Although most religions that claim to be Christian deny the hope of everlasting life on earth, Satan did not always succeed in obscuring the truth. Down through the ages, a few careful Bible readers saw flashes of truth as they understood some aspects of how God will restore mankind to perfection. (Ps. 97:11; Matt. 7:13, 14; 13:37-39)
By the 1600’s, Bible translation and printing had made the Holy Scriptures more widely available. In 1651, one scholar wrote that since through Adam men “have forfeited Paradise, and Eternall Life on Earth,” so in the Christ “all men shall be made to live on Earth; for else the comparison were not proper.” (Read 1 Corinthians 15:21, 22.)
One of the English-speaking world’s famous poets, John Milton (1608-1674), wrote Paradise Lost and its sequel Paradise Regained. In his works, Milton referred to the reward that the faithful will receive in an earthly paradise. Although Milton dedicated much of his life to Bible study, he recognized that Scriptural truth would not be pieced together until Christ’s presence.
The famous mathematician Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) also had a keen interest in the Bible. He understood that the holy ones will be raised to heavenly life and will rule invisibly with Christ. (Rev. 5:9, 10) As for the subjects of the Kingdom, he wrote: “The earth shall continue to be inhabited by mortals after the day of judgment and that not only for a 1000 years but even for ever.”
Newton considered Christ’s presence to be centuries away. “One reason why Newton saw the Kingdom of God so far in the future was because he was profoundly pessimistic about the deep Trinitarian apostasy he saw around him,” said historian Stephen Snobelen.
The good news was still veiled. And Newton saw no Christian movement that could preach it. He wrote: “These prophecies of Daniel and John [the latter recorded in the book of Revelation] should not be understood till the time of the end.” Newton explained: “‘Then,’ saith Daniel, ‘many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.’ For the Gospel must be preached in all nations before the great tribulation, and end of the world. The palm-bearing multitude, which come out of this great tribulation, cannot be innumerable out of all nations, unless they be made so by the preaching of the Gospel before it comes.”—Dan. 12:4; Matt. 24:14; Rev. 7:9, 10.
In the days of Milton and Newton, to express ideas contrary to official doctrine of the church was dangerous. Therefore, much of their Bible scholarship remained unpublished until after their deaths. The Reformation of the 16th century failed to reform the teaching about inherent immortality, and mainstream Protestant churches continued to teach Augustine’s idea that the Millennium was past, not future. Has knowledge increased in the time of the end?