For those who, like me, spot-check John Gill’s comments every-so-often, you may not be gleaning all that Gill was saying. Knowing several key concepts will cause Gill’s commentaries to spring to life.
Again, I must keep emphasizing: I don’t agree with every stance Gill takes, but I do appreciate the deep thought and theology he put into it.
Christ’s “Spiritual” and “Personal” Reign
Gill is historic premillennial; but amillennialists, postmillennialists, and progressive dispensationalists will find much they agree with in many of his stances. Perhaps the most important chapter in understanding his theological framework is titled, “On the Spiritual Reign of Christ” in A Body of Practical Divinity (Book 5, Chapter 14). Gill believes the “personal” reign of Christ will be a 1000-year Millennial Kingdom instituted at His second coming.
Yet, he also believes in the “spiritual” reign of Christ, which began (in some sense) at His first coming. This “spiritual” reign aligns with the amillennial idea that Christ is reigning spiritually in the hearts of believers who fill-up His Gospel churches throughout the earth. He believes Christ is using those congregations to restore God’s created order, which was corrupted in the Garden of Eden. This seems like slow work (to us) because the antichrist, currently, is restraining the gospel’s full force. However, toward the end of the “spiritual” reign, the antichrist will be destroyed, and the gospel will surge rapidly, worldwide. Then Christ will return, personally, to a largely Christian world. This incorporates the postmillennial idea of the Christianization of the world through the gospel’s leaven. Gill refers to this gospel surge as the “latter-day glory.”
The Latter-Day Glory
He spells out this “latter-day glory” in detail in, “Of the Spiritual Reign of Christ.” The “spiritual reign” of Christ began generally with His first coming, but will “be more large and ample than now it is; it will reach all over the world” (A Body of Practical Divinity, 450). He even lays-out the order in which it will happen.
First, antichrist is removed. He states the Holy Spirit will “blow a blast upon antichrist . . . [from] which he shall never recover again” (see his comments on 2 Thessalonians 2:8). The antichrist, he suggests, has two divisions: eastern and western. The eastern antichrist is the Turk, and the western antichrist is the Pope. He states, “Satan is at the head of all these” (see his comments on Isaiah 27:1). Antichrist controls two branches: (1) the religious branch and (2) the political branch. Gill envisions a human figure rising in the last days who seeks to wed church and state–in both eastern and western divisions–into a one-world religion/government. He calls this, “mystical Babylon” (see his comments on Isaiah 26:5). Christ’s gospel will destroy the antichrist, although the institutions—religious and political—will remain in some form as they die-off slowly. At this point, he says, “latter-day light and glory shall appear” and the latter-day darkness of Popery will begin to disappear (see his comments on 2 Thessalonians 2:8).
Second, the Jewish nation is born all at once. He states, “the whole nation shall be born at once, suddenly” (A Body of Practical Divinity, 451). Jews then will reclaim their promised land (A Body of Practical Divinity, 452). I don’t think he is suggesting every single ethnic Jew will be born again. Rather, the majority of ethnic Jews will be converted and flow into the Gospel churches.
Third, the Protestant princes of the world will assist the Jews in proclaiming the gospel to the antichristian nations (A Body of Practical Divinity, 452). He describes this gospel surge as follows:
[T]he kingdoms of this world, those vast kingdoms just mentioned, will become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ, Rev. 16:12, and 11:14, 15. . . . 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 king of the Gentiles to enter in; who will become church-members, and submit to all the ordinances of Christ’s house . . . 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. 60:3, 10, 11: And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising . . . (v. 10) Foreigners shall build up your walls, and their kings shall minister to you . . . (v. 11) Your gates shall be open continually; day and night they shall not be shut, that people may bring to you the wealth of the nations, with their kings led in procession.
Isa 49:23: Kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you, and lick the dust of your feet. Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who wait for Me shall not be put to shame.
Psalm 72:10-11: May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands render Him tribute; may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts! May all kings fall down before him, and all nations serve Him! and, Daniel 9:27.John Gill, A Body of Practical Divinity, 452
Finally, this latter-day glory culminates with Christ’s glorious second coming “to take possession of His kingdom personally” (A Body of Practical Divinity, “Of the Millennium,” 1g3a, 649-50).
This all may seem far-fetched, but that’s how Gill saw it play-out. Of course, depending on your eschatology, this all may leave you unsatisfied. Yet, my purpose was not to argue for or against Gill’s eschatology. My purpose was to provide the framework by which you might better understand Gill for yourself. Hopefully, it will be of some help; and hopefully, you will read more Gill.