on the Millennium
and First Resurrection
Henry Alford (1810-1871) was a biblical scholar in England. He was dean of Canterbury from 1857-1871 and is often referred to as "Dean Alford." His great work was an edition of the Greek New Testament. He wrote the words to the well known hymn, "Come Ye Thankful People Come." He also wrote exegetical notes on the Greek New Testament which is now titled Alford's Greek Testament, from which the following quotes are taken.
Note: Alford lived in the 19th century, a time when the majority of Bible students held to an amillennial position or a postmillennial position. Both of these positions denied a literal thousand year kingdom and both taught that at the end of time there would be one general resurrection for both the saved and the unsaved and one general judgment. The minority position, held by the Plymouth Brethren, George Peters, and some others, taught that there would be a millennium kingdom, the character of which would match that which is described in all of the great prophecies of the Old Testament relating to the Messiah and His glorious worldwide reign. They also taught that there would be two resurrections: the first resurrection for the saved and the second resurrection for the unsaved and these two would be separated by a period of a thousand years (see Revelation 20:4-6). It should also be noted, as Alford does, that the premillennial view was universally held by the early church.
The following is taken from Alford's Greek Testament, the Prolegomena [book of Revelation], Volume IV, Part 1, p. 252
On one point I have ventured to speak strongly, because
my conviction on it is strong, founded on the rules of fair and consistent
interpretation. I mean, the necessity of accepting literally the
first resurrection, and the millennial reign. It seems to me that if in a
sentence where two resurrections are spoken of with no mark of distinction
between them (it is otherwise in John 5:28, which is commonly alleged for
the view which I am combating),--in a sentence where, one resurrection
having been related, "the rest of the dead" are afterwards mentioned, --we
are at liberty to understand the former one figuratively and spiritually,
and the latter literally and materially, then there is an end of all
definite meaning in plain words, and the Apocalypse, or any other book,
may mean any thing we please.
The following is taken from Alford's Greek Testament, Volume IV, Part II, his note under Revelation 20:5 ("This is the first resurrection"):
It will have been long ago
anticipated by the readers of this Commentary, that I cannot consent to
distort words from their plain sense and chronological place in the
prophecy, on account of any considerations of difficulty, or any risk of
abuses which the doctrine of the millennium may bring with it. Those
who lived next to the Apostles, and the whole Church for 300 years,
understood them in the plain literal sense: and it is a strange
sight in these days to see expositors who are among the first in reverence
of antiquity, complacently casting aside the most cogent instance of
consensus which primitive antiquity presents.
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