THE KINGDOM OF GOD, Part 3:
The Last Kingdom On Earth
by Gerald R. Thompson*
“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
People, we have a problem. The earth is about to self-destruct. Like a ticking time bomb, it’s only a question of when, not if. And there’s no stopping it. Destruction is imminent.
No, I’m not talking about an asteroid collision, nuclear war, or an alien invasion. I’m not even talking about global warming as a cause of environmental problems, although to be sure it is a symptom of a much more fundamental worldwide problem. Nor am I talking about the end of the world in the sense of the end of history. But I am talking about the fact that everything you come into contact with on a daily basis is about to be wiped from the face of the earth. And it is absolutely imperative that this happens. Otherwise, the earth just cannot continue. And it will continue.
Fortunately, God has it under control. No, He’s not simply going to destroy the earth and create a new one. That will happen eventually, of course, but we – and the earth – aren’t there yet. Instead, He’s going to do what He did the last time He destroyed the earth (by flood) – kill all the people except for a remnant, and remake the surface of the earth to give the remnant a fresh start. In other words, God will perform a global reset.
Except that this time, rather than leaving people to their own devices, God will govern and rule over the reset. Which will produce a far superior result than last time, because the last time is what got us into the mess we have now. And God won’t let that happen again. So this time, He’s going to be more hands on in world affairs. He will inaugurate the kingdom of Christ on earth to make this all possible. This kingdom will be the last kingdom on earth.
Before it can arrive, big changes – unprecedented changes – must take place on a global scale. This wicked and corrupted earth is in no condition to host a kingdom of everlasting righteousness. The holiness of God cannot commingle with unrighteousness. Which means that the earth – as a planet – and most of the people living on it, must die. Some people – really just a few – will be reborn.
All people go through an individual life cycle of birth, life, and death. But here, I want to consider the global cycle of life, death and rebirth, and how this will affect the people who go through it. The entire history of the world can be summed up in terms of birth (creation), life, death (flood), rebirth, life, death (earthquake), rebirth, life, death (fire), and re-creation (earth 2.0).
Where we are at right now is near the end of the period of life (“this present age”) right before the great earthquake. So what I want to talk about is the destruction that will soon be upon us, what that will look like when it comes, and why it is absolutely necessary that it should happen. Then, I will discuss the rebirth that follows it, why it must come, and how the next age will be materially different from the present age in many ways.
Note: This essay is intended as a sequel to my prior essay, The Gospel of the Kingdom. If you have not read it, I urge you to read it first, to better understand what we will examine here.
Defilement of the Land
Judge O.W. Holmes. Jr. once famously remarked, “The life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience.” We can confidently say something similar about our world. The life of the earth has not been righteous (or logical): it has been a (mostly) bad experience.
When the first people fell into sin, the serpent, the woman, and the man were all separately cursed by God. Tucked inside the curses pronounced on the man was a curse of the earth itself.
Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (Gen. 3:17-19).
Think about this for a moment. The ground did nothing wrong. But because man sinned, the ground would produce thorns and thistles (not a blessing), and death was introduced to all living creatures. Or, because of human sinfulness, the earth’s physical environment changed.
What you may not be as familiar with is the fact that this connection between human sinfulness and the physical condition of the earth is an ongoing relationship, not just a one time event in the past. Ever since the Fall, the earth reflects the sin condition of its inhabitants. I refer to this principle as the Law of the Land. This is first illustrated in the case of Abel, when he is murdered by his brother.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” (Gen. 4:9-12).
Notice there is a direct causal relationship between Abel’s blood being spilled on the ground, and Cain being cursed from the ground as a result. Also, Cain’s curse goes above and beyond the original curses pronounced on Adam and Eve – he is made a fugitive and wanderer on the earth. There is nothing in the curses pronounced on Adam and Eve about being a fugitive or wanderer. This strongly suggests that every separate act of murder has the potential for inducing separate curses for the perpetrator, above and beyond the original curse of the ground everyone is subject to.
God later confirms this by stating the general rule as part of the laws given to Israel. “You shall not pollute the land in which you live, for blood pollutes the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it.” (Num. 35:33).
So, not only does every act of bloodshed (murder) separately pollute the land, but every murder also creates the need for a separate act of atonement to set the land right (i.e., like it was before the murder). And the general rule is that atonement can only be achieved by killing the murderer, per the mandate to implement capital punishment in the Noahic covenant. (Gen. 9:6).
Why is this crucially important? Because ultimately, the additional curses imposed on the ground by every act of bloodshed impacts not only the murderer himself individually, but also the entire community where each murder takes place. “You shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell, for I the Lord dwell in the midst of the people of Israel.” (Num. 35:34).
God, and His people Israel, all dwelt on the land where any murder in Israel was committed. In principle, the defilement which occurred in the case of murder was not limited to the person of the murderer. The defilement also applied to the place of the murder. Consequently, everyone who resided on that land was affected – even if they had nothing to do with the murder personally.
However, this is just, in God’s view, because every individual living in the land had a responsibility to see to it that the murderer is caught and punished as God’s laws required. That is why God established a procedure for atoning for innocent blood when a murderer was not known or could not be found. A heifer was to be sacrificed in a prescribed place, and the elders of the nearest city had to swear that they neither committed the murder, nor knew who did. Then they had to make this plea to the Lord:
“Accept atonement, O Lord, for your people Israel, whom you have redeemed, and do not set the guilt of innocent blood in the midst of your people Israel, so that their blood guilt be atoned for.” So you shall purge the guilt of innocent blood from your midst, when you do what is right in the sight of the Lord. (Deut. 21:8-9).
This principle is the basis of our common law of criminal conduct. Everyone suffers for what the criminal does. A criminal doesn’t merely defile himself or his own land, or the person or land of the victim, but also the land of the jurisdiction which is responsible to punish the crime. That is why all criminal actions (lawsuits) in courts today are litigated as The People v. The Wrongdoers. Acts which defile the land affect the whole community – if crops suffer, plagues or disaster strike, or the economy falters, it never affects merely the wrongdoers. Everyone (i.e., The People) is affected.
A Universal Law
Perhaps you are thinking what I have just said only applied to the ancient Jews and has no bearing on us today. Certainly, the procedure for atonement provided for in Deut. 21 was peculiar to ancient Israel and does not apply in Gentile nations today. But the principle that bloodshed pollutes or defiles the land is a universal law applicable to all people in all places and at all times.
The general laws of murder go back all the way to Cain and Abel, and the general rule for the atonement of murder (namely, capital punishment) goes all the way back to Noah just after the flood. Both of these pre-date the formation of the nation of Israel by many years and have a universal application.
In the case of capital punishment – part of the Noahic covenant – that requirement applies to all of the descendants of Noah, which includes everyone alive today. And the initial law of blood polluting the land – by virtue of its existence in the time of Cain and Abel – shows that it is part of the laws of nature (i.e., the laws of creation) which are eternal and universal.
This is confirmed numerous times in scripture. In the time of Noah’s flood (before the existence of Israel), the whole earth, or all of humanity, was said to be both corrupt and filled with violence. Violence, of course, refers to bloodshed. And corruption speaks of moral corruption, by which we may infer that the people in Noah’s time were guilty of all of the big three offenses against God which defile the earth: bloodshed, immorality, and idolatry.
Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” (Gen. 6:11-13).
Similarly, the Lord plainly told Moses that the people of the land of Canaan, which the people of Israel were about to dispossess, had defiled the land because of their immorality. (Remember, the Canaanites had neither been given the laws of Israel, nor were they subject to them.) After listing the various sexual offenses that defiled the land, the Lord made this statement:
“Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you (for the people of the land, who were before you, did all of these abominations, so that the land became unclean), lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. (Lev. 18:24-28).
This text makes it clear that immorality committed by any people defiles the land on which they live. Immorality, far from being a victimless crime, affects not merely the individuals committing the acts, but the entire community around them. Immorality makes the land unclean (it becomes defiled), and the natural response of the land is to vomit out, or expel, its inhabitants. This standard applies the same to Israel and all Gentile nations – after all, Lev. 18 speaks of the immorality of the Canaanites, who were Gentiles. It is a universal law of nature.
The same is true with respect to idolatry. Rom. 1:18-25 states that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,” especially including idolatry. Again, not a Jewish standard, but a universal one, since heaven in this context refers to the starry sky which speaks to all the earth equally. (See, Ps. 19:4).
Thus, ancient Israel was judged for their bloodshed, immorality and idolatry the same as the Canaanites were. Their actions made the land God had given them unclean, and by the invading force of other nations, Israel was driven out from its land and expelled. (See, Ps. 106:34-39). All of these examples from history foreshadow the final cleansing of the earth.
For behold, the Lord is coming out from his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it, and will no more cover its slain. (Isa. 26:21).
Such actions of violence, immorality and idolatry have of course continued unabated ever since ancient times. And a point in time is coming when the earth will disclose, or expose, the sin committed on it.
The Upside for the Righteous
When I say that the earth reflects the sin condition of its inhabitants, this works both ways. In other words, when the inhabitants of a land are righteous, the earth responds in kind. But your initial skepticism of what I am about to say is understandable.
I know that much of what I have said about the Law of the Land is counter-intuitive. When the scripture says that blood pollutes the land, it doesn’t mean if someone spills human blood on the ground, then a chemical reaction or physical process will occur to cause pollution. The law of the land is a spiritual principle: the pollution is spiritual, and the defilement of the land is spiritual. The earth responds not from a physical reaction, but in a spiritual sense due to the commission of certain kinds of sin. We are not here talking about a type of pollution that can be measured scientifically.
In this day and age of scientific materialism, this may be a difficult concept to accept. But the scripture everywhere repeats and reflects this principle, so much so that the evidence is overwhelming, and we must either accept it, or throw out large portions of the Bible. Take, for example, this text excerpted from Isa. 55:6-12:
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. … For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Whether you take this last sentence as literal or metaphorical, the clear indication is that repentance from wrongdoing not only pleases the Lord, but also brings healing, and even joy, to the land itself. Or how about this familiar scripture?
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Ch. 7:14).
Ask yourself how this healing is intended to be understood – are we talking about chemical reactions and physical processes, or something else? Again, when Jesus entered Jerusalem the Sunday before He was crucified, was He speaking literally or metaphorically in this text? —
As he was drawing near – already on the way down the Mount of Olives – the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” (Lk. 19:37-40).
Once more, the righteousness or sinfulness of people on the earth has very real consequences in the physical world. Live righteously, and the land will respond favorably. But if a people live wickedly, the land will speak out against them physically. Here I’m speaking of whole communities or nations, not individual people. How else are we to understand the blessings and curses God pronounced on Israel in Deut. 28?
The blessings for obedience to God’s laws are not merely spiritual, but also physical and material. “And the Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, within the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. The Lord will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. And you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow.” (Deut 28:11-12).
On the other hand, the curses for disobedience are also physical and material. As you might expect, they are the opposite of the blessings. “Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field. Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out.” (Deut 28:16-19).
But it gets worse. Included among the curses: health problems (wasting disease, fever, boils, inflammation, tumors, scabs, itch, madness, blindness, confusion, unknown sicknesses); environmental problems (pestilence, drought, blight, mildew, scorching heat, lack of rain, locusts, worms); oppression, robbery, waste, kidnapings, conquest by enemies, slavery, indebtedness, siege and distress, cannibalism, scattered in foreign lands and dispossessed. (Deut. 28:20-68).
Gosh, I sure am glad the United States (God Bless America!) is a Christian nation, where we don’t have to deal with any of those problems, yessirree! I mean, the only things we have to worry about are raging fires, dustbowls, floods, earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, drug addictions, alcoholism, rampant crime, sex trafficking, child trafficking, riots in the street, pornography, systemic injustice, a faltering economy and a staggering national debt that will bankrupt the nation. Thank God we don’t have to worry about violence, immorality and idolatry in the good ole US of A. Or do we?
Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences.” (Lk. 21:10-11).
It’s pretty easy, looking at scripture, to see times when God specifically reveals that He punished a particular nation – whether Egypt during the Exodus, or Israel during their captivity – using many of the curses and plagues He said He would send in response to flagrant disobedience of His laws. See, for example, Amos 4:6-11 (“I sent these curses upon you, yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord). And we say, when reading of them, “Oh yeah, God did that.”
What is harder is working backwards from a modern disaster or calamity to the root cause. When all we have is the calamity itself, but not any explanation of it from God, what can we say about it? People who have tried to assign specific moral blame for recent physical disasters are always ridiculed as nutcases.
Trying to pinpoint a specific moral cause that produced a specific calamity in modern times is always problematic, or at least is subject to interpretation. Remember that crimes which defile the land affect the entire community which has jurisdiction to discover and punish the wrongdoer. If the local economy starts to falter, there is a crop failure, or a flood strikes, who can possibly say which murder(s), which immorality, or which idol worshipers were the ones whose actions led God to impair the land?
At the same time, if any nation as a whole lived righteously (not perfectly, but relatively speaking), would God send them earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes and raging fires? Isn’t the whole promise of blessings for obedience also an implicit promise to withhold disasters? Isn’t that what healing the land necessarily implies? That if a nation turns from its wicked ways, God will make sure blessings will abound, and calamities will not happen?
So what do we say then, when any nation (including our own) experiences not only every kind of natural disaster on a regular basis, but also has insurmountable health problems among the people, environmental problems, rising crime and injustice, national bankruptcy, and such? Can we not say, with some confidence, that there must be one or more underlying moral offenses being committed by the people of that nation on a continual basis, which actions are defiling the land?
There is no such thing as a good tornado, or a good hurricane. I understand that weather phenomena serve a purpose, as it were, of moving air, water, pressure, humidity, etc. They can be explained, in some sense, scientifically. But a tornado is never a benefit. A hurricane is never a shower of blessing. These things are always destructive, not constructive; hurtful, not helpful. So, if you are the least bit inclined to believe that God is in control of the weather, then in sending us the weather He does, God may be trying to tell us something.
It may be impossible to say which specific moral offenses “caused” (from God’s perspective) some specific disaster, but isn’t the presence of ongoing disasters evidence of some large-scale moral failing? And if “natural disasters” keep getting worse, and more frequent, isn’t that very strong evidence that moral failures are pervasive and unrelenting in a nation or culture? Shouldn’t ongoing disasters at least prompt us to ask, “What are we doing as a people, that would incline God to send disasters our way?” Isn’t a little self-examination warranted?
And isn’t the analysis for natural disasters also applicable to plagues and pandemics? Granted, the latest SARS-CoV-2 (or COVID-19) pandemic is not the only global pandemic in history. Whether it will be worse, or longer lasting, than other pandemics is yet to be determined. The question is whether a pestilence of this type, being worldwide, may be indicative of a global moral failure. After all, there are no good diseases – all plagues are a curse. I put it to you – isn’t the recent pandemic in fact evidence that God has a moral indictment against the whole world?
The Lord will roar from on high … against all the inhabitants of the earth … for the Lord has an indictment against the nations; he is entering into judgment with all flesh. (Jer. 25:30-31).
The response of the natural mind is to avoid thinking about God and blame people – but for all the wrong reasons. It was an experiment gone bad. There was a containment breach. They shouldn’t have been doing that kind of research. But if in fact the virus was natural in bats, as has been claimed, who is responsible for creating that natural virus? God. Who is responsible for determining how the virus would spread? God. And if the virus was man-made, who is responsible for the Delta variant? God. Who controls which mutations kill the virus and which mutations help the virus thrive? God.
Do you still think the global pandemic has nothing to do with God? Perhaps – no, Probably – God is sending the world a message. You know – about His laws, and our lack of obedience. But is anyone listening?
Ah, if only the global pandemic were all that the world had to worry about, for as history has shown, all pandemics eventually run their course and then end. But global warming – ack! That could go on for centuries (so we are told).
Conventional wisdom places the blame for global warming squarely on the shoulders of so-called greenhouse gases, namely, carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4). The measurement of how much greenhouse gases a person, animal or activity produces is referred to as the carbon footprint. Of course, all people and animals expel carbon dioxide into the atmosphere just by breathing, and methane is produced by animal manure, and may also be found in digestive gases. Which implicitly makes all people and animals a threat to the environment.
When God created the earth, He wonderfully divided all life into two basic categories – plants and animals. Animals breathe in oxygen, and breathe out carbon dioxide, while plants do just the reverse, taking in carbon dioxide and expelling oxygen. Thus, the plant and animal worlds perfectly balance each other, with the output of each helping the other to thrive. Thus, when God had finished with His creation, He pronounced it very good. (Gen. 1:31).
But now, pseudo-science has determined that the animal half is, in fact, not good and must be curtailed in order to reduce carbon emissions. Particularly the raising of cattle for food, which provides a new argument for not eating meat or dairy. Of course, if successful, these efforts will have a detrimental effect on all plants, which need the carbon dioxide that cattle produces. Such an environmental policy not only attacks the Dominion Mandate (raising domesticated animals for food), but denies the goodness of God’s creation, and is ultimately a death sentence for all life.
Meanwhile, God is sitting up in the heavens shaking His head. “Yes, it is people’s fault!” But not because we’re taking too much dominion, or because God’s created order wasn’t good enough. Instead, it’s our fault because people will do absolutely everything imaginable to avoid having to cut back on our immorality and vices. So rather than look for a moral cure to our defilement of the land, we look to scientific cures,’ which in the long run only make the problems worse.
People have always found ways to either solve, or find practical workarounds, for local environmental problems. Is your farmland too dry? Dig a well. Divert a stream. Build a dam. Invent new methods of irrigation. But what if it isn’t the land itself that is the problem, but the crop you are raising is too vulnerable?
Take the vegetable corn, as an example. Back in the old days, if crops had a rough year, it was feasible to identify the hardy plants, isolate them from the weaker plants, and engage in a process of selective breeding. Over time, people would develop hardy strains of corn to strengthen their crop yield. But that wasn’t enough to protect plants from various insect pests, so pesticides were developed. Though some of those turned out to be more harmful to the environment than helpful, so people had to develop safer, but still effective, new pesticides.
At some point that was deemed insufficient, so people decided to genetically modify corn and other foodstuffs to make the genetic makeup of the plants more resistant to pests, all in an effort to preserve or increase yields. Which just brings in a whole new set of environmental problems, including allergic reactions to GMO foods, an increased production of toxins in foods, reduced nutritional value, a release of toxins into the soil, increasing the resistance of pests to pesticides, etc.
So our own actions have created a new set of problems that have nothing to do with the original corn itself, but result from the fact that we continually respond to environmental problems the wrong way. All of our efforts to increase crop yields in the face of environmental problems are merely addressing the symptoms, never the underlying problem, which of course is sin. There was never anything wrong with the corn God gave us – it never needed to be fixed. What needed to be fixed was our sinful behavior which has been defiling the land.
In other words, I believe the evidence indicates that global warming is primarily a moral problem, not a scientific one. You can’t use science to fix a moral problem. A moral problem requires a moral solution. You see, those harsh conditions and pests were either sent, or controlled by, God. God controls the weather, the environment, and the world. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.” (Ps. 24:1).
“For thus says the Lord God: How much more when I send upon Jerusalem my four disastrous acts of judgment, sword, famine, wild beasts, and pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast!” (Eze. 14:21). “And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.” (Rev. 6:8).
The sword, of course, refers to wars. But famine, pestilence and wild beasts all speak to the environment. Who is in control of them? God. Who is the one giving authority over these things in Rev. 6:8? God.
And ultimately, it is up to God alone (and He really doesn’t need any help from us) to protect and preserve the earth. This is God’s world. You, me, we don’t need to Save the Planet – it’s not our job. Take dominion over the planet, yes. Be good stewards of the planet, yes. But save the planet from the consequences of thousands of years of the build up of burden on the land caused by constant defilement? Nope – we couldn’t do that if we tried.
Sure, if people over the centuries had served God and obeyed Him, the current environmental problems could have been alleviated. But they didn’t, and now it’s too late. You see, the defilement of the land over the last few thousand years has been piling up, and it has reached the point where it cannot be eradicated gradually, but must taken care of all at once. And that means judgment – worldwide cataclysmic judgment.
* Copyright © 2021 Gerald R. Thompson. All rights reserved. Used by permission. All Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version.