THE KINGDOM OF God
The Kingdom of God
The earth purified, beautified, glorified, under the eternal dominion of Christ and His saints; a realm where everyone will live in peace and unmolested safety, happy and content, enjoying the vigor and vitality of immortal life; a realm where all shall worship and acclaim the Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords; where officers and populace shall live and work together, eternally progressing from glory to glory-this is what the Bible call, the Kingdom of God.
A fanciful dream? a visionary ideal? an imaginative wonder? NO! A thousand times NO! The Bible pictures a real, literal, tangible kingdom; a new political and social order, ideal in form and eternal in duration, to be established on this earth. It is the plan and purpose of God Almighty, and by Him it shall most certainly be fulfilled.
The Kingdom of God is the theme of the entire Bible. The prophets foreshadowed it, Jesus described it, and His apostles confirmed it. The Kingdom of God is coming to this earth. And we ourselves can be-or will be-personally involved. Why shouldn’t we be interested in studying it!
The Kingdom Defined
Before we commence our study we need to understand our terms. What, in human and in Scriptural terminology, is a kingdom?
As generally applied to a political government, a kingdom is a major territorial unit under the sovereignty of a single person, usually a king or a queen. A kingdom is a monarchy, and usually a king has the right to transmit the royal power to his descendants. The kingship is the state, office, and dignity of a king and the power wielded by him.
While the majority of the nations of the world are not under this type of one-man rule, there are still many monarchies. Probably best known is the United Kingdom, which consists of Great Britain and her territories under the rulership of Queen Elizabeth II. Belgium and the Netherlands are both monarchies, as are the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden and Denmark; each has a hereditary king or queen.
The United States, by comparison, is a democracy, governed by popularly elected representatives.
The Kingdom of God is a phrase used frequently throughout the Bible to refer to a physical, literal government of God on earth.
In the Old Testament
The actual phrase “kingdom of God” appears few times in the Old Testament. (The form “kingdom of the Lord” occurs in 1 Chron. 28:5 and 2 Chron. 13:8) However, the term “kingdom” is sometimes used in relation to God. “Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom” occurs in Ps. 145:2, 13: and “his kingdom” in Ps. 103:19. In 1 Chron. 17:14, “my kingdom” appears from the lips of “the Lord of Hosts.” King David also recognized God’s supreme authority when he prayed, “Thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all” (1 Chron. 29:11). The original Hebrew words translated “kingdom” in these texts all have as their primary meaning the idea of “kingship,” “sovereignty,” or “kingly rule.”
In the New Testament
By far the most frequent use of the term •he “kingdom of God” occurs in the New Testament. It was Jesus’ watchword, a comprehensive term for the whole of His teaching. In Matt. 4:23, the commencement of His ministry is described in these words: “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom.” And somewhat later, the expansion of His activity is described in these terms: “It came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him,” (Luke 8:1). When the Twelve were sent forth, Jesus commanded them to “preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick” (Luke 9:2). The parables, which formed so large and prominent a portion of Jesus’ teaching, were delivered to reveal “the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 13:11).
Altogether, the terms “the kingdom,” “the kingdom of God,” and “the kingdom of heaven” occur more than 100 times in the Gospels and are used interchangeably to describe the fully established government of God on earth. It is the earth made new, purified of all sin and sinners, under the management of Christ and His saints (Dan. 7:27) and filled with God’s people, His glory, “as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14).
WHY STUDY THE KINGDOM?
It is the means of our salvation.
God has laid out a plan by which we may inherit eternal salvation, and this salvation will consist of eternal life in His glorified, new world-the Kingdom of God on earth.
Jesus expressed the seeking of the Kingdom of God as the all-important quest of life: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33).
Not until Christ returns to establish His kingdom will we receive our reward. “Unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Heb. 9:28). And not until then shall be fulfilled the promise in the Lord’s prayer: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).
It is the focal point of the Bible.
We should familiarize ourselves with the subject of the Kingdom because the whole Bible focuses on its establishment. It is the end result of God’s plan for the salvation of mankind.
The Kingdom was the confidence of the patriarchs.
Enoch knew that “the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints” (Jude 1:14). Abraham anticipated that City “whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10). Moses prophesied the birth of its King (Deut. 18:15, 18). David expressed his hope that he should not forever remain in the grave, but that he would one day see the face of the One he served (Ps. 49:15; 17:15).
The Kingdom was the expectation of the prophets.
Isaiah looked forward to the time when “a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule with justice” (32:1). Jeremiah also foresaw this same time, when “A King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely” (Jer. 23:5-6). Ezekiel prophesied of the same time, when “iniquity shall end” (Ezek. 21:25). Daniel, interpreting the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar, revealed that God had given him knowledge of a time yet future, when “God of heaven will set up a kingdom.”
The Kingdom was the subject of the minor prophets (minor only in respect to the brevity of their message).
Among them we read from Zechariah of the time when “the Lord shall be King over all the earth,” when “His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth,” when “many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord” (Zech. 14:9; 9:10; 8:22).
Haggai, in his brief message, did not fail to make mention of the time when the Lord shall come and bring peace to the earth (Hag. 2:7-9). And Zephaniah pictured the time beyond the judgments when the Lord should be King and “you shall see disaster no more” (3:15). Obadiah, who left us the shortest message of all the prophets, showed his knowledge of the divine plan in one short, final statement (v. 21): “the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.”
The Kingdom was the theme of the apostles.
Jesus spent His ministry preaching it. It was of such supreme importance that He spent His last forty days on earth teaching it (Acts 1:3).
After His ascension, the apostles went everywhere preaching the Kingdom. We read in Acts 8:12 of Philip’s preaching “the things concerning the kingdom of God.” Paul and Barnabas taught the disciples how they might “through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). In Acts 19:8, we read of Paul’s spending three months at Ephesus “reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God.” And in Acts 28:31 we learn that Paul spent two years as a prisoner preaching the Kingdom of God.
In the Book of Acts, the phrase “the kingdom of God” occurs seven times. Paul also mentioned the subject in his Epistles: those who shall not inherit the kingdom of God because of moral unfitness (1Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:3-5); those who work “for the kingdom of God” (Col. 4:11); those who are counted worthy of the Kingdom of God (2 Thess. 1:5). However, we cannot fail to notice that the phrase does not occur with the same frequency that Jesus used it in His ministry. There is a possible explanation of this in the fact that Jesus was the master of men and knew that whatever the resistance He aroused, His Father would assure the success of His mission.
After the death of Jesus there ensued a period of persecution. Christianity was preached among nations where to have spoken of its message as a Kingdom of God would have unnecessarily provoked hostility and called forth the accusation of treason against the powers that be. Hence, the early Christian messengers capitalized on Christ, His life, death, and resurrection and the “eternal life” which He offered, placing less emphasis on the term “the kingdom of God.”
It is the destiny of our earth.
We should be acquainted with the subject of the Kingdom of God because it is the destiny of our earth, the purpose of its creation. God did not create this earth to be forever inhabited by evil men, nor did He create it to be destroyed and uninhabited. Isaiah, speaking for the Eternal, makes a positive statement about the earth: “Who has established it, who did not create it in vain, who formed it to be inhabited” (Isa. 45:18).
The words of the angel to Mary before the birth of Jesus also show the eternal purpose of this earth: “and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32-33).
When Jesus began His ministry, He went about teaching the Kingdom that should be established on this earth. He taught His disciples to pray for it to come to earth (Matt. 6:10).
We live near the time of its establishment.
The subject of the Kingdom should be of special interest to us because we are living so near to the time of its establishment. We are at a critical point in history; therefore it is imperative that we understand God’s plan, lest we find ourselves among those whose hearts are failing them for fear because of the things that are coming on the earth (Luke 21:26). If we can learn to recognize the signs that portend the end of this age, we will be able to see the events in the world as fulfilling prophecies of the last days and will be able to lift up our heads and rejoice, knowing that our redemption draws nigh (Luke 21:28).
We do not know the exact time of the establishment of the Kingdom. Jesus made this fact plain when He said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.” (Mark 13:32-33).
But although we are not to know the day nor the hour, we are able to recognize the times and seasons. Jesus chided the Pharisees for being able to discern the signs of the weather in the literal heavens but failing to perceive the signs of the times (Matt. 16:2-3).
Paul also made plain the fact that we are to know the “times and seasons.” “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:1-2). We are to recognize the times, Paul continues, because we are not in darkness (v. 4): “For when they say, Peace and safety! then sudden destruction comes upon them” (v. 3).
The cry for peace and safety was never more apparent than it is at present. This seeming paradox has recently become a reality. Our President, as well as the rulers of many other nations, is working desperately for peace during his term of office; yet at the same time billions are being spent for defense in the interest of national safety. Thus the prophetic words of Paul are being fulfilled.
We can recognize the perilous times which were forecast for the last days. The passage in 2 Tim. 3:1-4 is well rendered in our Common Version, but its terms are more understandable in some of the newer translations. “Understand this, that in the last days there will come times of trouble.
People will love themselves and money. They’ll brag and be proud. They’ll blaspheme. They’ll disobey parents. They’ll be ungrateful and unholy, without love, never forgiving an enemy, slandering. They’ll be without control, wild, with no love for what is good. They’ll be treacherous, reckless, proud. They’ll love pleasure and not God” (Beck translation).
“But you must realize that in the last days the times will be full of danger,” translates Dr. Phillips. The fulfillment of this prediction is evident everywhere.
At this time, when the fulfillment of God’s plan is imminent, how can we afford to be ignorant of what He has revealed?
Christ Comes to Receive the Kingship
Not until Christ comes the second time “apart from sin, for salvation” (Heb. 9:28) will He receive the crown of earth’s authority and extend His domain from sea to sea.
During His earthly ministry Jesus likened Himself to a nobleman going into a far country “to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return.” He was alluding to the then-common practice of aspiring rulers to travel to Rome, the seat of all legal authority, to be trained in the art of government, conditioned, and finally to be given the right to rule over a certain territory within the empire and returned to that territory as ruler.
Jesus Christ, though king of the earth by divine right, by birth, and by virtue of His outstanding moral achievements, is now at the Father’s right hand, preparing for the great Day of His return when He shall be acclaimed as Lord and King of all the earth.
The return of Christ the King is a subject frequently mentioned in the New Testament, and a number of different Greek words are used for the event, each having a distinct and unique shade of meaning. Properly understood, they give us a glimpse into the glory that will attend His second appearing.
Erchomai, used in Luke 19:13 in “Do business till I come,” indicates the act of His coming but not necessarily of His arrival. Heko, used in Rev. 2:25, “Hold fast what you have till I come,” not only means the coming, but stresses the arrival as well. Parousia, frequently employed by the New Testament authors, goes further still, involving not only coming and arrival but the actual personal presence of the Person who has arrived. For example, study its use in James 5:8, “the coming of the Lord is at hand.” Again, analuo, used in Luke 12:36 where Christ compares Himself to the master of the house returning from the wedding, indicates a departure in order to return, while hupostrepho, used in Luke 19:12, “to receive for himself a kingdom and to return,” incorporates the idea of returning from a journey.
Apokalupto, occurring in 2 Thess. 1:7, “When Lord Jesus is revealed,” emphasizes His appearing with the idea of revelation. Prosopon, used of the “presence of the Lord” (2 Thess. 1:9), indicates the actual presence of the one who is coming, and that all are before His face. Epiphaneia, used in 1 Tim. 6:14, “Until our Lord Jesus Christ's appearing,” emphasizes the glory that will attend the Saviour when He comes. Phaneroo, used by the apostle Peter (1 Pet. 5:4), involves not only His appearing but the further thought that the person appearing will be seen in his true character. Ephistemi, used by Jesus Himself in Luke 21:34, “That day come on you unexpectedly,” stresses not only the nearness of the coming of the Lord but particularly its suddenness.
WHAT IS A KINGDOM?
The political entity we call a kingdom is not mystic and ethereal. A kingdom is a physical, tangible, substantial domain.
What of the Kingdom of God? What shall it be?
If we were to ask this question of a variety of religious leaders of our day, we would receive a variety of answers. To some the Kingdom is an invisible, spiritual influence in the hearts of men. To others it is an eternal state of bliss in heaven, entered into at death. Augustine, one of the early church fathers, developed the idea that the church is the Kingdom of God on earth.
But the Bible supports none of these answers. According to God’s Word, the Kingdom is to be as real, as literal, as tangible as any government earth has ever had. It shall be a government of people, for people and by people. Daniel 7:27 gives us a word picture of God’s literal, worldwide Kingdom: “Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.” God’s Kingdom, like all other kingdoms, will have a king, associate rulers, populace, territory, and laws. Let us discuss these necessary elements.
The King: Christ
Like every other monarchy, the Kingdom of God shall have one sovereign ruler, and this ruler shall be Jesus Christ. The very title Christ or “Messiah” suggests kingship-its meaning “anointed” takes account of His threefold office of prophet, priest and king. Yet in the Old Testament it is the king to whom the title is generally applied.
Old Testament Prophecies of Christ the King
Let us note briefly some of the Old Testament predictions. The first which suggests dominion is that of Jacob concerning the tribe of Judah: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people” (Gen. 49:10). Or as translated in the New Catholic Bible: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver [sceptre and staff: symbols of power and authority] from between his feet [refers to a ruler’s manner of holding his staff of authority in front of himself while seated], until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people.”
Royalty and imperial greatness are symbolized by the “Star” in Balaam’s prophecy: “A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel, and batter the brow [the mighty men] of Moab,…out of Jacob One shall have dominion” (Num. 24:17-19).
In Psalm 2 the voice of Jehovah is heard above all the tumult of earth, declaring, “Yet I have set My King On My holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the Lord has said to Me, You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession” (vs. 6-8).
Many of the Psalms contain special foreshadowing’s of the Messiah and His kingship. Read especially Psalm 24 of the “King of glory” who is “The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle”; of the majesty and grace of Christ’s kingdom in Psalm 45; of its glory and its universal domain in Psalm 72; of its God-appointed King in Psalm 89 and His uncompromising authority in Psalm 110.
The babe that Isaiah foresees born of a virgin is also the “Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6-7), of the increase of whose government and peace there shall be no end. Again the Prophet joyfully exclaims, “Your eyes will see the King in His beauty; they will see the land that is very far off…For the Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our Lawgiver, the Lord is our King; He will save us” (Isa. 33:17, 22).
The prophet Jeremiah, his vision intensified by the surrounding sorrow, catches bright glimpses of his coming Lord: “'Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, that I will perform that good thing which I have promised to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah: In those days and at that time I will cause to grow up to David a branch of righteousness; He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell safely. And this is the name by which she will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness” (Jer. 33:14-16).
His Divine Right to Kingship
Unlike the potentates of earthly monarchies, Christ is a king by divine appointment.
Christ was truly born to be King. As He testified of Himself, “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world” (John 18:37).
Christ was born into a kingly family. His mother was of the house and family of David (Luke 2:4), therefore He was a direct descendant of Israel’s most kingly family.
The angel who announced His birth declared that He would occupy the throne (Luke 1:32-33), saying also that “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest.”
On the day of Pentecost, Peter affirmed that the promise God had made to David, that “of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne” (Acts 2:30), was fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth.
Paul declares that the gospel of God was “concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Rom. 1:3). The Son of God and Son of David Christ certainly had a right to the throne.
By Divine Appointment
The ideal of the “Divine right” of kingship was realized in Christ. Because of His flawless attainments and perfect obedience, “God also has highly exalted him” (Phil. 2:9) “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne (Rev. 3:21).
However divinely appointed and ordained to be King, Christ’s kingship shall not be His until all opposition is forcefully subdued and men are taught to bow before their rightful Ruler.
The word from which our word “king” is derived means “the able man,” “the one who can.” In the highest sense this is true of Christ, the only man capable of uniting the kingdoms of men into one eternal, worldwide Kingdom of God.
No present-day government is run entirely by one man. Because of the many facets involved in governing a country, the supreme ruler, however high his position, must have help. In this respect, God’s kingdom is no exception.
The rulership of God’s kingdom shall belong to Christ and His saints, “the saints of the Most High” (Dan. 7:27). Christ shall be “King of kings, and Lord of lords,” a title which indicates that under Him will be lesser kings and rulers with positions of authority, though all subject to Him.
Revelation 5:9-10 indicates that Christ will share the rulership with persons selected out of “every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” who will be made unto God “kings and priests” to “reign on the earth.”
In the family of Abraham, this divine plan for the selection of associate rulers for Christ’s future kingdom was foreshown. Abraham’s wife Sarah, the angel revealed, was to be a “mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her” through the child of promise Isaac (see Gen. 17:1-17).
In Revelation 20, those who had “not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads [representing only mental assent], or in their hands” [representing open demonstration of acceptance]-these “lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Rev. 20:4). Here is a definite picture of Christ’s co-rulers.
Revelation 14:1 pictures these select individuals: “Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father's name written on their foreheads.”
Verses 4 and 5 give further description: “These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes…for they are without fault before the throne of God.”
God’s standard for quality in ruler ship was established as long ago as the Kings of Israel, when David said, “The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spoke to me: He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God” (2 Sam. 23:3). This ideal shall finally be realized in the Kingdom of God.
Who will comprise the populace of Christ’s eternal Kingdom, whom the righteous rulers will govern?
According to the prophet Zechariah, one third of earth’s people shall survive God’s purifying judgments, having submitted to the new authority (Zech. 13:8). And these people will form the nucleus that shall multiply and fill the face of the earth during the Millennial reign of Christ and the saints. This new generation, developed and educated under the most ideal circumstances when “you shall see disaster no more” and “”all shall know Me [the Lord] from the least of them to the greatest of them” (Zeph. 3:15; Jer. 31:34), will all be a superior people.
The prophet Zechariah speaks of their purification: “I will bring the one-third through the fire, will refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say, This is My people; and each one will say, The Lord is my God” (Zech. 13:9).
According to the prophet Isaiah (60:21): “Your people shall all be righteous; they shall inherit the land forever, the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, that I may be glorified.”
Also foreshown in the family of Abraham were the populace of the Kingdom, represented in Ishmael the son of Hagar, of whom the angel promised: “I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly…and I will make him a great nation” (Gen. 17:20).
This vast number of people is described in Revelation 7: “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number [an unrevealed number] of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands,…”
“Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, who are these arrayed in white robes [emblematic of purity of character], and where did they come from? And I said to him, Sir, you know. So he said to me, these are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them.”
Note especially those words which are the key to this passage: “great multitude,” “before the Lamb,” “clothed with white robes,” and “serve him.” These people will compose the populace of the Kingdom, made immortal like their rulers at the close of the Millennium, having achieved the same standard of moral purity, though under much more favorable circumstances. And instead of sitting upon the throne, they are “before the throne” and “serve.” But their “service” shall not bear any load of drudgery or toil, as the following verses reveal: “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”
The domain of God’s Kingdom is described repeatedly throughout Scripture; each time it is indicated to be on earth. It shall be:
“From sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth” (Ps. 72:8).
“On the earth” (Rev. 5:10).
“Under the whole heaven” (Dan. 7:27).
“The land,” “the earth” (Ps. 37:3, 9, 11, 22, 29, 34).
Isaiah 57:13 states: “But he who puts his trust in Me shall possess the land, and shall inherit My holy mountain.”
Jesus Himself said in His first sermon, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5).
Just as any present-day kingdom has laws, God’s eternal Kingdom shall have laws. But the laws governing God’s Kingdom will be different. They will be righteous laws rightly enforced. Christ is said to “rule them with a rod of iron” (Rev. 2:27)-said to be “iron” because of its unbending authority, not that it will be cruel or unjust.
In that day people will seek to know the law: “Many nations shall come and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths. For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Micah 4:2; see also Isa. 2:2-3).
In the Kingdom of God, all will know and obey God’s law. “I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Jer. 31:33). Those who do not strictly conform to the law will be promptly reminded of their delinquence: “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, this is the way, walk in it, whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left” (Isa. 30:21).
Those enforcing the law will not be like many public officials of our day who can be bribed to allow law-breaking, for God says through the Prophet: “I will also make your officers peace, and your magistrates righteousness. Violence shall no longer be heard in your land, neither wasting nor destruction within your borders” (Isa. 60:18). “For the nation and kingdom which will not serve you shall perish, and those nations shall be utterly ruined” (Isa. 60:12).
The utmost in blessing shall attend obedience: “Her gain and her pay will be set apart for the Lord; it will not be treasured nor laid up, for her gain will be for those who dwell before the Lord, to eat sufficiently, and for fine clothing, I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring” (Isa. 23:18; 44:3).
THE KINGDOM OF GOD IN ISRAEL
The coming worldwide Kingdom of Christ was typified in the literal Kingdom of God in Israel.
God’s first move in choosing a people for Himself was to choose a man to be the head of the race, later called the “father of the faithful.” He called Abraham, then known as Abram, who lived with his father Terah in Ur of the Chaldees, a town in Mesopotamia north and east of Palestine. According to recent archaeological discoveries, Ur was a highly civilized and prosperous city.
We read God’s call to Abram in Gen. 12:1-2: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing.” Abram obeyed the call of God, left his father’s house and settled in the land of Canaan, an area which is now northern Israel.
Hebrew names were significant. God directed that the name of Abram, meaning “father of high ones,” should be changed to Abraham, “for I have made you a father of many nations” (Gen. 17:5). The meaning of Abraham is “Father of a great multitude.” Abraham’s wife also had part in the plan. God said: “And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her” (Gen. 17:16) indicating her motherhood of Abraham’s kingly seed, Isaac.
Isaac, Child of Promise
This child of promise was Isaac, born to Abraham when he was 100 years old. God had directed that he should be named Isaac, and of him He said: “I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him” (Gen. 17:19). Jacob, one of two sons of Isaac, was the father of twelve sons, who with their families went down into Egypt to escape a famine in the land of Canaan and became the nucleus of God’s people.
Jacob, like his grandfather Abraham, had his name changed by the Almighty. “Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.So He called his name Israel” (Gen. 35:10). This is the first appearance of the name Israel. At the same time God renewed His covenant with the descendants of Abraham, saying “a nation…and kings shall come from your body. The land which I gave Abraham and Isaac [by promise], I give to you; and to your descendants after you I give this land” (Gen. 32:28; 35:11-12).
The Sojourn in Egypt
The story of Joseph and how he became a ruler in the land of the Pharaohs and subsequently saved his family from the famine in Canaan is familiar history. God was directing the affairs of His chosen family. At the onset of the journey into Egypt, the reassuring words of God came to Jacob in a vision: “I am God, the God of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again” (Gen. 46:3-4). Seventy souls (Gen. 46:27) went down into Egypt and they “grew and multiplied exceedingly.”
God Delivers a Nation
Many years passed and Israel grew and became a great nation as God had foretold. They were slaves to the Egyptians and their masters dealt harshly with them. But God remembered them and raised up a deliverer to bring them back to their homeland as He had promised.
Moses Chosen to Lead the Children of Israel
Moses was a direct descendant of Jacob, both his father and mother being of the tribe of Levi. He was born at a time when a cruel Pharaoh who “knew not Joseph” was ruler in Egypt. God was with him from his birth and he escaped the fate of many of the male Hebrew children and grew to manhood as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. But when he was grown he chose to suffer the afflictions of God’s people rather than remain with the king’s household (Heb. 11:24-25).
When God called Moses to lead the children of Israel back to Canaan he was tending sheep for his father-in-law in the Midian desert. God’s call from the burning bush was direct: “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.…I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt,…I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians,… and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt” (Ex. 3:7–10).
The Journey to the Promised Land
God performed many signs and wonders for the Israelites, first to convince Moses that he was truly called of God, then to convince Pharaoh that he should let the people go, and later to show to the people His might, power and authority. God was directing the affairs of His people, and they left Egypt at the appointed time. It was a day never to be forgotten. “And Moses said to the people: Remember this day in which you went out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out of this place” (Ex. 13:3).
Throughout the journey to Canaan they were never allowed to forget that God was leading them. “And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people” (Ex. 13:2122). Nor were they to forget after they had reached the Promised Land: “And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not” (Deut. 8:2).
God sustained them forty years in the wilderness to transform this multitude of slaves into a civilized nation. He gave them His laws and commanded that they were to be obeyed. Often He reminded them that they were the people of God-if they obeyed His laws. “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people” (Ex. 19:5; see also Deut. 6:1, 3; 7:6).
The Promised Land
Moses brought the children of Israel to the borders of Canaan but because of his own disobedience (Num. 20:7-13) was forbidden to enter the land himself. God chose Joshua to succeed Moses (Num. 27:18-23) and the task of dividing and settling the land fell to him. God was still directing. “And Joshua said, By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will without fail drive out [the inhabitants of the land] from before you” (Josh. 3:10).
After the death of Joshua, God raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of their oppressors. God had forbidden them to mix with the nations surrounding them or to worship other gods. But when they forgot the command of the Lord and worshiped other gods, God allowed them to be oppressed by their enemies to remind them that they were still His people. When they repented and turned again to the true God, He raised up a deliverer. Some of the best known of these deliverers, or judges, were Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah and Samuel.
A Nation Becomes A Kingdom
Until they had settled in the Promised Land, God’s people Israel had no king but God. Israel was a theocracy, meaning that the Eternal was supreme head of the nation. Other nations around them were aristocracies, governed by the best of the people; or oligarchies, governed by a few of the people. But Israel was God’s own nation, a theocracy.
Israel Desires a King
Without the strong leadership of Moses or Joshua, the children of Israel began to mix more and more with the nations around them. And the more they mixed with the nations, the more they wanted to be like them. Other nations had other gods-why couldn’t they? Other nations worshiped idols-why couldn’t they? Other nations had lower standards-why did they have to be different? Other nations had a king-why couldn’t they?
Samuel was a prophet and judge in Israel when the elders of Israel came to him with the demand: “Give us a king to judge us” (1 Sam. 8:6). Samuel was not pleased with their request, but he prayed to God for judgment and the Lord answered him: “Heed their voice, and make them a king.”
Saul, the First King of Israel
Saul, the son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, set out to look for a herd of asses and found a kingdom. It was God who had directed Saul to the house of Samuel that he might be made the first king of Israel (see 1 Sam. 9).
Saul started out as king with every advantage. Not only was he God’s choice, but he also had the approval of his people. He looked the part of a king, for “when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward” (1 Sam. 10:23).
Saul began his reign in a humble frame of mind and “hid himself among the stuff,” but in his eagerness to exercise his kingly power he soon forgot his humility and disobeyed the command of God through Samuel. His impatience proved the beginning of his downfall and Samuel reproved him with the words: “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you.…Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.… The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you” (1 Sam. 13:13; 15:23, 28).
David, the Second King of Israel
When Saul proved himself to be not the type of man to continue to reign over His people Israel, God instructed Samuel to anoint a new king. His choice was David, a sheep herder of Bethlehem and the eighth son of Jesse. In choosing David the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature,…for the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). David’s heart was pleasing to the Lord, and Samuel anointed him king over Israel that day. But before David ascended the throne, he spent several anxious years fleeing from jealous Saul, who sought his life.
Just how long Saul remained king after David’s anointing we are not told, but historians estimate it to have been at least eight years. During these years only the hand of God prevented him from killing David.
In the humiliation of defeat Saul ended his long reign by taking his own life, and David became king. The loyal followers of Saul made Saul’s son Ish-bosheth king over all but the house of Judah, and as long as Ish-bosheth and Abner, who had been the captain of Saul’s army, lived, David was forced to reign from Hebron. After their death David by a series of conquests extended the kingdom to include all the twelve tribes. “In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty-three years over all Israel and Judah” (2 Sam. 5:5).
Under the kingship of David the twelve tribes of Israel became solidified into a nation with Jerusalem as its capital. David brought much woe upon himself by his sins, but unlike Saul before him, he was capable of true
repentance and always turned again to God. But in spite of all his troubles, his reign was the most brilliant in Israel’s history and under him the nation became prosperous. The government rested upon a religious basis; the law of God was the law of Israel under David. For this reason David’s kingdom is used as the type of the future, more glorious Kingdom of Christ.
Solomon, the Third King of Israel
David was now old and feeble. God had promised him that the kingship was to remain in his family and had chosen his son Solomon to be his successor (1 Chron. 22:9). Adonijah, David’s oldest son, sought to take the kingdom for himself, but the plot was discovered and Solomon was made king before his father’s death.
Under Solomon the nation became even more prosperous. He built up a powerful army (1 Kings 4:26), he carried on foreign trade with other nations (1 Kings 9:26-28), and he undertook a massive building program.
Solomon was a strange mixture of wisdom and folly. He began his reign in glory with wisdom that “excelled the wisdom of all the men of the East” and ended it “an old and foolish king who will be admonished no more” (1 Kings 4:30; Eccl. 4:13). Because Solomon asked for wisdom and understanding, God granted him wisdom and riches and honor “such as none of the kings have had who were before you, nor shall any after you have the like” (2 Chron. 1:7-12). But he failed to use it wisely.
Solomon transgressed the commandment of the Lord and took as wives “many foreign women” who “turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God,” (1 Kings 11:1-4). As a result, God said unto him: “I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant” (1 Kings 11:11). But because God had promised the kingdom to the house of David forever, the tribes of Benjamin and Judah were to remain with the son of Solomon. The division was not to come until after Solomon’s death.
The Kingdom Divided
After the prophecy of Ahijah (1 King 11:26–39), Jeroboam took refuge in Egypt to escape the wrath of Solomon, but after learning of Solomon’s death he returned to Israel to claim his kingdom. True to the prophecy of the Lord, the ten tribes revolted when Shechem to be crowned king. The ten tribes under Jeroboam’s leadership were know as Israel, or Northern Kingdom. Its capital was Shechem at that time, later removed to Samaria. The two tribes under Rehoboam, Solomon’s son were known as the Kingdom of Judah, or the Southern Kingdom. Its capital was at Jerusalem.
The division of the kingdom was the beginning of the end for God’s literal earthly kingdom. The Northern Kingdom continued for about 240 years, and the Southern Kingdom for about 330 years (see chart). During this period the two kingdoms were ruled by a succession of kings, some good, some less good, others bad.
From the end of the reign of Rehoboam until the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B. C., a space of about 330 years, Judah had 19 kings. Of these, eight were classified as good kings, doing “that which was good and right in the eyes of the Lord,” and Rehoboam and the other 11 were classified as bad, doing “that which was evil in the sight of the Lord.”
Notable Kings of Judah
Rehoboam, the first king of Judah, started out well. For three years he and his people walked in the way of David and Solomon (2 Chron. 11:17). But when he had established his kingdom, like his father before him he forsook the commandment of God, and the Lord allowed an enemy to invade the country. Despite this contrary action, God would not let them forget they were still His people. He sent His prophet, Shemaiah, to the king to remind him of his transgression. And as in times past, when the people sought the Lord and humbled themselves, God made the penalty less severe. Nevertheless, “Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem, and took away the treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king's house; he took everything. He also carried away the gold shields which Solomon had made” (2 Chron. 12:9).
Asa was the second king following Rehoboam. Apparently his father Abijah had allowed idol worship to flourish in Judah. We read that Asa “removed the altars of the foreign gods and the high places, and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the wooden images. He commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers, and to observe the law and the commandment” (2 Chron. 14:3-4). He is also noted for the fact that he removed his mother from being queen because she made an idol in a grove (2 Chron. 15:16).
Jehoshaphat, the son of Asa, was likewise a good king, but he did wrong in forming an alliance with the wicked king Ahab of Israel. But God helped him out of his predicament, yet not without words of reproof spoken by the prophet Jehu: “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Therefore the wrath of the Lord is upon you. Nevertheless good things are found in you, in that you have removed the wooden images from the land, and have prepared your heart to seek God” (2 Chron. 19:2-3).
Joash is known as the “boy king.” He was saved from the wrath of his grandmother, the wicked queen Athaliah. When he was six years old, Jehoiada the priest succeeded in having him crowned king and Athaliah was slain. Joash was reared by Jehoiada and his wife and he did “what was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest.” He is noted for repairing the temple and re-establishing worship of the true God following the wicked kings Jehoram, Ahaziah and queen Athaliah.
Hezekiah was a reformer in the truest sense of the word. His reign followed that of his wicked father, Ahaz. During Ahaz’ reign the people, led by their idolatrous king, turned far from God and the doors of the temple were closed and the sacred vessels removed. Hezekiah reversed the processes of his father, opened the temple doors, restored the vessels, cleaned the house and called upon the people to cleanse themselves and prepare to keep the Passover, “since they had not done it for a long time in the prescribed manner” (2 Chron 30:5).
During the sixth year of Hezekiah’s reign over Judah (2 Kings 18:10), Samaria, then capital of Israel, was taken by the Assyrian king Shalmaneser, and the Northern Kingdom fell never to rise again. Again, we find that it was God’s will that it be so because “that the children of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God.” Palestine was a small country and the fall of the Northern Kingdom posed a threat to the remaining Southern Kingdom. Hezekiah feared the Assyrians, for Samaria was less than 50 miles from Jerusalem.
Sennacherib, the next king of Assyria, soon came to Hezekiah and demanded tribute for leaving the little kingdom at peace. Hezekiah granted the request, but the peace was short-lived; and eight years after the fall of the Northern Kingdom, Assyria invaded Judah. Hezekiah turned to the Lord for help and was advised by Isaiah the prophet to be not afraid for the Lord would help them. (The incident is found in 2 Kings 18, 19 and also in Isaiah 36, 37.)
Josiah became king at the tender age of eight, and like Hezekiah, his term followed the reign of a wicked father and grandfather under whom the people had forsaken the true God and neglected to keep the temple in repair. In the process of cleaning the Lord’s house, the priest found the book of the law. Huldah was a prophetess of the Lord at that time, and when consulted concerning the prophecies of the destruction of Jerusalem, she informed Josiah that Jerusalem would indeed be destroyed, but not until after his death. Josiah, like Hezekiah, was a true reformer and he restored the temple and commanded the people to worship God. Jeremiah was also a prophet in the days of Josiah and lamented Josiah’s death (2 Chron. 35:25).
Jehoahaz, the son of Josiah, became king after his father’s death. After only three months of his reign the prophecy of the Lord was fulfilled and the Egyptians took control of Jerusalem. “Then Pharaoh Necho made Eliakim the son of Josiah king in place of his father Josiah, and changed his name to Jehoiakim. And Pharaoh took Jehoahaz and went to Egypt, and he died there” (2 Kings 23:34).
Eleven years later, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, defeated Nechoh. The land of Judah was ruled indirectly by Babylon, and many of the people were carried captive to Babylon. It was at this time that Daniel was taken to Babylon, about 606 B. C. Upon the death of Jehoiakim, his son assumed the throne. His reign was a mere three months, after which Jerusalem was captured by Nebuchadnezzar and the king and many others were taken captive to Babylon.
Thus the Southern Kingdom, Judah, came to its tragic end. It was the fulfillment of God’s prophecy through His servant Jeremiah: “I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall carry them captive to Babylon” (Jer. 20:4). Jerusalem was rendered uninhabitable by the siege and the puppet government was set up at Mizpah under the charge of Gedaliah. After his death, the survivors went down into Egypt, contrary to the admonition of Jeremiah, and there disappeared, and God’s once glorious kingdom was no more.
Notable Kings of Israel
Of the kings of Israel the Scriptures have almost nothing good to say; the characteristic most common among them was their ability to do evil. They were God’s agents, but merely human, and failing to rely completely on Him, they led the people to sin in worshiping other gods.
Jeroboam, the first king over the ten tribes of the divided kingdom, came to the throne by divine decree. But he did not reign long before God was displeased with His choice of a king. The name of Jeroboam became synonymous with idol worship because of the golden calves he built and commanded the people to worship. He is often spoken of as having taught Israel to sin.
Omri, the father of Ahab, the sixth king of Israel is to be noted because he built Samaria, the capital of Israel. “And he bought the hill of Samaria from Shemer for two talents of silver; then he built on the hill, and called the name of the city which he built,… Samaria” (1Kings 16:24). Until this time Shechem had been the capital of Israel. But he was not pleasing to God, for we read that “Omri did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and did worse than all who were before him” (1Kings 16:25).
Ahab, the son of Omri, ascended the throne in Israel following his father’s death. His name has become a symbol of wickedness, for he “did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him.” And the name of his wife, Jezebel, has passed into the English language as a description of cruelty and wickedness. Jezebel was the daughter of the king of the Zidonians. Zidon was the principal city of the Phoenicians. She brought with her the worship of the pagan god Baal and led Ahab and many of the people to the worship of Baal; soon moral degeneration became apparent.
It was at this time that the prophet Elijah appeared on the scene. He appears very suddenly, described only as “Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, as the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word” (1 Kings 17:1). The drought was to be so severe that it would bring famine in the land. The account of Elijah’s encounter with Ahab and the false prophets at Carmel that subsequently brought rain and ended the famine is to be found in 1 Kings 18.
Elijah is regarded as the greatest of the prophets, stern and fearless. He did not hesitate to speak the truth, even to kings, and even though it was bad news. He wanted nothing of compromise. Israel wanted to worship God and Baal, but Elijah knew that it was not possible and his question was: “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.”
After the incident at Mt. Carmel, the wicked Jezebel sought his life and Elijah fled into the wilderness, but God had yet more work for him and he returned to the presence of his arch-enemy in the vineyard of Naboth. God had sent him to prophesy the doom of his entire house because of his wickedness and that of his wife Jezebel. The prophecy was fulfilled some 35 years later by the hand of Jehu, (2 Kings 9:25-37; 10:1-17), and Jezebel likewise met death according to the word of Elijah.
The Northern Kingdom was ruled by one wicked king after another until the city of Samaria fell to Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, some 240 years after the split in the original kingdom, and the people were dispersed, never again to be a nation.
BIBLE ILLUSTRATIONS REVEAL THE KINGDOM
The Genesis Allegory-A Type
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This, the first verse of the Bible, is generally understood as referring only to the creation of the literal heavens and earth. That God did create the literal heavens and earth we do not deny; but we are not told when. We believe that these words-as well as the entire first three chapters of Genesis-are primarily an introduction to God’s plan of the ages, beginning with His first call to man and concluding with His eternal Kingdom established on this earth. This plan for the ultimate salvation of man is told in Biblical symbolism. We will review these symbols briefly. (For more detailed explanation, see our booklet God’s Spiritual Creation.)
The Heavens and Earth of Genesis
We understand the heavens to be composed of Christ the head and the church His body, the ultimate rulers over the earth, the people over whom they rule. This terminology is not foreign to Scriptural usage. Isaiah 1:1-2, 10 employs it. “The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! For the Lord has spoken.…Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; give ear to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah.” Here the kings of Judah are addressed as heavens first and then as rulers.
The use of the term “earth” for the people to be ruled over is also employed in the same verse. The subjects are first referred to as earth, then as people. These will be the new heavens and new earth spoken of in Isaiah 65:17 and as referred to in 2 Peter 3:13: “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
The Two Lights of Genesis
“Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night.” The lesser light of this verse represents the Word of God and those who bear the light by allowing it to shine out through their lives. In this study we are more concerned with the greater light that is said to rule the day. This greater light is Christ, the sovereign ruler of God’s Kingdom when it is set up on this earth. The day over which He shall rule is the Day of the Lord, which will commence with His return to earth. “The night is far spent, the day is at hand” (Rom. 13:12), the Day when the “Sun of righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings” (Mal. 4:2).
The Man Made in God’s Image
Today the inhabitants of the earth are not all made in God’s physical image, hence a literal interpretation of this Scripture is impossible. The man of Genesis 1:26 that is in God’s image is a composite man composed of Christ the Head and the Church, His body. They are being created in preparation for the establishment of the Kingdom. To be made in God’s image necessitates knowing what God requires in His Word and then putting that knowledge into practice to become Godlike, as it is written: “Be holy; for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16). Then we shall receive the physical change to immortality (1 Cor. 15:50-56), be made equal to the angels.
The Garden of Eden
Men have searched the world for the garden in which God placed the first man that He made. They have looked for a literal garden, but this expression cannot be understood literally since it is a part of an allegory, a symbolic representation of the spiritual garden or vineyard of the Lord, in which people are being cultivated to become “heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him” (Jas. 2:5). This garden is described in Isa. 5:7: “For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, And the men of Judah are His pleasant plant.”
Adam and Eve in the Garden
We learn in Genesis 2 and 3 that God placed a man and a woman in the garden. Adam and Eve, believed by the religious world to be the first two people to live on the earth, are merely symbolic of the first of earth’s inhabitants to be called to enter His Kingdom. They are representative of men and women of earth, both faithful and unfaithful, who have covenanted to serve Him, their reward to be determined when the Kingdom has come.
The Six Days of Creation and the Day of Rest
We learn from Genesis that God finished His work in six days and rested the seventh day. The six days of labor represented six thousand years during which men and women are being created “in righteousness and true holiness” to form the multitudinous man that will be given dominion over the earth at the end of the six thousand years. The one-thousand-year reign of Christ and the saints over the mortal nations permits the Almighty to rest on the seventh day. The rule for figuring prophetic time is found in 2 Pet. 3:8. “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”
The Sabbath Law-A Type
While the Sabbath law was given to Israel for the purpose of protecting the people from a life of incessant toil, it was also of deeper significance. Not only did it give the people a day of rest at the end of six days of labor, but it also typified God’s plan. According to the Genesis allegory, God purposes to work for six one-thousand-year days and rest during the seventh. This thousand-year rest, also known as the Millennium, follows Christ’s return to earth. In observing the literal sabbath, Israel would be perpetually reminded of the better enduring rest to come, as recorded in Hebrews 4:9, “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.”
The Mosaic Priesthood-A Type
As in the Sabbath, in the priesthood there is a pattern or symbol of God’s eternal plan. The Levitical Priesthood, appointed at the time of the Exodus, served the nation in matters both civil and spiritual in a capacity similar to the manner in which the Royal Priesthood which shall guide the mortal nations during the Millennium. Just as each member of the Levitical Priesthood had to conform to the standards of the Mosaic Law, so must the members of the Royal Priesthood conform to the standards of God’s royal law.
The High Priest. Under the Law, the descendants of Aaron were to be the priests. Aaron, brother of Moses, was the first high priest. The office of high priest is symbolic of the office of Christ, mentioned by the writer to the Hebrews as our “great High Priest.” (Heb. 4:14-15).
In the time of Moses, Aaron, the high priest, went into the holy place alone and returned to bless the people. Christ, our High Priest, has entered into heaven alone, to return with blessings for His people. Just as the people under the law were prohibited from entering the most holy place with the high priest, so are we today prohibited from following Christ, our High Priest, into heaven to receive our reward. Christ said: “Where I go you cannot come,” but He added “I will come again.” Thus we must await the arrival of our High Priest to receive the blessing.
The Tabernacle. In ancient times the tabernacle, established under the Law of Moses, pointed forward to God’s future Kingdom. The tabernacle was made according to the exact specifications given to Moses on Sinai and served the people throughout the forty years. Moses erected the first tabernacle according to the pattern and sanctified Aaron and his sons as its ministers. Thereafter the tabernacle directed Israel in their journeyings until they entered the Promised Land (Exodus 40).
The Tabernacle typifies God’s plan in which 6,000 years are required to erect a spiritual tabernacle and sanctify a royal priesthood. When this is accomplished Christ will return as High Priest and take over the direction of this earth. Throughout the Millennium this spiritual tabernacle, the antitype of the first, shall be the guide of the mortal nations.
The Kingdom Portrayed in the Psalms
Many of the Psalms of David contain beautiful word pictures of the Kingdom of God. Others picture the necessary judgments of God at Christ’s coming. Psalm 15 is titled by the translators: “David describeth a citizen of Zion.” Zion is representative of the perfect state of the Kingdom of God.
Psalm 93 describes the majesty of the Kingdom: “The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty; the Lord is clothed, He has girded Himself with strength. Surely the world is established, so that it cannot be moved. Your throne is established from of old; You are from everlasting. Holiness adorns Your house, O Lord, forever” (vs. 1-2, 5).
Psalm 89 pictures Christ the King reigning: “For our shield belongs to the Lord, and our king to the Holy One of Israel. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face. For You are the glory of their strength, and in Your favor our horn is exalted” (vs. 18, 14, 17).
Psalm 22 pictures Christ’s ultimate triumph and the establishment of the Kingdom. Verses 27 and 28 are plain: “All the ends of the world Shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You. For the kingdom is the Lord's, and He rules over the nations.”
Psalms that picture other aspects of the Kingdom. Psalm 2 gives a vivid description of another step in the establishment of the Kingdom: the nations of earth joining together to resist the new government. “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away their cords from us” (vs. 2-3). The Almighty is said to “laugh” at man’s futile attempt and the following verses picture the King established in Zion.
In connection with the study of the Kingdom it would be well to read and study carefully all of the following Psalms: 2, 15, 24, 72, 92, 97, 99, and 145. They contain word pictures of many and varied phases in the development of the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom Foreseen by the Prophets
The earliest of God’s prophets knew that God would one day have a King and a Kingdom on this earth, and the words God gave to them, they wrote for our learning.
Isaiah foresaw both the King and the Kingdom. The first of the major prophets, he prophesied that a Child should be born to a virgin. This prophecy, in Isa. 7:14 is most familiar. And in chapter 9:6-7, he tells in detail the offices He will fill in the future. “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever” (Isa. 9:7). Isaiah foretold a kingdom of peace and righteousness as did the Psalmist before him. Again in chapter eleven he pictures this righteous Kingdom when “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9).
Isaiah also gives us other important clues to the setting up of the Kingdom. Read chapters 25 and 26. Significant facts contained in them are:
- The world in general will not learn to do right until God’s judgments are in the earth (Isa. 26:9-10).
- Death will be swallowed up in victory and there will be no more sorrow when the Kingdom is come (Isa. 25:8).
- Christ will come to His waiting people and bring salvation with Him (Isa. 25:9).
- There shall be a resurrection of the dead in that Day (Isa. 26:19).
- A time of trouble will be necessary before this state can be brought about, but God’s people will be protected (Isa. 26:20-21).
Read also Isaiah 32 through 35 in entirety. They contain more detail about the Kingdom. In chapter 35 Isaiah saw in vision the time when the Kingdom is established and all is joy and gladness.
Jeremiah’s prophecies of the King and the Kingdom are found in Jer. 23:5-6 and 33:14-20. Both of these prophecies picture Christ as a King who shall reign and “shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land.” That it is yet future is shown by the following verse (Jer. 33:16): “In those days Judah will be saved, And Jerusalem will dwell safely.”
How sure is this prophecy? Through Jeremiah, God gave His assurance that the prophecy is as sure as that day follows night! (Jer. 33:20).
Daniel was one of the captives carried away to Babylon when the Kingdom of Judah fell to Nebuchadnezzar. God gave him special insight to interpret dreams and in so doing he revealed much about the Kingdom. In chapter 2 he interprets the king’s dream. Study the chapter, also chapter 7. In the second chapter the four world empires that would rise and fall are represented by an image made of different substances; in the seventh chapter they are represented by four beasts. The four world kingdoms represented are:
l. Babylon. In the course of the interpretation of the dream, Daniel said to the king: “You are this head of gold” (Dan. 2:38). In the vision of the four beasts Babylon was represented as “a lion, and had eagle’s wings” (Dan. 7:4). The Babylonian kingdom fell about 561 B. C.
2. Medo-Persia. This kingdom, formed by the joining of the Medes and Persians, conquered Babylon and became the next great world power. It is represented by the silver in the image (Dan. 2:32) and as a bear in Dan. 7:5. The kingdom of Medo-Persia fell about 331 B. C.
3. Greece. Greece became a world power when Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire. Alexander’s glory was short-lived. Eight years later he died; however, the kingdom continued under his four generals for some time. The kingdom of Greece is represented by the brass in the image (Dan. 2:39) and by a leopard in Daniel 7:6. The leopard is described as having four wings and four heads, representative of Alexander’s four generals who took over his kingdom at his death. The kingdom of Greece continued until conquered by Rome about 149 B. C.
4. Rome. Rome, the fourth, and last of the great world empires, was gaining strength while Greece’s strength was declining. Rome became a great power when she conquered Greece. The Roman kingdom is represented by the iron and clay of the image (Dan. 2:33) and by an unnamed beast, “dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong” in Dan. 7:7. Rome, as a kingdom, or the Roman Empire fell in A. D. 565, but its remnants remain today.
The stone of Daniel 2:34 which was “cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron” is significant. Note in verse 35 that “the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.” This stone is representative of Christ and the saints who will be the means of filling the earth with the glory of the Lord, a righteous, immortal people. Hence, the stone is said to grow until it becomes a great mountain that fills the earth. This is the fifth kingdom that shall never be destroyed-God’s Kingdom. It is the one of which Daniel prophesied: “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever” (2:44).
Every prophet of the Old Testament had something to say regarding the future Kingdom.
Zechariah covered many aspects of that future time. He points out Jerusalem as the capital city of the earth, relating it to the coming of Christ (Zech. 2:10-12); he tells of the many that will go up to Jerusalem to seek the Lord (Zech. 8:20-23); he pictures Armageddon, when all nations are gathered against Jerusalem and the end result of the Lord being King over all ,he earth (Zech. 14:2, 9).
Micah also prophesied of this same time. He saw in vision the Lord’s house established in Jerusalem and many people seeking the Lord as did (Micah 4:1-2), and in verse 3 he pictures a time of peace when war implements are turned to farm implements and “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
Ezekiel, a prophet of the captivity, had a vision of God’s Word, the water of life. spreading over the whole earth. Read Ezek. 47:1-12. At first the Word is represented by water coming out from under the house of the Lord. The waters rise and spread until they become “a river that could not be crossed”
Other Concepts of the Kingdom
The Adventist Concept
Far from the hazy picture of the kingdom presented by many denominations, the Adventists offer a clear picture of what they believe will happen on this earth in the future. Briefly, the plan is this:
Jesus returns to earth. The “dead in Christ” are resurrected and together with the righteous living are taken to heaven. (That they are righteous has been predetermined by an “investigative judgment” that has been going on in heaven since 1844.) They are given immortality immediately and live and reign with Christ in heaven for 1000 years. No resurrection of the wicked dead occurs at this time, but the wicked living will be cut off. We quote from an Adventist publication:
“The second advent, instead of establishing a personal reign of Christ over sinful nations, actually depopulates the world and leaves it void of human existence. The earth itself will be devastated by the impact of this consummating event ... The judgments of God will fall upon the rebellious planet in the form of seven punitive plagues (Rev. 15-16). In the last of these plagues the planet will be twisted and torn by a gigantic earthquake, . . . Hailstones ‘as a hundredweight’ will pound and pulverize the proud cities of earth to ruins (Rev. 16:21, RSV) . . . ‘the heavens will pass away with a great noise’ (2 Pet. 3:10). Such an upheaval will reduce the earth to rubble, unfit for human habitation ... The ruined earth-like a pit-will become for him (Satan) a vast `Devil’s Island’ of solitary confinement ... he will be left to contemplate for a thousand years what his rebellion against God has wrought, and to look forward to his final judgment and execution.”
The righteous, the narrative continues, are pictured as occupying thrones in heaven, enjoying eternal life and meting out judgment, described as “a review of God’s dealings with lost mankind and the fallen angels.” At the end of the 1000-year period in heaven, Christ and His followers will return to the earth, together with the Holy City, the New Jerusalem-a city which they believe will descend in literal form from the heavens. Another resurrection, this one of the wicked, will take place. Satan will be loosed, and “true to his nature, seek to capture the Holy City and the redeemed.... At this crisis Heaven intervenes, and the attack is unexpectedly transposed into the great executive judgment day for all mankind.... Not only all the hosts of the lost, but also all the multitudes of the redeemed will stand that day at the bar of God.” And after the wicked are destroyed, Christ will set up His eternal Kingdom on the earth.
Now let us compare this teaching with the Scriptures.
It is true that there will be a resurrection of Christ’s servants at His coming, but “the dead in Christ” who are to be raised will include both faithful and unfaithful. There is no indication that 1000 years will intervene between the resurrection of the faithful and unfaithful. Jesus’ own words tell of both classes standing before Him at the Judgment: “He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats” (Matt. 25:31-32). Daniel, forecasting the resurrection, said: “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2). There is nothing to indicate that they are to awake at two different times. The two classes appear before the Judgment seat at the same time and are rewarded for what they have done, whether good or bad (2 Cor. 5:10).
An Investigative Judgment?
That an “investigative judgment” is now being carried on in heaven is the word of man, not the word of God. There is nothing in the Scriptures to support such a theory. All of Christ’s servants will appear personally to be judged. Romans 14:10 is definite: “We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” (See also Matt. 25:31-32; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 20:12).
Immortality will not be bestowed along with the resurrection. God’s servants will be still mortal when raised from the grave, their eligibility for the reward of immortal life still undetermined. Every man will be rewarded according to his works (Rev. 22:12; 2:23; Matt. 16:27; Jer. 32:19); their reward will be decided at the Judgment.
A 1000 Years in Heaven?
Contrary to the Adventist teaching that the righteous will spend a thousand years in heaven, the Scriptures definitely place the Millennium on the earth. Revelation 20:4 states the promise of reigning with Christ: “And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years,” and Rev. 5:10 locates the realm: “And we shall reign on the earth.” The saints shall be reigning on the earth, superintending affairs with which they have direct contact. Says the prophet Malachi of the wicked who shall be the victims of God’s judgments, “they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this, says the Lord of hosts” (Mal. 4:3).
The saints shall be rewarded in the earth, not up in heaven. Prov. 11:31 is specific: “The righteous will be recompensed on the earth,.” Also Prov. 10:30, “The righteous will never be removed”—how then could they reign from heaven?
Other testimonies also preclude the righteous’ spending 1000 years in heaven: “Such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth”; and Jesus’ own words: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Ps. 37:22; Matt. 5:5).
The Adventists use Isaiah 65 to describe conditions on earth when all people are made immortal, but the chapter actually fits nowhere in the Adventist outline for future events. It is prophecy certainly not fulfilled now: nor does it describe a desolate planet burned and charred, for “they shall build houses and inhabit them.” Nor can it describe a heavenly, eternal kingdom of immortals as they apply it, for verse 20 (omitted from their quotations of Isaiah 65-see Bible Readings for the Home, 1962, p. 548) speaks clearly of the existence of death: “A child shall die an hundred years old.” (That is, a person dying at the age of 100 will be considered but a child, the natural lifespan will be so prolonged.) But any condition where death exists is not God’s finished handiwork, for “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death” (Rev. 21:3-4).
The Earth Desolate?
The claim that the earth will be left desolate for a thousand years while the righteous reign in heaven cannot be supported by the Scriptures. Isaiah 24:6, used to support the claim, reads: “Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left.” Notice it doesn’t say there will be no man left, but “few” men left. Zechariah 13:8 tells us how many will survive the judgments of God: “And it shall come to pass in all the land, says the Lord, that two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, but one-third shall be left in it.” This one-third who survive by submitting to God’s law will become the nucleus of the subjects of the Kingdom.
There are many passages of Scripture to support the belief that the wicked will be eliminated from the earth, but there is no indication whatever that there will be no one left on the earth. In almost every instance where the destruction of the wicked is foretold, a parallel passage pictures the righteous inhabiting the earth-not heaven. An example is Proverbs 2:21-22: “For the upright will dwell in the land, and the blameless will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the earth, and the unfaithful will be uprooted from it.” Psalm 37:34 also offers good proof of the righteous remaining on the earth: “Wait on the Lord, and keep His way, and He shall exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you shall see it.”
The seven plagues listed in the 15th and 16th chapters of Revelation represent the judgments of God on the earth and cannot be interpreted literally. Rev. 16:16 gives a clue to the chapter, identifying it with the battle of Armageddon. There is not a single word in either chapter to suggest that all human inhabitants will be destroyed by the plagues. Even the concluding verse of chapter 16 pictures men still present after the hail: “Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail”; but not a word is said of their complete extinction.
The New Jerusalem
Just as Jerusalem was the capital City of God’s kingdom on earth, so it is promised to be “the city of the great King” (Matt. 5:35) when He again has a kingdom on the earth.
But it will not descend from heaven as a literal city. We cannot accept the description of the city in Rev. 21 as literal, for the dimensions given would mean that the new Jerusalem was 375 miles square-and the height was described as equal! A city reaching 375 miles into the atmosphere is unthinkable. The city “foursquare” symbolizes the perfection of it: “This is the law of the temple: The whole area surrounding the mountaintop is most holy” (Ezek. 43:12). The new Jerusalem which descends from heaven is clearly defined as a symbol of the bride of Christ (Rev. 21:9), the 144,000 redeemed from the earth, who will reign eternally with Him as kings and priests.
The Resurrection and Judgment
at the Close of the Millennium
According to the Adventist teaching, at the close of the 1000 years, all who have ever lived on the earth that were not raised at the first resurrection will be brought to life only to have their sins reviewed at the Judgment and receive everlasting death as punishment. At the same time, according to the Adventists, all who were made immortal one thousand years previous will be brought to Judgment to remind them of the mercy and justice of God.
Nowhere does the Bible say that saints who have been enjoying immortality for a thousand years will be brought to judgment! When once made immortal, “equal unto the angels,” they will have been removed from the power of sin and death forever. The promise is, “Because you would forget your misery, And remember it as waters that have passed away” (Job. 11:16), and “the former shall not be remembered or come to mind” (Isa. 65:17). What imaginable purpose could be served by reviewing the past mortal lives of beings then immortal?
The resurrection at the end of the thousand years will be for those servants among the mortal nations who died during that time, to bring them to judgment to determine who is worthy of eternal life.
A General Resurrection?
The Scriptures do not uphold the idea of a universal resurrection. Obadiah 16 is definite, speaking of a class that “shall be as though they had never been.” These words do not picture a resurgence of life for all mankind. Jeremiah was equally specific concerning the same class: “They shall sleep a perpetual sleep and not awake, says the King, whose name is the Lord of hosts” (51:57). A perpetual sleep with no waking does not suggest resurrection. This forecast referred to Babylon, figuratively used of the confused masses of mankind.
John 5:28-29, given as proof of a general resurrection, does not bear out the contention. The text reads: “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” The wording, “the graves,” infers some specific graves, the graves of the “dead in Christ,” not all graves, unqualified.
A Third Coming of Christ?
The Adventist teaching concerning the millennium constitutes in effect a third coming of Christ. This belief cannot be supported by the Scriptures. It is at His second coming that He brings salvation: “To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Heb. 9:28).
The Jehovah’s Witness Concept
Through a series of questions and answers in Witness publications entitled Things in Which It Is Impossible for God to Lie and Life Everlasting-In Freedom of the Sons of God, the Jehovah’s Witnesses present their picture of the coming of Christ and the establishment of His kingdom.
According to the Witnesses, Christ began His “second presence” on earth 1914. According to their interpretation of Bible Chronology, Daniel’s prophecy of “seven times” (Dan. 4:25) represented 2520 years of “Gentile Times”, beginning in the year Jerusalem was destroyed by the king of Babylon, 607 B. C., and ending in 1914. We quote: “The times of the Gentiles would end in 1914 and then the time would be due for God’s kingdom to be fully established in heaven. It was not to be re-established on the earth in the non-Christian city of Jerusalem in the Middle East, but in the heavens, in the hands of the permanent Heir of King David, the resurrected, glorified Jesus Christ at God’s right hand.”
“From the heavenly throne, in which Jehovah God seated him, God sent forth the `rod’ of Christ’s strength from the heavenly Zion toward the earth where the enemy nations are. In this way the Messiah or Christ has come to earth to begin his `second presence’ here. It did not require his direct personal coming as a spirit person. Since he has all the needed power in heaven and on earth, it required only the turning of his attention to the earth and the :mending of his royal power to the earth for him to be present again. Hence his ‘presence’ now is invisible.” (from Things in Which It Is Impossible for God to Lie, pp. 335, 336)
According to the Witnesses, this “second presence,” unseen to natural human eyes, will continue until the end of the 6000 years. The 6000 years from man’s creation was to end in 1975, our time, and the seventh period of a thousand years of human history begin. During this 1000-year reign of Christ in heaven, Armageddon will be fought, God’s judgments will be on the earth and the earth will be cleansed of all those who refuse to know and acknowledge God.
After the judgment of the inhabitants of the earth, a universal resurrection of the thousands of millions of humans in the grave will take place. These will likewise be judged by Jesus and the faithful will be made “princes in all the earth,” to represent here on earth the invisible heavenly government of Jesus Christ. By the end of the thousand years all living on the earth will have become perfect, though still mortal. The only immortals will be the 144,000 joint-heirs, reigning with Christ in heaven. All earth will be a paradise for human sons of God, the Kingdom of God.
Christ’s “Invisible” Presence?
An earthly kingdom with an invisible king? Impossible! If any one point is made clear in the Scriptures, it is that Christ’s second coming will be visible. “Your eyes will see the King in His beauty” (Isa. 33:17). Christ Himself compared His coming with lightning, and certainly lightning is visible (Matt. 24:27). At His coming, “we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). “Every eye will see him,” said the Revelator (1:7). The angels who stood by at His ascension said, “This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). They saw him go into heaven; they will see him return-and with their own eyes, not their understanding only.
The Kingdom on Earth, Not in Heaven
That the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Christ will be located on earth, not in heaven, is also made crystal clear in the Bible. Jesus taught His disciples to pray: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). Jerusalem is described as “the city of the great King” (Matt. 5:35). The righteous rulers are described as “kings and priests;…and we shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:10). Dan. 7:27 describes the kingdom: “The kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High.”
The prophet Isaiah foresaw the kingdom on the earth with Jerusalem as its headquarters: “For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isa. 2:3; Mic. 4:2). Jesus was to inherit the throne of “His father David,” and David’s throne was on the earth, not in heaven. Christ was to remain in heaven only until a set time—“until the times of restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21).
Christ Not a “Spirit”
The Witnesses speak of Christ as a “spirit person,” hence no one would see Him if He were here. But after His resurrection Christ made it plain that He was not a spirit. When He appeared in the midst of the apostles they were “terrified and affrighted, and supposed they had seen a spirit.” But Jesus assured them: “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24:37, 39). And we have no reason to assume that Christ ascended into heaven with any different body than that with which He appeared after His resurrection. He was a man as He appeared to them after the resurrection and He will come “in like manner” (Acts 1:11).
Date Setting Is Forbidden
In setting the date for Christ’s arrival in 1914 and again in setting the end of the 6000 years as 1975, the Witnesses are disregarding Jesus’ express prohibition of date-setting. According to the publication cited previously, the 1914 date was set in 1879, 35 years in advance. This practice is strictly forbidden for the Master said: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matt. 24:36). The apostle Paul described Christ’s coming as unknown, “as a thief in the night.”
It would take a great deal of imagination to believe that Christ is reigning over this sin-sick earth and has been since 1914. We have had two World Wars and many smaller conflicts, while the tension in the Middle East increases. Crime and immorality have spread like a cancer unchecked. Surely this is not the reign of Christ!
A Universal Resurrection?
Like the Adventists, the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach a universal resurrection. This teaching is unscriptural. (For evidence, refer to previous subsection of this study entitled, “A General Resurrection?”)
Other concepts of the Kingdom of God are many and varied. Modern-day writers have written much in an attempt to explain how they think the Kingdom of God will come. Others present the view that it is both present and future. Statements such as the following are common in their writings: “The Kingdom is a present realm or sphere into which men are now entering”; “the Kingdom is both present and future”; “the church is the people of the Kingdom and the Kingdom works in and through the church as it did in and through Jesus.” We shall discuss only a few of these concepts.
The Church as the Kingdom
To some, the Kingdom of God is the church. One expounder of this theory writes: “The Church is the army of the Kingdom of God, engaged in the task of conquering every hostile power and winning the world for Christ and ultimately for God. There is no need for Christ to return to accomplish the final victory of God’s Kingdom, but it will be accomplished by the victory of the church in the world.”
This theory falls short of the Bible definition of the Kingdom of God: It possesses neither King, territory nor laws. It does possess a multitude of subjects, should we include all nominal church members. But the church today shows no evidence of conquering the world or overcoming evil; on the contrary, the evils of the world have gradually crept into the church until the average church member is both in the world and of the world, a status forbidden by God (see 1 John 2:15-17; John 17:14-16).
The Kingdom Both Present and Future
Many of the above-quoted modern writers have written extensively in an attempt to explain how the Kingdom of God is both present and future. A misunderstanding of the words of Jesus in Luke 17:21, “The kingdom of God is within you,” has provided the basis for the contention that the Kingdom was present in Jesus’ day, hence must be present today.
Most Bible students realize Jesus taught a kingdom yet future, yet they also believe He said it was then in their midst, hence the seeming paradox. We are confident Jesus was not guilty of contradicting Himself. The Greek word, “basileia,” translated “kingdom,” in Luke 17:21, has also for its meaning, a “king; his royal majesty.” Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott renders the verse, “God’s royal majesty is among you.” Harper’s Greek Testament states in a footnote that Jesus was “alluding to His own presence in their midst.”
In our common King James Version, a marginal reference suggests “among” instead of “within”—the King was among them. This would agree with the major portion of Jesus’ teaching, that His kingdom was yet future, but they failed to comprehend His message and put Him to death.
The Kingdom in the Heart
The heart, like the church, falls short of the Bible description of the Kingdom, since it possesses none of the necessary elements and is declared by the prophet Jeremiah to be “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” And if the Kingdom were in the hearts of men, it would not have been in the hearts of the self-righteous Pharisees to whom the words “the Kingdom of God is within you” were addressed.
In the Berkeley translation Luke 17:21 is rendered: “indeed the kingdom of God is in your midst.” A footnote comments as follows: “The translation, `within you’ is equally possible, but could hardly be our Lord’s meaning regarding the Pharisees. More likely it means, `I am in your midst.”‘
STEP BY STEP INTO THE KINGDOM
The establishment of Christ’s Kingdom on this earth will come about by a series of events. We shall mention these steps in order of their occurrence.
The Arrival of Elijah
Christ’s return to earth will be presaged by the arrival of Elijah the prophet. Elijah is one of two Bible personages who never died, sharing with Enoch the glory of having been translated. According to the Scripture record “suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire,…and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (2 Kings 2:11). From the Psalmist we learn that “The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of thousands” (Ps. 68:17), thus we know that Elijah was borne away to heaven by the angels of God.
That Elijah was to be the forerunner of Christ’s second coming was spoken by the prophet Malachi: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse” (4:5-6). And Jesus Himself confirmed Elijah’s coming: “Elijah is coming first and will restore all things” (Matt. 17:11). (For further elucidation on this subject, see our booklet, These Things Shall Be.)
The Resurrection of the Dead in Christ
The resurrection of those who have covenanted to serve God will constitute part of the work of Elijah. According to 1 Thess. 4:16-17, the dead in Christ shall rise with the living to “meet the Lord in the air,” thus they will have to be resurrected before this initial meeting. Not everyone who has ever lived will be resurrected, but only those who have covenanted to serve Him. According to the parable of the Pounds, when the Lord returned He called His own servants and reckoned with them (Luke 19:12; Matt. 25:14). These servants will include both faithful and unfaithful (Daniel 12:2; John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15).
The Arrival of Christ
We are not told how much time will elapse between the coming of Elijah and that of Christ. With modern methods of communication news spreads around the world within minutes, hence it would not take long to warn all, even in remote areas, of the impending event. Jesus’ own words lead us to believe His coming will be sudden: “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be....watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming…therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matt. 24:27, 42, 44).
Christ will not come alone. It was the promise of the angels at His ascension that He would come again in like manner as He went. Luke reports that He was “carried up into heaven,” indicating the presence of angels; thus He will return with angels. “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels” (Matt. 16:27; see also Matt. 25:31; Mark 8:38).
The Judgment of His Servants
Before the Judgment can take place, the covenant–makers must be assembled. We learn from Matt. 24:31 that “He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, [the mission of Elijah], and they will gather together His elect from the four winds.” This will include all who have covenanted to serve Him throughout the Day of salvation. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10).
Election does not assure salvation; the reward will be according to what every man has done, whether good or bad. In Jesus’ own words, “He will reward each according to his works” (Matt. 16:27), and again, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work” (Rev. 22:12). The “all” who appear at the Judgment constitutes all the covenant-makers, all who have agreed to serve Him, both the living and the resurrected dead, faithful and unfaithful (Matt. 25:32-33).
We are not told where the Judgment will take place, but since the living and resurrected servants are caught up to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:16-17), it is probable that it will be held in the air. The prophecy of a famine of the words of the Lord (Amos 8:11-12) lends credence to this view. “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord God, that I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but shall not find it.
Christ Is King
Christ, of whom it was said by the angel before His birth, “He will be king over Israel for ever” (Luke 1:33, NEB) will be proclaimed King. Earth’s ruling powers, both ecclesiastical and secular, will rise up to resist the new government, thus precipitating Armageddon. True to Jesus’ parable of the Nobleman they will say: “We do not want this man as our king.”
The Conquest and Judgment of the Nations
Before Christ’s kingdom can be established all those who resist Him and oppose His righteous rule must be vanquished. They will not be cut off without first being given an opportunity to accept the new rule. “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come” (Rev. 14:7), will be the warning. The battle between the opposing forces will differ from wars as we know them: it will be a righteous war. We learn from Rev. 19:11, “In righteousness He judges and makes war.” This war will continue until all evil has been subdued. It will necessitate the destruction of two-thirds of earth’s inhabitants: “And it shall come to pass in all the land, says the Lord, that two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, but one-third shall be left in it” (Zech. 13:8).
The New Government in Operation
When the words of Rev. 11:15 are fulfilled and “the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ,” the new government will be in operation. It will be a kingdom as we know present-day kingdoms, with territory, rulers, subjects and laws. (See pages 6-10, this study.)
The Millennial Reign Of Christ
The Re-education of the Nations
Beginning with the Battle of Armageddon, and continuing throughout the Millennium will be a worldwide educational program. It was spoken by the prophet Isaiah that “When Your [God’s] judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (26:9). People will desire knowledge, (Zech. 8:20-22), and will be seeking it from Jerusalem, the capital city. Isa. 2:2-3 and Mic. 4:1-2 both tell of many seeking to learn the ways of the Lord.
The thousand years after the judgment of the nations, commonly known as the Millennium, will be a preface to eternity, a time of peace, prosperity, health and happiness on this earth. We shall cover these conditions as contained in the Scriptures.
Social conditions during the Millennium will be ideal. Wickedness will be restrained (Rev. 20:1-2). “You shall see disaster no more” (Zeph. 3:15). The law will be enforced: “He shall rule them with a rod of iron,” not that it will be cruel or harsh, but unbreakable. “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, this is the way, walk in it, whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left” (Isa. 30:21). This warning will keep people in the right way.
Peace Will Be Universal
Peace, the earnest desire of most world leaders today, will become a reality. It was promised by the angels at the birth of Christ but has proved elusive through the ages, but under a righteous King it will come: “Nation shall lift no sword against nation, and never again will they learn to make war” (Isa. 2:4, Phillips Translation).
Prosperity and Security for All
“They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.…For as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people, and My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain” (Isa. 65:21-23). Men will no longer fear other men: “But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid;…for all people walk each in the name of his god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God Forever and ever” (Mic. 4:4-5).
Health and Happiness for All
The promise is: “The inhabitant will not say, I am sick” (Isa. 33:24). Because there is no sickness, long life will be the rule, not the exception. “No more shall an infant from there live but a few days, nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days; for the child shall die one hundred years old, but the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed” (Isa. 65:20). Some claim this to be a description of eternity but it falls short of this for in eternity “there shall be no more death” (Rev. 21:4). Such a condition should and does produce happiness: “Happy are the people who are in such a state; Happy are the people whose God is the Lord” (Ps. 144:15).
Rebuilding and Glorifying the Earth
With the world’s resources turned from making implements of war to the betterment of mankind, pollution will become a forgotten word. Anything that is detrimental to the health and welfare of the people will be prohibited. Waste lands will be reclaimed and become productive: “The desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose” (Isa. 35:1). There will no longer be barren lands; all will be beautified. Cultivation of former desolate areas will alleviate food shortages that might occur due to the population increase caused by longevity.
The Second Resurrection
Although there will be no sickness or suffering, there will be death during the Millennium. Man will die simply because he has reached the end of his allotted time and it will be painless. All who have died during the Millennium will be amenable to judgment, because all knew the law, hence all will be resurrected. We learn of this second resurrection in Rev. 20:5: “The rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.”
Temporary Suspension of Law
After the Second Resurrection, and before the judgment of the multitudes that have lived and died during the Millennium, the law will be suspended for a brief period. We learn this from Rev. 20:7-8: “When the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations.” Wickedness, represented by Satan, has been controlled by law during the thousand years, and once the law is relaxed, it rears its ugly head. The guiding voice that said, “This is the way, walk in it” (Isa. 30:21) is not heard and those who still have evil in their heart rebel. Rev. 20:7-10 describes the rebellion and its outcome. The rebellion is put down and the guilty are cut off by the hand of God.
The Second Judgment
The Second Judgment, like the first, rewards everyone according to his works. It is pictured in Rev. 20:12-15: “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened…and the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books…and anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” Verse 14 defines the “lake of fire”: It is the second death, penal death.
Death and hell (the grave) are also described as being cast into the lake of fire. Death itself is dead. In the words of Paul, When “this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54).
Then dawns Eternity, the “eighth day”, a day of eternal duration, a day when our earth, glorified and beautified, is filled with the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. Then, in the words of the Revelator, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Then He who sat on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And He said to me, Write, for these words are true and faithful” (Rev. 21:4-5).
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