the NT church’s multi-ethnic constituents (amillennialists) . . . but it also could refer to the kingdoms of the world becoming the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ (Rev. 11:15) in the latter day (historic premillennialists). I’m not arguing either way. I’m merely suggesting both, exegetically, are viable options. 

Finally, the more time I spend expounding the Apostle Paul’s use of OT texts, the more Gill’s view makes sense. It accounts for Paul’s discussion in Romans 11 (God’s dealings with ethnic Israel), as well as his discussions concerning the antichrist in 2 Thessalonians 2. Yes, Gill’s thoughtful approach is enough to ask the amillennialist, “Will you allow Gill a fair hearing? You and he have a lot in common, and you may like what he brings in the end.”

References

References
1, 2 See Gill’s comments on Rev. 15:1.
3, 4 See Gill’s comments on Rev. 15:4.
5 See A Body of Practical Divinity, Book 5.14.3.
Author Hammer

Chip Thornton

Pastor of FBC Springville, Alabama. Chip is a graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he earned his Ph.D. in expository preaching. He enjoys spending time with his family, has a passion for discipleship, and is committed to biblical exposition.

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