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The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 4

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    IV. Emerson-Blends Historical and Postmillennial Concepts

    In JOSEPH EMERSON 54JOSEPH EMERSON (1777-1833) was born in New Hampshire, graduating from Harvard in 1798, where he served as tutor from 1801 to 1803 while he studied theology. Upon ordination he served as pastor of the Beverly Congregational Church from 1803 to 1816. Ill health necessitated his resignation. His lectures on the millennium and related prophecies were delivered a year later, at Beverly, in 1817. He also gave a course of lectures in Boston on astronomy. Emerson then established an academy in By field, Massachusetts, and taught until 1823. After another break in health in 1824 he again took up teaching, in 1825, in Connecticut. Congregational clergyman and educator of Beverly, Massachusetts, we find another representative voice on the prophecies, but blending the Historicist view of Daniel with the postmillennial concept introduced into America by Edwards and Hopkins, that was to grow in popularity.PFF4 173.1


    Emerson quotes from Scott’s Commentary the standard view on the four kingdoms of Daniel 2 and 7, with the ten toes as the ten kingdoms into which Rome was broken. Following Mede, Emerson holds to two stages of the fifth power, the small stone of Christ’s kingdom that is finally to become the world-filling mountain in the future. This outline, Emerson holds, is the first step toward the understanding of the prophecy of the millennial kingdom. The “eleventh horn” of Daniel 7, coming up later and small at first, but ultimately becoming the greatest of them all, eliminating three—and having eyes, a mouth, and persecuting power, and continuing 1260 years—is applicable, says Emerson, to one power, the spiritual kingdom of the pope, that tyrannical ecclesiastical dominion. 55Joseph Emerson, Lectures on the Millennium, pp. 142-154. There was no question as to the application.PFF4 173.2

    Faber and Lloyd are cited for the ten kingdoms—the Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Sueves and Alanns, Vandals, Franks, Burgundians, Heruli and Thuringians, Huns, and Lombards. The three uprooted were the Heruli, Ostrogoths, and Lombards. And the millennium, Emerson concludes, should begin “very soon after the termination of the period, denoted by a time and times and the dividing of time.” 56Ibid., pp. 160-162.PFF4 173.3


    Some of the same powers appear in Revelation 13. One is struck, heads, by the resemblance of John’s ten-horned beast and Daniel’s fourth beast, for both emerged from the sea, and both were ferocious. They represented one and the same power-civil Rome. So is also the seven-headed Beast of Revelation 17 (with seven forms of government), which carries the “mystery” woman, “Babylon,” drunken with the blood of saints—the papal power of Rome. The two-horned beast from the earth also symbolizes the Roman ecclesiastical power, or papal hierarchy, the very same as the eleventh horn of Daniel’s fourth beast. 57Ibid., pp. 163-169.PFF4 174.1

    3. 1260 YEARS DATED FROM 606 TO 1866

    Emerson begins the three and a half times, or 1260 literal years-calculated on the year-day principle like the 70 weeks of years—with Phocas’ declaration of Pope Boniface as Universal Bishop. Others place this period from Justinian to the French Revolution. But Emerson says:PFF4 174.2

    “Beginning at the year 606, and reckoning downwards, 1260 years will give the year 1866, as the termination of the period—the year of sweet release to the saints of the Most High, after a cruel bondage to the Papal and imperial beast, of more than a thousand years.” 58Ibid., p. 194. Emerson observes that this 1260 years is mentioned seven times in Daniel and Revelation, “all designed to express one and the same period” (p. 195). That, he continues, “will be a grand jubilee to the Christian world,” marking the deliverance of the saints and the destruction of the two beasts’ power.PFF4 174.3


    The 1290 and 1335—year periods extend seventy—five years beyond the basic 1260 years. And this bright and glorious “Time of the End” leads to the millennium.PFF4 174.4

    “We may conclude therefore as the third period will end 75 years after the first, and as the Millennium will begin at the termination of the third period, that the Millennium will commence 75 years after the close of the 1260 years; and that the duration of the time of the end will be 75 years.PFF4 174.5

    “If, then, the 1260 years commenced in the year 606, they will terminate in the year 1866; and if the opinion is correct, that the Millennium will commence 75 years after, then that glorious period will begin in the year 1941.” 59Ibid., p. 212. Emerson expresses the indispensable place of prophecy in these words:PFF4 175.1

    “Within one hundred years, it is probable, that the study of prophecy will be considered a branch of common education, no less than the study of arithmetic.” 60Ibid., p. 237.PFF4 175.2


    In his first six lectures Emerson sets forth twenty propositions concerning the millennium, and then turns to his second inquiry, When will the millennium begin? determining this by the signs of the times and by the prophecies we have noted. Here are his propositions of conditions during the millennium, with initial page references in parentheses:PFF4 175.3

    1. True religion will prevail much more than before (9).PFF4 175.4

    2. Idolatry will cease (14).PFF4 175.5

    3. The Jews will be converted to Christ (17).PFF4 175.6

    4. The church will be delivered from her external enemies, including Satan (27).PFF4 175.7

    5. War will be unknown (39).PFF4 175.8

    6. The saints will rule the earth; or, in other words, all rulers will be saints (43).PFF4 175.9

    7. The righteous will possess the earth (48).PFF4 175.10

    8. The wicked will cease from the earth-either converted or slain (54).PFF4 175.11

    9. All shall know and serve the Lord (60).PFF4 175.12

    10. Knowledge will be greatly increased (74).PFF4 175.13

    11. Christians will make much higher attainments in grace (81).PFF4 175.14

    12. People will enjoy much better health (87).PFF4 175.15

    13. People will live much longer than men have lived since the days of Moses (89).PFF4 175.16

    14. Christians will be much more numerous than before (90).PFF4 175.17

    15. The fruits of the earth will be much more abundant than before (94).PFF4 175.18

    16. Christians will be much better united (104).PFF4 176.1

    17. The souls of the martyrs of preceding ages will live and reign with Christ on earth (108).PFF4 176.2

    18. Zion (the church) will appear exceedingly beautiful and glorious (114).PFF4 176.3

    19. The earth will be filled with the glory of God (115).PFF4 176.4

    20. Christians will be much happier than before (117).PFF4 176.5


    For each of these propositions Emerson adduces numerous Scripture passages-by applying the promises and predictions of the new heavens and new earth, or Paradise restored, to the millennial period. Moreover, he spiritualizes both the first and second resurrections, postponing until several hundred years after the millennium the literal general resurrection at the end of the world. And he declares that Christ’s reign likewise “will be spiritual, in the hearts of the people, and not personal or external.” 61Ibid., pp. 68-72, 109.PFF4 176.6

    It was this conflict between the literal and spiritual nature of the millennium that was destined to intensify as the years progressed. But the full significance of the two opposing philosophies-premillennialism and postmillennialism—was not yet seen at that time.PFF4 176.7

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