THE KINGDOM OF GOD, Part 3:
The Last Kingdom On Earth
by Gerald R. Thompson*
To Carve Out A Remnant
Remember that the Law of the Land has two sides. Certain kinds of evil behavior defile the land and cause it to be burdened above and beyond the original curse of the ground. Conversely, the land rejoices when it is inhabited by the righteous. We have just seen how the earth, by a process of destruction and renewal, will shed the defilement of the present age before the next age begins. Now it is time to shift focus to the arrival of two groups of righteous persons, whose presence will help deter future defilement of the earth in the Millennium.
The first of these is the rebirth of Israel. I am not here talking about the land of Israel, but its people. The two go hand-in-hand, of course. One of the most prevalent themes in all of biblical prophecy is the regathering of the Jewish people, the restoration of their homeland and possessions, and the fact they will at last recognize Jesus as their Messiah in a national spiritual rebirth. For example, see Ezek. chap. 34, 36 & 37.
I am convinced these many prophecies are meant to be taken literally, and have no application to the Church as a successor-in-interest to Israel. The prophecies are repeated way too often to be misunderstood in a merely spiritual or allegorical sense. Besides, the prophecies specific to the Church, i.e., the saints in Christ, are completely different (and this is what we will examine in the next section). Additionally, God went to considerable length to provide some guarantees that His promises were meant for literal Israel.
Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night: … “If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the Lord, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever.” (Jer. 31:35-36).
In other words, as long as the fixed order of the moon and stars (i.e., outer space) remains, the nation of Israel will not cease to exist in the program of God. This not a reference to spiritual Jews’ (those who exercise the faith of Abraham), but to biological Jews (the physical descendants of Jacob). Similarly, both the throne of David (the throne of national Israel) and the Levitical priesthood shall not cease as long as day and night continue.
The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: “Thus says the Lord: If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night will not come at their appointed time, then also my covenant with David my servant may be broken, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and my covenant with the Levitical priests my ministers.” (Jer. 33:19-21).
As I indicated above, the restoration of Israel will be both physical and spiritual. Thus, the apostle Paul tells us, “And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob; and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.'” (Rom. 11:26-27, quoting Isa. 59:20-21).
When Paul speaks of all Israel, he does not mean every person who claims to be a Jew leading up to the Tribulation, also known as the time of Jacob’s trouble. Israel, as a nation, is going to be tested and refined during the Tribulation – meaning that God will choose those people whom He wants for Himself. Thus, we are told in Ezekiel,
“For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. … And I will judge between sheep and sheep. And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd.” (Eze. 34:11-12, 22-23).
The result of this refining process is that only a remnant of the Jews will survive the Tribulation and enter the Millennial period. “Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply.” (Jer. 23:3). This is confirmed in Isaiah and elsewhere.
In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. For though your people Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. (Isa. 10:20-22).
According to Zechariah, this remnant will be one-third of the Jews “in the whole land.”
“In the whole land, declares the Lord, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive. And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, They are my people’; and they will say, The Lord is my God.'” (Zch. 13:8-9).
So, looking back to Rom. 11:26, when Paul says all Israel will be saved, he means all the Jews who are part of the remnant surviving the Tribulation.
The Rebirth of a Nation
Israel, as a nation, was never founded on, or governed by, a covenant of faith. Sure, it was the Lord’s goal for Israel that they would become “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exo. 19:6). But being a Jew was never a matter of individual faith or belief. It was simply a matter of whether a person was a biological descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. A Jew, following the ceremonial and religious laws of Israel, might come to a saving faith in the Lord, but whether a person did or didn’t had no bearing on whether they were any more or less a Jew.
Because Jewishness was a matter of ancestry, not faith, God has always dealt with the Jews in a national, or corporate, capacity. Meaning that God has always dealt with the Jews as a group. Sure, the Lord has appointed individual Jews to particular tasks, and whether a Jew decided to exercise faith towards God always was and is an individual decision.
But when the Law was given to the Jews through Moses, it was given to them as a group. When the Jews agreed to be obedient to God’s covenant with them, they did so as a group. When they left Egypt and spied out the Promised Land, they did so as a group. No one broke off from the nation and went their own way. When they wandered in the wilderness for forty years, and then finally entered their homeland, they did so as a group.
When the Jews were disobedient, they generally did so as a group. When God punished them and sent them into exile, He treated them as a group. When the Jews were dispersed among the nations, they did so as a group – God made no exceptions. When Jesus came and claimed to be the Messiah, the Jews rejected Him as a group. When Paul described how a partial hardening had come upon the Jews (Rom. 11:25), it happened to them as a group. And when the Jews are refined in the time of Jacob’s trouble, it will happen to them as a group.
It should therefore be no surprise that when salvation eventually comes to the Jews, it will happen to them as a group. In fact, salvation will come to the Jews in a single day, being the day of the Second Coming, when Jesus will re-appear and be recognized by the Jews as the Messiah.
“Before she was in labor she gave birth; before her pain came upon her she delivered a son. Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment? For as soon as Zion was in labor she brought forth her children. Shall I bring to the point of birth and not cause to bring forth?” says the Lord; “shall I, who cause to bring forth, shut the womb?” says your God. (Isa. 66:7-9).
Notice how Isaiah returns to the theme of birth, which in this context indicates a rebirth. Not only will all Israel be saved, they will be reborn as a nation, i.e., as a group. The end goal of which, often repeated throughout the scriptures, is that “they will be my people, and I will be their God.”
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jer. 31:31-34). Also quoted in Heb. 8:8-12.
At this point, it won’t simply be that the Jews are saved, but they will also have special knowledge. “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.” All people have a portion of God’s laws written on their hearts, telling them what elementary things are right and wrong – this is what we call a conscience. But a conscience can be hardened or even blocked, and of course a conscience is only ever a very small portion of God’s laws. But Jews in the Millennium will have a much more complete, perhaps even a perfect, knowledge of God’s laws.
For this reason, Gentiles will seek them out for their knowledge, and their closeness to God. “Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.'” (Zch. 8:23). At this point the Jews will truly become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, fulfilling Exo. 19:6.
But you shall be called the priests of the Lord; they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God; you shall eat the wealth of the nations, and in their glory you shall boast. (Isa. 61:6).
This does not mean that the Millennial Jews will be perfect, or sinless. They will still have mortal bodies of flesh and blood that the apostle Paul calls a body of death. (Rom. 7:24). Just as a saved person today is still susceptible to sin, so will they. Nevertheless, they will fulfill the promise of scripture, “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 13:47, quoting Isa. 49:6).
Rebirth Through Resurrection
Scripture is clear that believers in Christ are destined for two rebirths, not just one. The first is when our spirits are renewed, or made alive, by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit of God. (Jn. 3:3-7; Tit. 3:5). This occurs during our present lives at the point of salvation. The second is when our bodies are made immortal in the resurrection at the appearing of Christ. The key is to recognize that the resurrection of the body is also a form of rebirth.
Both of these rebirths follow the rule, first comes the natural, then the spiritual. Thus, when anyone is first born, they possess a sinful spirit, sometimes called the sin nature. Then, when our spirit becomes regenerated by God, we possess a spiritual nature, or renewed spirit. Similarly with the body – our bodies are at first natural, sinful, corrupt and mortal. But at the resurrection, we will be given new bodies which will be spiritual, holy, incorruptible and immortal.
So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. … It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. … Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. (1 Cor. 15:42, 44, 51-53).
The resurrection of the dead was even foretold in the Old Testament, and when it was, it compared the resurrection with giving birth. In other words, not only our spirits, but also our bodies, will be born again.
Like a pregnant woman who writhes and cries out in her pangs when she is near to giving birth, so were we because of you, O Lord; we were pregnant, we writhed, but we have given birth to wind. … Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead. (Isa. 26:17-19).
I stress that the resurrection of the body is a form of rebirth, because there is a tendency in Christian circles to view the resurrection as the end. Whereas, birth is always a beginning. And no, I don’t mean that the resurrection is the beginning of eternity, because that comes later. The resurrection is the beginning of a new chapter for all believers on earth, before eternity sets in.
I am referring specifically to the one thousand year long kingdom of Christ on earth, the Millennial kingdom. The period when the saints will rule and reign with Christ. (Rev. 20:4-6). A period of time in history, on earth, before eternity sets in and time is no more. It wouldn’t make much sense measuring a thousand years once time has ended, would it? If that was the intended meaning, God was perfectly capable of saying that the saints would rule and reign with Christ forever.
And of course, God does say that exact thing elsewhere (Rev. 22:5) – after the new heavens and new earth have been made. But the resurrection, and the kingdom of Christ, both come before the new heavens and the new earth.
Equipping the Saints, Now and Then
In The Gospel of the Kingdom, I noted that Jesus will likely assign each resurrected saint a specific government job, which is how they will rule and reign with Christ in the Millennium. I also used the Parable of the Talents to conclude that positions in the government of Christ will be distributed on the basis of merit, not randomly. Which strongly suggests that each believer has a certain hand in determining the extent of their own reward.
Let me now expand on that analysis, and suggest a possible direction for understanding what God may expect the saints to be doing. We know that historically, God has always equipped his people to be able to do the tasks He assigned to them. We can also observe that as time goes by, the immediate beneficiaries of performing those tasks keeps expanding.
Thus, in the beginning, God gave people dominion authority, as well as the duty and ability to have children. The primary beneficiary of which was the family unit – not civil government, nor society at large, and certainly not the global community. Then, when God set apart the people of Israel, He gave certain individuals skills and abilities to design and fabricate everything necessary for the tabernacle and the priesthood. At root, these skills served a national purpose – broader than the family, but not global either.
It should be no surprise that God has used this same pattern with respect to the Church, where He gives to each believer certain gifts serving a worldwide body of Christ purpose.
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Cor. 12:7). And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. (Eph 4:11-12).
In other words, God gives to people spiritual gifts and spiritual offices to equip the saints in the present age, before Christ returns. Might He also do something similar in the next age, that is, the Millennial kingdom of Christ? Recall the Parable of the Talents, especially Luke’s version:
He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, Engage in business until I come.’ … When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. The first came before him, saying, “Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.” And he said to him, “Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities. … I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Lk. 19:12-13, 15-17, 26).
Now this parable, like all parables, uses a symbolic story to illustrate something in real life. The minas, or talents (in Matthew’s version), are essentially units of money. Most people understand this parable is not simply about making money, but has to do with taking what God has given us and using it for the Lord’s sake, or His kingdom’s sake, until He returns. Those who do little or nothing with the things God gives us for the sake of the kingdom are lazy and worthless servants of God, who can expect little or no reward when the nobleman (i.e., Christ) returns with His kingdom.
Because of the context of this parable – it is told by Jesus to His followers regarding the kingdom of God – it seems reasonable that it relates to the use of those things which God has given us as believers, as followers of Christ, as members of the kingdom of God. And what are those things, exactly? They are the spiritual gifts and offices conferred for building up the body of Christ. (No, the Parable of the Talents has nothing to do with how many people you have witnessed to, or brought to Christ.)
In other words, how well we use our spiritual gifts and offices now, will determine the extent to which we are rewarded in the kingdom later. Which can be a bit scary, if you don’t know what your spiritual gift is and haven’t used it much. Or, even more scary, if you know what your spiritual gift is, but your church won’t let you use it, either openly or at all. Have you considered the possibility that if your church restricts the use of your spiritual gifts, it may be denying you a reward in the kingdom of Christ?
Are you a teacher, but your church won’t give you a classroom? Do you receive words of knowledge or wisdom, but your church doesn’t believe God can speak to you directly? Do you have the gift of prophecy, which the apostle Paul said is highly desirable (1 Cor. 14:1-4), but your church construes Heb. 1:1-2 so as to deny all prophecy in the Church Age? Perhaps you want to plant churches as an apostle, but your church only allows that to be done by members of the clergy? Is your church pushing everyone to be an evangelist, when scripture clearly indicates only some (very few) are called to that task? (Eph. 4:11).
Does your church have a class, a program, or anything, which it offers to all members to help each person determine their own spiritual gift(s)? And then let you decide how you can best use that spiritual gift in the church when it has been practiced and developed? No?? Then what are you doing in that church, anyway? Wow, it’s so great that you love the music and the fellowship – you lazy and wicked slave. Oops – not my words. Blame Jesus. (Mat. 25:26).
Now for a possible extrapolation of this analysis for your consideration. What if the spiritual gifts God gives you in the present age will be the exact same gifts He expects you to use in the Millennial kingdom? Do I know for certain this will be the case? No. What does the scripture say? “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” (Rom. 11:29).
Granted, Rom. 11:29 is part of a larger text dealing with the salvation of Israel. However, I submit to you that the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable is a general rule. This general rule does not originate with a consideration of Israel. It’s easy to identify the calling of Israel as a nation, but what in the world are the gifts of Israel, really? Perhaps the case of Israel is merely one example that illustrates the general rule. The case of Israel is not the limit of the rule.
A similar scripture is, God is not a God of confusion. (1 Cor. 14:33). Sure, the immediate context there is orderly church worship. But is God only that way in a church worship context, and is everywhere else a God of confusion? Or is church worship merely one example of a general rule that God is always not a God of confusion, no matter the context?
What I am suggesting is that the spiritual gifts of the saints in the Church Age may transcend the resurrection and carry over into the next age. It’s not so far fetched – the calling of Israel as a special nation set apart from the rest of the world most clearly transcends this present age and carries over into the next. It’s something to consider.
In any event, the physical rebirth of the saints will give them a new purpose. No longer will it be the purpose of the saints to carry out the Great Commission, for that will end when the saints are united with Christ in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, i.e., when they are resurrected. The Great Commission may or may not still apply to those mortal Gentiles living in the Millennium who profess a belief in Christ, but it very likely will no longer apply to resurrected saints. Again, this is not far fetched. We already know the Dominion Mandate will no longer apply to the resurrected saints – Jesus said so. (Mat. 22:30 – no marriage among saints in the Millennium).
The resurrected saints will have the new mission to govern the Gentile nations as agents of the government of the kingdom of Christ. The new mission of the saints will not be family based, limited to only one nation, or even just to believers in Christ. Rather, their new task will comprehend governing all of the nations of the world other than Israel itself. See how the tasks God calls His people to perform keep expanding in each new age?
We have seen how the theme of destruction paving the way for rebirth will play out in three ways, so far. First, the surface of the earth must be destroyed and reshaped in order to renew it in preparation for the kingdom of Christ. Second, the Jewish people will need to be pruned down to a mere remnant before the nation of Israel can be spiritually reborn. Third, the saints will all need to experience the death of their mortal bodies and be physically reborn with an immortal body in order to inherit the kingdom of God.
Then fourthly, Christ will utterly destroy the kingdom of darkness, which now holds the governments of the world in a death grip, so the world can give birth to a worldwide government of righteousness. This new government, spoken of in Isa. 9:6-7, is the Millennial kingdom of Christ, and it will become the last kingdom on earth. I will describe the demise of the kingdom of darkness in more detail in my next essay, The Kingdom of Darkness.
A Kingdom Designed to Restrain Evil
After Jesus conquers evil, one of the primary purposes of His Millennial kingdom will be to restrain evil, because at this point in time evil will not be completely eliminated yet. Thus, the government of Christ will hold back the destructive forces of evil, particularly those associated with idolatry, immorality and violence. In other words, to prevent the type of ongoing defilement of the earth that has characterized the present age. To prevent the accumulation of a global sin debt which would, of necessity, begin to destroy the peace, prosperity and safety of the people living at that time.
It is not enough that the earth and its people will be cleansed in one fell swoop via the Tribulation and the Second Coming. That cleanliness must be maintained.
The scripture tells us clearly that this period will be a time when the glory of the Lord will fill the earth. (Hab. 2:14). And the devil and his angels will be imprisoned the entire time. (Rev. 20:2-3). However, that does not mean the Millennium will be free from sin. The curse of the ground will still attach to the earth, and people will still be born with a sin nature, separated from God. Yes, Christ will bring salvation to all the Jews, but to the Gentiles – eh, not so much. They will have the opportunity to know Jesus as Savior, but the fact is that most will not.
So how, exactly, will Jesus restrain evil during this time? Clearly, it will not be brought about by the proclamation of the gospel. I say clearly, because evangelism is a ministry of grace, and merely leading people to become believers does not ensure a change in behavior patterns. When I say evil must be restrained, I’m talking about law enforcement, which is not a ministry of grace, but of law.
Real restraint will arise from the imposition of good government – and when I say good government, I mean strict government. Using the power of the sword. More on that in a bit. But this idea of the salvation of society and the restrain of evil through the transformation of government is not new. Why, that is the promise that was made just a few short years ago, by a wannabe messiah:
I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. (Barack Obama, June 3, 2008).
Of course, we know what the scriptures have to say about such matters: “Then if anyone says to you, Look, here is the Christ!’ or There he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” (Mat. 24:23-24).
When the real Messiah returns, the Gentile nations will need real governing, which is to say, a government which will not allow evil to proliferate, but keep a lid on it. And if you have been given to understand that none but the righteous will enter the kingdom of God, those scriptures refer to the eternal kingdom after the creation of the new heavens and new earth. For the Bible very clearly describes people who will survive the judgments of the Tribulation, and enter the Millennium even though they are unsaved.
“Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, you survivors of the nations! … Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. … To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.'” (Isa. 45:20, 22-23).
Note that when the scriptures say every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that Christ is Lord (Rom. 14:11), this refers to political allegiance, not a salvation experience. Christ will undeniably be the King of the world, and none will be able to depose Him militarily, but this does not mean every person on earth will confess Him as their Savior. He will simply be, to the Gentiles at that time, the world leader of the government system then in power.
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. (Zch. 14:16-17).
What does this scripture mean, except that the nations will need to be coerced into paying a religious tribute to the Lord, because they will not do so voluntarily out of love? The scriptures only indicate that the Jews living in the Millennium will be saved spiritually – it says nothing about the salvation of the Gentiles other than the Jews will be a light of salvation to them, and they will be able to choose Christ if they want.
But when the Millennium ends, and Satan is released from his prison to deceive the nations from around the world, whose number is like the sand of the sea, who do you think those people will be? They will be the unsaved mass of Gentiles living at the end of the Millennium, who bow the knee and confess that Jesus is Lord (i.e., King), but have remained spiritually lost by their own choice. The mere fact that Satan is imprisoned, Jesus is visibly present on earth, and the Millennium will be a time of unparalleled peace, safety and prosperity will not lead to a mass conversion of Gentiles.
Proving once and for all that people do not refuse Christ as Savior for a lack of knowledge or opportunity. Rather, even knowing the truth, they will choose to refuse Christ anyway, and prefer to be eternally lawless. And isn’t that exactly what the scripture has said all along? See, Rom. 1:18-20; 2 Th. 2:9-11. Anyone who tells you that people remain unsaved because no one has shared the gospel with them, is a liar.
A Kingdom of Righteous Government
Consequently, in spite of the fact that Jesus will be King of the world, the world (that is, the Gentile nations) will nevertheless need a strong government to keep them in check and restrain evil. That government will be headquartered at Jerusalem, where Jesus will exercise not only executive, but also legislative and judicial power, by issuing laws and deciding disputes between the nations.
It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. (Isa. 2:2-4). (The same, almost word for word – Mic. 4:1-3).
At the national level, because all nations will serve Christ and be ruled by the saints of Christ, any disputes normally leading to war will be resolved and all wars will cease. But at the individual level, the unsaved masses of people will need a firm hand to restrain personal wrongdoing. How will Jesus accomplish this task? Will He rule the people with kindness, love, grace and mercy? You know, as a ministry of good works? Not quite.
I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” (Ps. 2:7-9).
Well sure, at Armageddon Christ will smash the nations and utterly defeat them. But certainly, afterwards He will use a gentle hand? Nope, afraid not.
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. … From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. (Rev. 19:11, 15).
So, at the appearance of His coming, Christ will break the nations and dash them to pieces. Then after that He will rule the nations by the same standard, that is, via a rod of iron. And the saints, who will rule with Christ under His supreme authority, will use the same methodology.
“The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father.” (Rev. 2:26-27).
To the unsaved Gentiles, the rule of Christ and His saints will seem oppressive and suffocating. A rod of iron suggests a very strict government, where lawlessness is not tolerated or winked at. The saints will not be able to be bribed, extorted or threatened. The letter of the law will be enforced without exception or disparate treatment. Criminals will not be able to manipulate or corrupt the legal system. The power of the sword will not be wielded in vain.
From Christ’s standpoint, of course, the rod of iron is simply the way to prevent defilement and pollution of the land, so that righteousness can flourish over the whole earth. It is merely the means of maintaining a clean earth, so that the kingdom of Christ does not degrade over time. Christ will not rule this way to be overly harsh, punitive or oppressive. He will do this because He will have no other choice, for the sake of the kingdom. He will do this in order to delay the final return of evil until the very end of the earthly kingdom.
After all, once the Millennium is well under way, the current cycle of life, death and rebirth for the entire world will be complete. From that point onward, the earth will enter into a new cycle of life, death and rebirth. When the devil is released from his prison and leads the nations in a final rebellion at the end of the Millennium, there will be one last destruction of the earth by fire – this one being a total destruction, not merely a cleansing of the earth’s surface. This time, the earth and the heavens will be totally dissolved (2 Pet. 3:10-12), and the earth will be re-created entirely.
And it is absolutely necessary that this should happen, because it is the only way to rid the world and its people from sin and death, and from the curse of the ground, finally and forever. For behold, all things will become new. (Rev. 21:5).
People often have a picture in their minds that the great work and ministry of Jesus Christ was completed on the cross. There are several reasons for this. First, Jesus said “It is finished,” at the time of His death. (Jn. 19:30). Second, even before this, as part of His high priestly prayer, He said that He had accomplished the work that the Father had given Him to do. (Jn. 17:4). Third, at least six times the New Testament states that the redemptive work of Christ was done “once for all,” so that no part of it would need to be repeated by anyone. (See, e.g., Rom. 6:10; Heb. 10:10; Jud. 3).
All well and good, as far as it goes. Namely, that the redemptive work of Christ was finished 2,000 years ago, and with this I heartily agree. But then people make the unfortunate mistake of assuming there is no non-redemptive work of Christ left for Him to do on earth. That all Jesus has to do to inherit His kingdom is to welcome the saints into heaven at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, and then He and we all go to heaven for eternity. But that is very clearly not what the scriptures say.
The Bible clearly indicates that the man whose name is the Branch (Jesus Christ) will build the temple of the Lord, and will sit and rule on his throne. He will sit on the throne both as priest and as king, and bring peace between the two offices. (Zch. 6:12-15). Similarly, much of Heb. 7 is devoted to comparing Jesus with Melchizedek, who was king of Salem (i.e., Jerusalem), and priest of the Most High God. And who will Jesus be during the Millennial period, but king of Jerusalem and priest of the Most High God?
The difference between the Millennial period and now as far as the ministry and work of Christ is concerned is this: Jesus has not yet been made king. Jesus expressly denied that He was coming as a king when He died on the cross (“my kingdom is not of this world”). (Jn. 18:36). So we may safely conclude that the death, burial and resurrection of Christ fulfilled or completed His work and ministry as priest, but did absolutely nothing to complete His work and ministry as king. And when Jesus comes into His kingdom to rule as king, it will necessarily be on earth.
What I have tried to show you in this essay is that this is no small thing, no merely perfunctory task, for Jesus to come into His kingdom. This will be a major task, equal in greatness to His ministry as priest, as it will affect billions of lives and profoundly alter the course of history.
Jesus will need to judge the earth and all its inhabitants to clear the slate for a kingdom of righteousness. The vast accumulated sin debt of the earth must be paid and wiped clean. All the truly wicked will be judged and killed. The surface of the earth will be remade and reformed to suit His purposes. All the physical accomplishments and works of people will effectively be eradicated. A remnant of both Jews and Gentiles will be preserved, consisting of people that God alone will choose.
True, salvation will come to the remnant of Jews surviving the Tribulation, but this is merely a means to an end. Namely, that the nation of Israel will be restored as a righteous kingdom, and its people will be positioned to serve their king as ministering agents. The program of redemption available to the Gentiles will be the same as it is now – that work having been completed once for all. Meanwhile, the Gentiles will be subjected to a new global government presided over by Jesus Christ in the flesh, who will rule the Gentiles with a rod of iron. And the saints, who will have been liberated from their mortal bodies of death, will rule and reign together with Christ.
It is my hope that you will see how absolutely vital it is for the plan of God that these things must take place. And that the work of Christ has most assuredly not all been completed, insofar as He is to be the king of the world.
* Copyright © 2021 Gerald R. Thompson. All rights reserved. Used by permission. All Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version.