Politics & Prophecy: A Lawyer’s View of the End Times
Part 5 – The Kingdom of Christ
by Gerald R. Thompson
The Millennial Church
We’ve talked about what the kingdom of Christ will look like governmentally during the Millennium. But what about the Church? What will it look like?
Mainly, it will actually look like a worldwide body of Christ. That is, one body, with one head. Believers, though many, will be one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Rom. 12:5. No longer will there be any divisions within the Church, but believers worldwide will be united in the same mind and the same judgment. Cf. 1Cor. 1:10. It’s hard to imagine. But that’s what you will get when the one true head of the Church (Col. 1:18) will lead it visibly.
I suspect all Christian denominations and sects with which we are now familiar will disappear. Christ is not divided (1Cor. 1:13), so neither will His Church be after He arrives. All too familiar divisions over baptisms and sacraments will vaporize. So too will all doctrinal disputes in other areas. Jesus will be here in person to answer all religious questions and put an end to all disputes. There will be no contrary viewpoints on any matter to which He will speak. His word will be the one true rule of faith and practice for everyone. Isa. 2:3.
Undoubtedly all separate Christian movements led or started by so-called prophets coming after Christ will be gone. Prophets and prophecy will not yet be sealed up and finished, but prophets will merely take their place alongside other Church officers as contributing members of the body, and not be its leaders or founders. Gone will be all false prophets and self-appointed prophets. Those who are called by Christ as prophets will not involve themselves with anything so scandalous as a separated denomination or sect. Those things will not exist.
When the Millennium starts, the Church will literally start over from scratch. All that came before will be discarded and thrown away by God as useless. Just imagine, if you will, all the people who are religious and church-going but who never truly believed at the point when Jesus returns. They may (or may not) survive the Tribulation, but do you really think God is going to move forward in the kingdom of Christ, (re)building the Church with people who were only pretenders? They will be of no use to Jesus.
Instead, Jesus will form a new core constituency consisting of the nation of Israel, who will follow the example of the 144,000 and convert to Christ so that Judaism and Christianity will unify and merge with the result that “all Israel will be saved.” Rom. 11:26. [Note: I did not just say that the nation of Israel and the Church would unify and merge. Once the Jews accept Jesus as their Messiah, the religions of Judaism and Christianity will merge – Jesus is not going to rule the world and preside over two religions from the rebuilt Temple. But national Israel (genealogically and politically) will always be separate from the Church.]
From there, the Gospel will spread around the globe and many (if not most) of the remaining peoples will also turn to Christ. The Church, as an institution, will be recreated from these new converts, guided and judged by the translated saints. No one will be grafted into the Church based on prior religious experience. And all remnants of the religions which previously covered the earth will be discarded in toto.
Also totally absent will be all forms of human priesthoods, for Christ abolished all human priesthoods as a result of the First Advent (Heb. 7:12), and He alone will act as high priest on behalf of all believers as a priest according to the order of Melchizedek. Heb. 5:10; 6:20; 7:17. The universal priesthood of all believers is of course a present spiritual reality, but in the Millennium it will be a political (i.e., an institutional) reality.
No one in a leadership role in the Millennial Church will dare to call themselves a priest. Or for that matter, reverend (for all believers are equally holy to God). Or father. Mat. 23:9. The word minister will return to being a verb, not a noun or a title. There will still be bishops and overseers, but they will likely be known simply as elders and they won’t be able to turn their humble office into a career. There simply won’t be any more profiteering in the Church. It’s way long overdue.
In Shakespear’s Henry The Sixth, one of the characters (a rebellious person) declared, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” But in the Millennium, it is the priests who will all be eliminated, since all human priests are false priests (there is no true priest except Christ). True, some of them may be genuine believers and be translated along with the rest of the Body of Christ at Jesus’ return, yet I suspect many will not make the cut. The point is, those priests who remain un-translated will no longer be needed and those who are translated will not be replaced.
And while a great many lawyers will also undoubtedly not be included in the first resurrection, at least in the kingdom of Christ there will still be a need for lawyers and judges to help govern the people – lawyers who will be honest and judges who will be righteous. “Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed.” Rev. 20:4. But a human priest who is either honest or righteous is an oxymoron, as any honest man of God would acknowledge there is no true priest but Christ, and any righteous man of God would decline the dishonor of being named a priest of God among men.
Oh, there will still be pastors in the Millennium, but there will no longer be any clergy. By this I mean that the original intent of Eph. 4:11 will finally be put into effect. That scripture tells us there are five offices in the Church appointed by God: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. I have no reason to believe any of these offices (as originally intended) will change in the Millennium – each of them will still play a vital role in the life of the Church.
But the Bible absolutely nowhere indicates there is any hierarchy among these offices, that any of them are full-time while others are part-time, that any are compensated while others are uncompensated, or that any have authority or leadership over the others. In other words, there will be pastors, but pastors will not be in charge. They will have no elevated status, no higher calling, no superior authority, no exclusive sacerdotal functions, and no greater ministry than apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teachers. Which is to say, there will be no clergy.
Neither will there be any laity. The clergy-laity distinction will evaporate. The Church will still be an institution of charity and giving, but no one will collect tithes, which were abolished when the Levitical priesthood was abolished. Heb. 7:12. “But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” 1 Cor. 12:24-25.
The whole concept of a tithe presumes a division in the body: those who pay it (laity) vs. those who receive it (clergy) – a shameless carryover from Judaism and its division between Levites and non-Levites. The absence of a clergy-laity distinction negates the tithe – not that it ever belonged in the Church to begin with.
Each of the offices will return to its original function for the benefit of all. Apostles will be needed to plant churches. Prophets will be needed to proclaim the word of God. Evangelists will be needed to spread the Gospel. Pastors will be needed to mentor believers. Teachers will be needed to instruct the faithful. And none will jockey for positions of authority and power. They will just fulfill their callings.
This will be possible only because everything that exists now (Church-wise) will be removed. For one thing, only unbelievers will enter the Millennium. So as an institution among men, the Church will start over and be done right, since Jesus will be there personally to supervise its rebirth.
You know – the way the Church was intended to be from the beginning, but people screwed it up. They could have, would have, should have read the scriptures to see what is plainly written there about the Church, but instead they promoted and preserved their own selfish interests. At long last, all these false religious trappings will be thrown off once Jesus returns. But what about Rev. 20:6? “Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.” Aha! Doesn’t that prove there will be priests in the Millennial Church? Yes and no.
First, let’s look at the verse. A) These are resurrected (and possibly translated) saints we’re talking about, not mortal human beings who survive the Tribulation. B) These priests will rule and reign in the Millennial kingdom, i.e., they will be kingdom priests. Government workers. Not exactly your typical sort of priests. So if you’re going to draw any parallels between these priests and the clergy of today – well, that’s a stretch.
Second, let’s look at the biblical history of kingdom priests. It all started with the giving of the law to Israel in the time of Moses. “You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” Ex 19:6. Observations: A) this statement was directed exclusively to Israel in its national capacity; and B) this statement was not talking about the Levitical priesthood.
Unquestionably, Ex. 19:6 is the verse where God sets Israel apart from all other nations as His most favored nation. But Israel did not at that time become either a kingdom of priests or a holy nation. Rather, those descriptions look forward to the day when all Israel will be saved. Only then, i.e., once the Millennium begins, will the nation truly be holy and every member thereof stand as a priest before God. Only when Jer. 31:33 is fulfilled, or as God says, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts,” will Israel be a kingdom of priests.
In other words, the Levitical priesthood did not make Israel a kingdom of priests. Under that system, only a very small number of persons were priests – the rest of the nation, even the rest of the Levites, were not. The concept behind a kingdom of priests is that every single member of the kingdom will be a priest, not just some.
Thus, in the N.T., we see this concept begin to be realized in the priesthood of all believers. The whole idea of which is that people no longer need to go through a human intermediary (a priest) to get to God. Through Jesus and because of His high priesthood (in other words, He is the head priest), each believer has direct access to God. Human priesthoods are obsolete.
“You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood.” 1 Pe 2:5. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Pe 2:9. “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father.” Rev 1:5-6. “You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God.” Rev 5:9-10.
The priesthood of all believers was specifically foretold in Isa 66:18, 21. “The time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. … And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites,” says the Lord. But no one who is a member of the universal priesthood of believers would refer to himself as a priest, as a title, because it doesn’t add anything to his identity. It would be like a Christian today calling himself The Saved One, when there is absolutely nothing distinctive about his salvation compared to others. The appellation may be true, but is totally pointless.
So the question is, when the saints rule and reign with Christ in the Millennium, what kind of priests will they be? Will they be chosen on the basis of ancestry? Is it a position anyone can sign up for? Will these priests be seminary graduates? Will they collect tithes? Will they be a separate class of believers within the Church? Bottom line: Will the Millennial priests be priests after the fashion of the Levitical system (which today’s clergy are modeled after), or will they be priests after the fashion of the universal priesthood of all believers?
Unless God completely changes the nature of the Church in the Millennium (something I can’t even imagine that He would do), I have to believe the priesthood of believers will be the model for the priesthood. Thus, I stand by my statement that there will be no clergy in the Millennial Church.
As for non-Christian religions in the Millennium, we can expect unbelief in Christ to persist in this time, but it will likely be scattered and largely unorganized. The worldwide Church of Christ will be pervasive and, in keeping with the nature of a theocracy, sponsored and protected by the government. Now, before the Second Coming, religious establishments (state sponsored religion) are always a bad idea and lead to tyranny. But in the Millennium, Jesus will not let power go to his head – He will not be corrupted by it as men always are – and He will not become a tyrant.
We can expect, in keeping with the original Ten Commandments, laws acknowledging Jesus as the one true God, prohibiting idolatry, prohibiting taking God’s name in vain, and possibly some Sabbath laws. But the mistake many people make is in assuming these laws will be of a most extreme and restrictive nature, when I see something quite different emerging.
Yes, there may be laws acknowledging Christ as God – they pretty much would have to, seeing as how His seat of government will be the Temple in Jerusalem, and where He will also sit as the Head of the worldwide Church. Kind of like the King of England also being the head of the Church of England – Defender of the Faith, etc. – but worldwide and for real this time.
God has never yet punished mere unbelief as such, and I have no reason to expect that to change in the Millennial kingdom. People will not be walking around saying “Praise the name of Jesus, peace be upon him” and crossing themselves every time they have a simple conversation. There will be no religious oaths required as a condition of citizenship or as a badge to conduct commerce. Jesus is not going to pattern His kingdom laws after the manner of Satan’s kingdom.
Yes, we can expect some laws against idolatry, but only overt idolatry of the kind indicated in Exo. 20:4. In other words, idolatry involving physical idols, or graven images. Most probably, all worship of the sun, moon and stars will be prohibited, given the historic animosity God has had for such things and the role they will play in the end times. But don’t expect any laws regarding matters of the heart – the so-called idolatry of worshiping the desires of the heart such as a love for material possessions. Don’t get me wrong – the love of possessions is a moral wrong, but there won’t be a civil law about it.
Jesus is not about to violate the principles of Mat. 5:21-48, where He clearly marked the difference between man’s court and God’s court. Anger, lust, swearing, alienation of affections, and hate are all morally wrong, but they are matters of the heart God alone judges, and judges in the heart alone. Just because God will rule the earth in visible form does not mean that all moral offenses will become legal offenses and men will be authorized to punish all offenses against God as an offense against the state.
No one in the Millennium is going to be punished for compassing (or imagining) the king’s death, as the laws of England used to provide. Just because Jesus will rule the earth does not mean He will institute mind control or thought police as a matter of law or government. There will still be intellectual freedom in the Millennium, because as people used to say, God has created the mind free (Thomas Jefferson). God has never overstepped that boundary before and He isn’t going to do so just because He comes into political power. Power isn’t going to corrupt Jesus when He gets it.
Yes, there may be laws prohibiting taking God’s name in vain, but remember this only applies to the name of God, not the word God. In other words, the names God has revealed for Himself, such as Elohim, Yahweh (or Jehovah), Adonai, etc. will likely be protected. But the word god just means deity – it isn’t a name, even when it’s capitalized.
And yes, there may be Sabbath laws, something on the order of old Sunday blue laws in the U.S., perhaps closing of businesses. But don’t expect any Millennial laws regulating the number of steps you can take on the Sabbath as the Jewish rabbis used to do, or for that matter, most of the things the Jews used to regulate which Jesus declared to be mere traditions of men, and not really God’s laws. Don’t expect any laws against personal amusements on Sundays, or any of the similar things various Christian groups have long preached about which aren’t really in the Bible either (dancing, playing cards, watching movies, etc.).
If you are wondering what part anti-blasphemy laws will play in the Millennium, that is a fair question. Part of the problem in answering it has to do with defining blasphemy. Historically, blasphemy has had a broad definition in certain cultures. Generally, it means to defame, or bring reproach upon, God. Muslims seem to have a very high regard for blasphemy (and a very low regard for free speech) in that they view any speech critical of Mohammed, Islam or the Q’uran to be blasphemous.
In 17th Century England, blasphemy was regarded as including any speech in which a person would dispute what God may do, deny His existence (atheism), reproach Jesus Christ, and according to Blackstone’s Commentaries, engage in any “profane scoffing at the holy scripture [the Bible], or exposing it to contempt and ridicule.” Vol. 4, Chap. 4. In other words, pretty much the same as historic Islam. Which is exactly the result you should expect whenever government and religion are intermingled and mere men are in charge – a corruption of the law.
Jesus Himself was wrongly accused of blasphemy because he claimed to be able to forgive sins (Mk. 2:7), and He claimed to be the Son of God (Jn. 10:36). Stephen was falsely accused of blasphemy by supposedly slandering Moses, a prophet of God (Acts 6:11). I can find no evidence that any of these things, even if true, would have constituted blasphemy under the Mosaic law.
In point of fact, the only prohibition of blasphemy in the law of God is found in Lev. 24:16, in which the offense is limited to blaspheming the name of God. To be sure, God regarded as blasphemous the idolatry of Israel (Ezek. 20:27), but this was a moral judgement – it was never part of the law given to men to enforce. What men could enforce was limited to essentially a violation of the Third Commandment not to take the name of God in vain. Thus, I have no reason to believe broad general blasphemy laws will be part of the kingdom of Christ.