Politics & Prophecy: A Lawyer’s View of the End Times
Part 5 – The Kingdom of Christ
by Gerald R. Thompson
The Unfinished Work Of Christ
The Christian community is accustomed to saying things like the work of Christ is finished. When Jesus was dying on the cross, He said, “It is finished,” right? Yes, the spiritual ministry of Christ was completed in the First Advent.
The covenant in Christ is perfect and needs no tweaking. However, it only pertains to personal salvation, i.e., it only applies to individuals in their individual capacities. To some, perhaps, this is all that Jesus will ever need to do and His remaining work on earth is limited to tying up the loose ends of the First Advent.
I stated early on that if the whole purpose of the Second Coming of Christ is merely to: 1) collect the saints and take them up to heaven; 2) defeat the forces of Satan; and 3) usher in eternity (the heavenly kingdom); then all of those can be done without Jesus returning to the earth, that is, actually touching ground. Jesus can meet the saints in the air, defeat Satan and his forces by the mere appearance of His coming, destroy the heavens and the earth, and send everyone to the Great White Throne without ever doing anything on earth.
In which case, the Second Coming being accompanied with clouds, signs in the sky, riders on white horses and the saints or the host of heaven is merely grand theater – a spectacle for the ages that no one will be around to remember. As soon as it happens, everyone will be whisked away into eternity where all such things will be forgotten, but gosh, Jesus sure ended everything with a big show!
On the other hand, if Jesus is going to actually touch ground, stand on the Mt. of Olives and split it in two from north to south, there must be something more. There is – there must be – an unfinished work of Christ on this earth. That something must be – can only be – the establishment of an earthly kingdom separate from and prior to the eternal heavenly kingdom, i.e., the Millennial kingdom.
When we took a look at the Millennium, we saw that everyone initially entering the kingdom will be an unbeliever, though converts will quickly come. Nonetheless, there will never be a time short of eternity when everyone on earth turns their hearts to Christ, nor will the sin nature of believers be abated. So even in the Millennium, people will sin, break the law, and need governing. Not just moral governing, but civil government. Thus, the saints will be there to rule and reign with Christ as government workers to operate the machinery of that government.
The Jews, for their part, will finally welcome Jesus as their Messiah, and He will reclaim the throne of His ancestor king David, which has laid dormant for all these years since the diaspora. After the Second Coming, Jesus and the Jews will regain control over Jerusalem, rebuild the temple, and Jesus will occupy the temple as God and rule the nations from His throne in the new temple.
There’s just one tiny, little problem with all of that. The throne of David only entitles Jesus (the “Son of David”) to rule over the nation of Israel. It does not give Him the right to rule over any of the other nations.
The covenant in Christ may be perfect as it relates to Jesus as Redeemer, but it does not apply to Jesus as the King of Kings, nor does it pertain to nations or governments. He will be the conqueror of the whole world, but He will only have the authority to rule a very tiny piece of it. What – you don’t think things like that matter to God?
As if Jesus is going to simply land on the Mt. of Olives and say, “Hello, I’m the big guy. Everybody bow down and worship me,” and start ruling with a rod of iron. When has God ever operated on the principle of the rights of conquest, or “you keep what you kill”?
God has always been the big guy, yet He has never operated in this fashion. Merely having a superior power and conquering one’s enemies is not a sufficient basis for establishing rule, not even for God. It is God’s nature to inaugurate a new aspect of His relationship with mankind with a covenant specific to that new aspect. In this case, it means a new covenant with the nations.
I conceive of this new covenant as a form of further perfection of the Mosaic and Davidic covenants. From a legal perspective, the Mosaic law had three basic components: 1) the eternal moral law (the law of nature); 2) the ceremonial/ redemptive law (the law of the priesthood); and 3) the civil law (the theocratic or governmental laws). Of those, the eternal moral law was perfect from the beginning and never needed a correction.
When Jesus came originally, the ceremonial law of the Mosaic covenant was abolished and perfected through His ministry. That perfection was accomplished by taking what was originally administered by men (the descendants of Aaron) solely for the Jews, and replacing it with a new covenant administered by Christ for the people of all nations based on a “higher” priesthood.
Which is to say, in the First Advent Jesus needed to do more than just show up. He had to inaugurate a new covenant between God and men. However, the covenant in Christ only pertained to individuals in their individual capacities – not to nations or governments.
Meanwhile, the theocratic laws of Israel have been laying dormant (unused) ever since the deportation to Babylon. They were never abolished by Christ, because He only altered the laws of the priesthood (the Levitical system, the sacrificial system, and the physical temple). “For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well.” Heb. 7:12. The book of Hebrews tells us all about the changes made to the ceremonial (priesthood) laws, but says nothing about the theocratic laws.
Chief among the theocratic laws is the Davidic covenant, which provides for the orderly transfer, and rightful possession, of the throne of David. 2Sa. 7. Like the rest of the theocratic laws, the Davidic covenant has been laying dormant since the deportation. No rightful king of Israel has assumed the throne since. It is waiting to be reactivated by the coming of the Son of David. Therefore, when Jesus returns He will claim the throne of David, reinstitute the theocracy in Israel, and rule as king over that nation.
But if that’s all Jesus does governmentally, it will be a colossal failure. Although re-establishing the throne of David will be terribly important to Israel, merely reclaiming the old system in place at the time of David won’t be enough to establish a worldwide government. The old system will need to be extended and perfected to make it apply to all nations. And that will be accomplished by taking what was originally administered by men (the descendants of David) solely for the Jews, and replacing it with a new covenant administered by Christ for the people of all nations based on a “higher” kingship.
Sadly, the religious community is not very well attuned to this reality. When examining the divine covenants to date, theologians tend to view all the covenants as having the common thread of redemption, and so they emphasize the elements of grace, mercy, and the remission of sins as provided for in the covenants. This limited understanding misses much of what God is doing by way of His covenants. There is another thread running through the covenants, a thread of law and government.
This thread is every bit as prominent as the redemptive thread. For example, after the Fall, the covering of Adam and Eve’s nakedness and the prediction about the seed of the woman all occur after the giving of the Adamic covenant and its Dominion Mandate. Yes, Gen. 3:14-19 are important, but they were not – are not – part of the terms of the Adamic covenant. They are merely part of the circumstances occurring near the same time as the covenant. Which is more important, the actual terms of the covenant, or the circumstances near it? Psst – don’t ask a theologian – ask a lawyer.
Further, the Adamic and Noahic covenants established a basic framework for living on this earth in obedience to God’s laws. They covered such non-spiritual things as: subduing the earth, having children, work and labor, eating meat, and capital punishment. Those early covenants were sufficient to establish man as a self-governing person, with only individual self-government and family government instituted to carry these purposes out.
Neither civil government nor the Church were essential to God’s purposes for creating man and putting him on the earth. If they had been, wouldn’t God have instituted them from the beginning?
Civil government didn’t come along until after Babel (about 1750 years after creation), and man was on this earth 4,000 years before the Church came along. Hey, I’m glad the Church came along, but don’t tell me man didn’t have a purpose, or couldn’t do anything right, until the Church arrived. Did God really put man on this earth and forget to give him everything he needed to do well until God suddenly remembered what He forgot 4,000 years later?
Yes, the Church covenant enhanced man’s ability to carry out the prior covenants, but it did not supersede them, or suddenly give them new meaning they didn’t have before (as in, “fulfilling” or completing those prior covenants).
Are we really to believe that everyone living in the first 4,000 years of history were all “looking forward” to something they never consciously knew was coming (i.e., the Church)? I said it earlier – a person’s view of the end times is entirely pre-determined by their view of the divine covenants, and now you know what I mean. If you think the new covenant in Christ (the Church covenant) is the last divine covenant there will ever be, then you will miss completely what God wants to accomplish in the earthly kingdom of Christ.
When we get to the Abrahamic, Mosaic and Davidic covenants, we see God utilizing one nation as an example of how His law was to be implemented for the good of mankind both temporally (horizontal relationships between man and man) and spiritually (vertical relationship between man and God). But each of these three covenants had significant non-spiritual elements in them – the Abrahamic relating to real estate (the Promised Land), and the Davidic relating to kingdom succession. As I mentioned earlier, much of the Mosaic covenant was devoted to earthly things.
Only the covenant in Christ, of all the divine covenants, did not apply in any of its terms to non-spiritual matters. The rest of the divine covenants all pertained in large part to non-spiritual matters. And of these, the Mosaic and Davidic covenants practically scream for extension and perfection. In other words, yes, the earthly kingdom of Christ will need to be inaugurated by a new divine covenant establishing a worldwide theocracy in the legal sense.
People today use the word theocracy to mean all kind of things, most of them pejorative, and most of which have nothing to do with an actual theocracy. Thus, merely trying to remain faithful to the laws of nature and nature’s God is branded theocratic, and therefore bad, because the First Amendment says we can’t have any theocracies here. People scream, “Separation of church and state!” completely ignorant of the fact that the laws of nature and nature’s God do not authorize the creation of a theocracy or make America theocratic. Then they turn a blind eye towards Shariah law, which actually does attempt to create a theocracy. Talk about a mixed up world.
The fact is, there has only ever been one theocracy in the history of the world, and all of our attempts to create a theocracy this side of the Second Coming are utterly doomed to fail. That’s because a theocracy, in the legal sense, is a nation where: 1) God personally rules national affairs as the supreme civil head of state; and 2) God is an actual party to the nation’s civil covenant, or constitution. The only nation in the history of the world where such a thing has been done is ancient Israel.[For all you doubters, let’s check the proofs. 1) God was the supreme civil head of state (i.e., king) of ancient Israel: “And the Lord said to Samuel, Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.'” 1 Sam 8:7. “For the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver; the Lord is our king; he will save us.” Isa 33:22.
2) God was a party to the civil constitution of ancient Israel: “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Exo 19:5-6a. “These are the words of the covenant that the Lord commanded Moses to make with the people of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant that he had made with them at Horeb.” Deut 29:1.]
But when Jesus comes, that is exactly what He will do – establish a theocracy. Meaning: 1) He will personally rule the world as the supreme civil head of state (i.e., as King of kings and Lord of Lords – Rev. 19:16); and 2) Jesus will be an actual party to the worldwide civil covenant. Which necessitates that there be a new civil covenant with Jesus as king. And if Jesus is a party to the covenant, then God is an actual party to the agreement.
Now, let’s put this together with the fact that Jesus will enter into a new spiritual covenant with the future remnant of Israel as per Jer. 31:31-34. Which means that of this writing, there are likely to be two new divine covenants coming on the scene post-Second Advent: 1) one covenant limited to the nation of Israel with regard to its salvation, security and prosperity; and 2) another covenant with all the other nations with regard to their civil government and Jesus Christ as their king.
Are these likely to be wrapped up into a single covenant, rather than two? Yes, it is possible, though the fact one of them is specifically foretold leads me to believe they will be separate. Plus, God has always dealt with Israel separately from all the other nations, so I think it unlikely He will comingle them together at this point – especially since Israel will remain first among the nations and not merely bunched in with the rest. Thus, my belief is there will be a total of eight divine covenants, not just seven.
This is consistent with the usage of the number eight in scripture as the number of new beginnings. If there is one thing the earthly kingdom of Christ will be, it is a new beginning. Especially since – as we have already seen – the beast kingdom will culminate in an eighth iteration, marking the latest, greatest and final instance of the kingdom of Satan. So the Millennial kingdom will be the latest, greatest and final instance of the kingdom of Christ prior to eternity.
We can expect that the millennial civil government thus established will most likely enforce religious laws, such as idolatry and blasphemy, although even then redemption will not be coerced. People will still be free to reject Christ, and this will not be unlawful. We know that all of Israel will be saved, but this will not be true of the rest of the nations.
It is in this context that we can best understand the prophecy of Zech. 14:16-19:
Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths. And if any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them. And if the family of Egypt does not go up and present themselves, then on them there shall be no rain; there shall be the plague with which the Lord afflicts the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Booths. This shall be the punishment to Egypt and the punishment to all the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Booths.
Students of scripture will be familiar with the fact that several of the O.T. feasts (such as Passover) were symbolically fulfilled in the First Advent and we have no expectation of seeing those feasts revived in the Millennium. Not so the Feast of Booths, and here Zech.14 specifically foretells that feast will be a regular part of life for the nations which were defeated at Armageddon under the rule of Christ.
This is exactly the kind of law that can only be enforced in a theocracy – a religious feast observance specifically directed to nations other than Israel. And notice, it is not merely a form of moral persuasion or enforcement that we are accustomed to seeing today. Rather, it is a law enforced with a measure of temporal punishment and coercion as befits a kingdom ruled with a rod of iron. It is the use of the office of civil government (i.e., the King, not the Savior or the Redeemer) to enforce a religious observance. Clearly, the kingdom of Christ will be unlike any prior civil government among the Gentile nations.
But how will Jesus acquire the authority to enforce such a law? It was not granted to Him in the First Advent. It was not granted to Him in the Davidic covenant. It will not be conferred on Him when Jer. 31:31-34 is fulfilled. Is God going to simply grant that authority to Jesus in the absence of a covenant?
We know that eventually all things will be put in subjection under the feet of Jesus. This was first foretold in Ps 8:4-6. Heb. 2:5-8, quoting Ps. 8, makes clear that nothing will be left outside of Jesus’ control. However, that same text also notes, “At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.” Also, 1 Cor. 15:24-27 indicates that not everything will truly be put under subjection to Jesus until the end comes and death is destroyed – meaning that the ultimate fulfillment of Ps 8 will not come until the Millennial kingdom is ended.
So the question is what God will do in the meantime. Again, I must look to the pattern of what has happened in history so far, that is, the divine covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Israel, David and the Church. God has always ruled man via covenant – never on the basis of merely having superior power or the right of conquest. And in the only instance of a theocracy so far – the covenant with Israel – God had every right to rule the nation as its Creator, yet He chose not to. Will He act differently with the rest of mankind? Why would He?
To me the biblical pattern is abundantly clear: it is absolutely necessary that before any earthly kingdom exercise the authority to enforce spiritual laws, of whatever nature, a covenant exist by which such authority is conferred. There simply must be a new civil covenant. Even when the ruler is God Himself.
It is easy to understand what God has done in the past – but what He is doing now, and where He is going with it, is harder to discern. Yet, He has disclosed this intention, because fundamentally, Jesus’ Second Advent will not be the same in character as the First Advent. The First Advent was limited to a spiritual kingdom which was redemptive in nature. The Second Advent will be a temporal kingdom which is civil in nature. What is the Church doing today to prepare its people for responsible citizenship during the Second Advent? Precious little. Perhaps we can change that.