Last Updated on : Saturday, October 11, 2014
From The Bible
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Jesus taught his disciples to pray "Thy kingdom come." It is not yet come. If it were, the kingdom of men would not be in existence, for "the kingdoms of this worm "are to cease when the kingdom of God comes. They are to become His; and the prophets show us that when this comes to pass the government of the world will no longer be in the hands of unauthorised, ambitious, erring kings and rulers. When the kingdom of God comes, it will displace and overthrow every power m the world, and visibly establish God's power on the earth, by the hand of Christ and his saints--all of which will be made manifest to the reader in what is to follow.
For a general view of the subject, we cannot do better than turn to the second chapter of .Daniel. To advise the general reader to do this is to provoke a smile, perhaps, as if referring him to Daniel .were like referring him to Jack the Giant Killer. Few people realise as they ought, that Daniel is a prophet whose authority rests on no less a sanction than that of the Lord Jesus himself. Christ said to his disciples, "When ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not (LET HIM THAT READETH UNDERSTAND)," etc. (Mark xiii, 14). Not only does Christ specifically endorse the divinity of Daniel in this way, but he recognises it in the general appeals to the Scripture as the word of God, which, he said, "cannot be broken" (John x, 35). Daniel was a part of this Scripture, and therefore partakes of every confirmation given to the whole. In view of this, let us address ourselves, without the least reservation, to the reading of the chapter referred to.
It is a revelation of the most important kind. It is, in fact, the history of the world condensed in the form of a prophecy into a single chapter. To understand its bearing, we must transport ourselves into the past by upwards of a score of centuries, and take our stand, in imagination, with Nebuchadnezzar, the representative of the first great Babylonian dynasty. Taking him as he appears in the chapter, we find the monarch in reverie. He is thinking of his past achievements; of his brilliant career, and the fame and the dominion which he has established. While reviewing the past, his mind turns to the future. "Thy thoughts," says Daniel, "came into thy mind, upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter."
Should the great empire, which he had founded, be a haven for nations throughout all generations? or should some one rise after his death, and cause disruption and ruin? What would be the fate of the usurper? Should his power continue? or should it share a similar fate to his own? Should the world be a constant battle-field? Should history be an eternal record of strife and bloodshed? Should mankind for ever be cursed with the rivalries of potentates, and the devastations caused by military ambition? In this frame of mind, the monarch falls asleep; and while his slumbers are upon him, a dream is impressed upon the tablets of his brain by the Great Artificer, who hath the hearts of all men in His hands. The dream is for the purpose of answering the' questions which had started in his mind, and of enlightening future generations as to the purpose of the Almighty.
The king awakes; the dream imparted was instantly withdrawn. It is gone. The king only knows that he has had a dream of unusual impressiveness, but cannot recall its faintest outline. He' is distressed. The dream has left behind it the impression that it was no ordinary dream, but by no effort can he bring it back. In his distress he has recourse to the magicians of his court, who, according to the traditions of their order, ought to be able to tell him the dream and the meaning. But the demand is beyond their resources. They confess their inability to supply information which was beyond everyone's reach. The king is irritated: regards their inability as evidence of imposture, and issues a decree for their death.
This decree involved Daniel, who was a royal captive at Nebuchadnezzar's court, and who had been assigned an honorary position among the king's wise men, because of his capacity and culture. Daniel, hearing of it and the cause, asks respite, in the hope of obtaining a knowledge of the king's secret from God. That night, he and certain fellow captives made it the subject of special request and prayer, and that night Daniel was communicated a knowledge of the king's dream and the meaning. Daniel is called in, and the king's difficulty is at an end. Now, let us take notice of Daniel's first statement to the king: "There is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in THE LATTER DAYS" (chap. ii, 28). This is to be noted. It shows that the vision goes up to and finds its culmination in the "latter days,"--a phrase employed in Scripture to describe the closing period of human affairs. This gives it a special interest to us, as affecting our own and future times.
Daniel described the dream. The royal dreamer beheld a towering image of great size and imposing appearance. As the beholder looked, a second independent object appeared. A stone hewn by mysterious agency from an adjoining mountain came whizzing through the air; struck the great image on the feet with such violence, that the image was overturned, and fell in fragments. The stone growing larger,. rolled among these fragments, and ground them to powder, which the wind carried away. Then the stone went on enlarging until it became a great mountain, filling the whole earth.
Thus the vision consisted of two objects--separate and in-dependent--and one appearing before the other. It is well to realise this. The image is first seen towering in its metallic splendour, then the stone is revealed, not as a passive co-existent, but as a directly antagonistic body. There is no affinity between the two things; the stone does not move softly up to the image, and gradually incorporate itself with its substance. It dashes at it with violence, and at once brings it to the earth in ruins; and when the wind has cleared away the atomic residuum, the stone grows into a great mountain, to the filling of the whole earth. In doing so, it does not appropriate any of the substance of the demolished image, as that has all been driven away; but grows by its own inherent force.
Now, the things signified are explained by Daniel, and bear the same mutual relations as the symbols :--
Before considering these statements, it will be of advantage to take into account the 7th chapter of Daniel, where the same things are revealed in another form. If the reader will take the trouble of reading the chapter through, he will be rewarded by a clearer comprehension of the scope of the argument. It narrates a vision seen by Daniel himself, and interpreted to him by the angels. In the vision, beasts are substituted for Nebuchadnezzar's metals, and the stone finds its counterpart in the "judgment that shall sit, and consume and destroy the fourth beast unto the end."
In the two, we have a double representation of the same thing. Their great prophetic teaching is, that there were to arise in the earth four successive phases or forms of universal government, and that the whole should be superseded at last by an everlasting kingdom, to be established by God. The visions are of the broad and comprehensive type. They deal not with local manifestations. They take the civilised world as a whole, and present us with a general view of the great successive political changes of the world's history, without touching upon the. infinitude of detail which constitutes the material of historical writing. They were given to gratify the profitable curiosity that seeks to know the ultimate of history, and the destiny of the human race. The revelation was made in almost the earliest historic age, viz., during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. That is now twenty-five centuries ago; and it is our privilege to be able to trace its verification in the course of history, and thereby be prepared to look with confidence for its glorious consummation.
The empire established by Nebuchadnezzar was in existence at the time of the visions; we recognise it in the golden head of the image, and in the eagle-winged lion of Daniel's dream, both of which are appropriate symbols of the Babylonian power--the one representing the splendour and magnificence of the empire, the other its supremacy among the nations.
"After thee," said Daniel, "shall arise another. kingdom inferior to thee," and, therefore, represented by the inferior metal--silver. This prediction was fulfilled. An insurrection took place under Darius the Mede, in the days of Nebuchadnezzar's grandson, which resulted in the complete overthrow of his dynasty, and in the establishment of the Medo-Persian empire. Darius died in two years, without a lineal successor, and the vacant throng was peacefully filled by Cyrus the Persian, the rightful heir. The Persian phase continued 204 years and nine months, so that the Persian phase of the silver empire was of a very much longer duration that the Median phase of the same empire. This is signified by the bear in the second vision raising itself up on one side; and in Daniel viii, by a ram with two unequal horns, of which it is said (verse 3), "one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last that is, the Persian phase of the second empire, which was the longer, was last in order. The reader is referred to the chapter itself for further detail. The bear, which in Daniel's vision is chosen to represent the Medo-Persian empire, is said to have had "three ribs in the mouth of it, between the teeth of it." The political peculiarity symbolised by these ribs is thus identified, it is--
Darius Codomanus, the last occupant of the Medo-Persian throne, was defeated by Alexander, the Macedonian, otherwise "the Great," who entirely overthrew the power of the Persian empire. Then came the rule of the brazen-coated Greeks: Alexander became the sole emperor of the world, establishing "the third kingdom of brass." His dominion did not long remain intact. It had been written in explanation of another vision seen by Daniel (chap. viii, 21-22): --
The same thing had been predicted in the following words (Daniel xi, 3, 4):--
The fulfilment of these predictions was very remarkable. On the death of Alexander, his empire was divided among his four generals, and became established in four independent divisions, "not in his power," as the angel had foretold; for his power was not perpetuated by descendants, but shared among strangers.
The fourth kingdom is predicted--"strong as iron, breaking in pieces, and bruising." In one case, it is represented by the iron legs, feet, and toes of the image, and in the other by a fourth beast with ten horns, which Daniel describes "dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly, with great iron teeth, devouring and breaking in pieces, and stamping the residue with its (brazen-clawed) feet." Here again, history supplies an entire verification of the prophecy. The Roman empire rose into powerful existence, and vanquishing the power of Greece became mistress of the world, extending her dominion beyond the limits of any former empire, and establishing one of the strongest despotisms the world has ever seen. Her political qualities corresponded in every respect with the strong figures employed. She was "strong as iron," and "great, and dreadful, and strong exceedingly." The sagacity of her rulers, the rigour of her imperial administration, the military skill of her generals, the discipline of her army, the strength of her laws, and the unlimited extent of her resources, combined to make Rome the strongest piece of political machinery the world has ever seen. Her strength, however, though great and prolonged, was not everlasting. The language of the vision required that days of weakness should come. "Partly strong and partly broken;" this is the prediction, and so the days of universal Roman power passed away.
Then came the "partly broken" state. Strong first, as signified by the iron legs of the image, and the corporate strength of the fourth beast of Daniel's vision, she entered in her later stages the phase represented by the clay-sand-iron mixed ten-toed feet of the image, and the antagonistic horns on the head of the fourth beast. Broken at last by the repeated blows of the barbaric invasions from the north, we behold her now in a state of weakness and division. The European nations as we see them today are the latter-day divided phase of Roman power. The old imperial strength has gone. Rome no longer rules the world. She no longer sways the destinies of mankind with the most formidable of despotisms. She is broken, divided, weakened, a ricketty, disjointed, system of nations, which hardly holds together for very weakness: a mixture of iron and clay of brittle cohesion, destined ere long to be smashed to atoms by the invincible stone from heaven.
Rome has never been superseded. She has been changed by many vicissitudes. She still lingers in weakness. The present political arrangements on the continent of Europe are but a prolongation of her existence in another form, corresponding to the requirements of the vision. They exhibit to us the last stage of the fourth kingdom, and tell us that we approach the time when a change will come over the world--when the fifth kingdom shall be manifested in destructive antagonism to all human power.
This suggests the consummation. The exactness with which this prophetic revelation has been verified in history supplies a clue and inspires entire confidence with respect to the unfulfilled part of the vision. History has brought us to the feet of the image, and the last of the four beasts; that is, to the close of the fourth great dominion, which it was predicted should arise in the earth. But what lies beyond? Let any one sit down and peruse the second and seventh chapters of Daniel attentively, and see if he do not, as a matter of self-evident testimony, come to the conclusion that the next step in the march of events is the visible interposition of divine power in human affairs.
Consider the stone: it is hewn from its bed by miraculous agency; it appears on the scene after the image has attained complete development; it descends upon the feet of the image with violence, and reduces the human-like structure to atoms, which are taken away by the wind; and THEN the stone expands into earth-occupying dimensions. Now, what is the interpretation of all this? We could almost work the problem unaided, so unmistakable is the evident significance of the symbolism. But let the plain language of divine explanation decide (Dan. ii, 44):--
Can there be any difference of opinion as to the meaning of this language? It is addressed to us as an interpretation; therefore, it is not enigmatical. It is a plain and literal statement, declaring the purpose of God to set aside the existing arrangement of things on earth, and this not in an unseen, quiet, gradual manner, such as the expected spread of a spiritual millennium; but with the visibility, violent destructiveness, and suddenness of the stone's descent upon the image. The four kingdoms have destroyed each other; but inasmuch as they were of the same (human) stock, they are not represented in the vision of the image as separate conflicting objects, but as part and parcel of the same body politic. Yet they violently and completely superseded each other, though no violence is signified in the symbol.
The only violence represented is in connection with the crisis that has not yet arrived. It is employed by the stone toward the image, as representing the entire system of human government. This would lead us to anticipate violence of an unprecedented kind, when the event signified comes to pass; and the reader will see that the wording of the interpretation is strictly corroborative of this legitimate inference. "The God of heaven shall . . break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms." Herein is predicted the entire disruption of all systems of human government, the complete and violent suppression of "the powers that be." This is not a "notion" or a "crotchet" founded upon an ambiguous symbol, but a simple reiteration of the unmistakable language of inspired interpretation. The same purpose is distinctly intimated in other parts of Scripture. For instance, in Psalm ii, Christ is addressed in the following language (verses 8, 9):--
Again, Hannah, on the occasion of Samuel's birth, uses the following words in her song (I Sam. ii, 10):--
Again (Haggai ii, 21-22):--
There are many other statements of a similar .import throughout the Scriptures; but these are sufficient to show that the teaching in the book of Daniel is not isolated or exceptional, but coincident with the general tone of prophetic testimony. That testimony destroys the popular idea of a millennium to be brought about by evangelical enterprise. It precludes the theory of gradual enlightenment and amelioration by human agency. It shows that all expectations of a day of perfection, consequent upon the ultimate triumph of Christianity in the world, are visionary as a dream, destined to receive effectual dissipation in the awful judgments by which the powers of the world will be overthrown.
Returning to Daniel, we find that there is not only a work of demolition, but a work of upbuilding and restitution. This is the most glorious feature of the divine purpose; "the God of heaven shall SET UP a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, and the kingdom shall not be left to other people... and it shall stand for ever." Now, let us consider, for a moment, what the setting up of a kingdom means, and we shall understand this statement better. A kingdom is not an abstraction. It is not any single thing; it is an aggregation of certain elements which go to make it up. A 'king in himself is not a kingdom; neither is a country, or people, or laws, separately; it requires them all combined to constitute a kingdom. This must commend itself to every man's judgment. A kingdom consists of, first, a king; second, an aristocracy; third, a people; fourth, a territory; and fifth, laws. Now, to set up a kingdom is obviously to arrange and combine these elements. To appoint a king is not to set up a kingdom: David was anointed years before he ascended the throne: but the kingdom of David was not established until David actually became king over the realm. To portion out a territory is not to set up a kingdom; a land without a king or inhabitants is no kingdom. To set up a kingdom is to put together with various parts that make one. Now, in the testimony before us, we have it declared that it is the purpose of the Almighty to do this very thing--to organise a kingdom of His own in place of those which now occupy the earth, after they shall have been swept out of the' way. Hence, we are led to expect, as the inevitable result of testimony believed, that when the fourth kingdom, now existing, shall have been abolished of God, a new order of things shall visibly arise in the earth, in which there shall be a God-appointed king, a God-constituted aristocracy, a God-selected people, a God-chosen land, and God-given laws--altogether constituting a kingdom of God' on the earth. Accordingly, we find that each of these elements is separately provided for in the course of prophecy. On the subject of the king, we need not go out of Daniel, chapter vii, 13, 14: --
Here we have an explanation of chapter ii, 44. But the main point to be noted is that Daniel supplies us with the first element of the kingdom, viz., the king, styled in chapter ix, 25, "Messiah the Prince." This is Jesus Christ, spoken of in Revelation xix, 16, as the "King of kings, and Lord of lords." This is a subject capable of much enlargement; but as a whole lecture will be devoted to it, we at present desist.
Daniel also supplies us "with the aristocracy of the coming kingdom. We find them in the following verse from chapter vii :--
These are referred to by Peter (I Peter ii, 9), as "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people "; and in Revelation v, 10, they are prospectively represented as singing, "Thou hast made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall REIGN ON THE EARTH." In these, we recognise the brethren of Christ who are faithful to the end, and counted worthy to inherit the kingdom of God. Writing to such, Paul says, "God hath called you unto His kingdom" (I Thess. ii, 12); and, again, "Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?" (I Cor. vi, 2). Thus the aristocracy of the future age are neither more nor less than the poor men and women of this and all past ages who do the will of God, and hope for His salvation. They are "taken out from among the Gentiles as a people for His name." They are "called to His kingdom and glory," and "their citizenship is," therefore, "in heaven." They have here "no continuing city: they seek one to come." They are not known or recognised by the world. They walk in obscurity; they are among the humble of the earth; they are without name, standing, or wealth, but they are, nevertheless, the greatest among the sons of men. They are destined to be the rulers in a perfect age that shall be without end, the possessors of all the wealth that great men are now piling up with such diligence. They are monarchs of more illustrious degree than any of "the rulers of the darkness of this aion (age)." The time hastens when the Almighty. will "put down the mighty from their seats, and exalt them of low degree." What a privilege to be among the latter, even if it does involve present obscurity and defame!
Next, the subjects of the kingdom; they also are plainly identified with the Jews to whom Moses said (Deut. vii, 6):--
The Jews are now in a scattered and afflicted condition; but they are to be gathered from their dispersion, and reinstated in their land as a great nation, there to constitute the subject-people of the Messiah when he returns. This is a subject by itself, and will be treated in a separate lecture. Meanwhile, it is necessary to make this passing mention of the subject, in order to complete the picture of the kingdom of God. It is necessary to add, In order to prevent misconception, that the subject-inhabitants of the earth in the future age are not restricted to the Jews. They also comprise "all people, nations, and languages." Yet there is a distinction to be marked. "The kingdom of God" is distinct from the "all people, nations, and languages," which it rules; just as the kingdom of Great Britain is distinct from Canada, New Zealand, and her other colonies. The Jews will Be to the kingdom of God what Englishmen are to England, and other nations will form so many dependencies subject to, but not constituting, the kingdom of God, so that while all are the subjects of the kingdom, yet the Jews are so in a proper and exclusive sense. Hence we read, Zech. viii, 23 :--
And again, Micah iv, 8 :--
But all this will be made more apparent in another lecture. The fourth element of the kingdom--THE LAND--is also frequently mentioned in the Scriptures, and often in such a way as directly to identify it with God's future purpose. It is repeatedly spoken of as "my land." For illustration of this, the reader is referred to Ezekiel xxxviii, 16: xxxvi, 5; Jeremiah xvi, 18: ii, 7; Isaiah xiv, 25, etc. Moses says of it (Deut. xi, 12), "It is a land which the Lord thy God careth for; the eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year." This was Palestine, "that lieth between the river of Egypt and the great river Euphrates "--the land promised as a personal everlasting possession to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Gen. xiii, 14: xxvi, 3: xxviii, 13). The Jews occupied it under divine covenant for many centuries, but were ultimately expelled from it in shame, because they defiled it. At present the land is desolate and desecrated by every species of Gentile abomination: but we are told of a time (Deut. xxxii, 43) when God "will be merciful unto His land and to His people." Of that time it is written (Zech. ii, 12) :--
Again (Ezekiel xxxvi, 33, 35) :--
As to the laws, it is written in Isaiah ii, 3, 4 :--
Here then is a summary of the Scripture testimony, in which the five constituent elements of the kingdom of God are made clearly manifest. It is needless to say that this kingdom is not yet in existence: such a proposition is self-evident. Its existence does not commence till human government is entirely abolished. Not until the great image--now standing upon its ten-toed feet in Europe--is broken to pieces, and "driven away like the chaff of the summer threshing-floors," shall the stone expand to the filling of the whole earth. That stone has not yet descended; Jesus Christ has not yet returned from the far country whither he has gone, to receive for himself a kingdom (Luke xix, 12-27). He is waiting for the appointed time. When that arrives, he will be made manifest as "the stone which the builders rejected, become the head of the corner; on whomsoever it shall fall it will grind him to powder." He will go forth "to make war against the kings of the earth and their armies" (Rev. xix, 11, 20); having overcome them, "the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ" (Rev. xi, 15).
Then will commence a glorious reign, outdistancing, by infinitude, the most perfect government that has ever been conceived by man. One king at the head shall possess wisdom equal to all the exigencies of universal dominion--his mercy untainted by selfishness and unblemished by weakness, and his power omnipotent for the enforcement of his will. AN IMMORTAL KING, no apprehension of death will haunt his court or mar the joyous confidence of the rejoicing peoples who will thank God for his righteous sway. His government will be firm, direct, and absolute--no vacillation--no circumlocution--no doubtfulness and indecision. "The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him; the spirit of wisdom and understanding; the spirit of counsel and might; the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord. And he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears; but with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth. And he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked" (Isaiah xi, 2-4).
Absolute authority, backed by omnipotence, will rule mankind with simplicity and vigour. Righteous law, emanating from its legitimate Source, will be enforced with resistless authority. Innocence will be protected, poverty banished, rapacity restrained, arrogance brought down, and the rights of all secured in everything. The King's government will be administered by the King's associates, his immortal, incorruptible, perfected brethren, who having undergone previous moral preparation in circumstances of great trial, will have been fashioned like unto the glorious body of their Lord and Master. The power will be permanently in their hands, not by popular suffrage, but by royal commission of the true type. The power of the people will be a myth in those days. All assertion of political birthright will be suppressed. An iron administration, with superhuman powers at their command, will vigorously put down rebellion in every form, and maintain the only government that will have blessed the world with peace and righteousness in the name of divine right. Then shall the glory of the Lord cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. Then shall be fulfilled the words of the angels: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men."
The Kingdom of God Not Yet In Existence, But To Be Established Visibly On The Earth At A Future Day