The Gospel of the Kingdom:
Transition From Church to Kingdom
by Gerald R. Thompson*
First: No Gospel Without the Kingdom / What Is the Kingdom of God?
Second: The Gospel of the Kingdom, Which Is Not the Church
Marriage Supper of the Lamb
In light of the gospel of the kingdom, I have come to a new understanding of the significance of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! … for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure” for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Rev. 19:6-9).
Traditionally, this text is viewed as the culmination of the universal Church, when believers will become like Jesus (immortal, clothed in righteousness) and will join with Him in eternity. Typically, commentators regard the Church as simply no longer needed on earth after this event. Many will also see believers moving straight into eternity at this point without an intervening Millennial period on earth. Alternatively, some believe the Church will watch in heaven as the Tribulation and Millennium play out on earth.
Unfortunately, the Marriage Supper is the subject of much phony speculation. Commentators have waxed eloquent on the nature and composition of the “guests” at this event, exceeded in their folly only by past theologians debating the number of angels who could dance on the head of a pin.
And forget about any “analysis” you may have read using the framework of a three-stage Middle Eastern wedding to interpret this scripture. God did not construct His Marriage Supper of the Lamb based on any human traditions, new or old. God needs no human inspiration to formulate His plans. AS IF God is actually going to host a banquet feast for all believers, who will sit down and eat a meal in heaven in the presence of God. What utter nonsense.
Let me sort this out. First, there are no “guests” who observe the feast. The invitees consist solely of the believers who take part in the First Resurrection. In fact, what the Marriage Supper describes IS the First Resurrection, just from a different perspective. Second, there is no actual banquet where believers sit down and eat. Skip down a few verses, where the actual banquet is described.
Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” (Rev. 19:17-18).
That’s right: the great supper of God is, in fact, the marriage supper of the Lamb. Anyone who is familiar with the scriptures detailing the battle of Armageddon knows what this is. This is the aftermath of the battle, when Christ slays the enemies of God on the mountains of Israel on the day that He returns. See, Ezek. 39:17-20. It’s all right there in Ezekiel, where the same event is described as a great sacrificial feast at God’s table.
I suppose, to elaborate on the analogy to a marriage, the actual wedding is when believers are caught up in the air to meet Christ, whether previously dead or alive. The great supper of God is most like a typical wedding reception – the meal which follows the wedding. The Wedding Reception of the Lamb, as it were.
Prophetic events are often portrayed multiple times in scripture, to show us varying perspectives, or angles, of the same event. Thus, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb shows us the First Resurrection and the aftermath of Armageddon from a unique perspective compared to other scriptures.
Of course, for this to truly make sense to you, you have to accept that these both happen on the same day. And if you let your preconceptions take a rest for a moment and let scripture speak for itself, it becomes clear that the day of the Second Coming is a busy day. The saints are resurrected to meet Jesus in the air (where they are given their new immortal bodies), Jesus sets down on the Mt. of Olives exactly where He ascended, He slays the wicked by the mere appearance of His coming, and the birds are immediately called into action to devour God’s enemies.
But that doesn’t even begin to describe the half of it. Zech. 12:1-14:15 is an extended text devoted entirely to describing the events on the day of the Second Coming. In that text, the phrase on that day is used 15 times to describe all the things that will happen on the day of the Second Coming. So the scenario I have proposed is not far fetched.
Not a Culmination, But a Repurposing
So what, you may ask, is the different perspective on the uniting of the Church with Jesus that Rev. 19 presents?
And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Th. 4:16-17).
Now tell me, isn’t that exactly what the Marriage Supper of the Lamb is describing? But wait – don’t miss this interesting link between the First Resurrection and the kingdom of Christ:
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. (1 Cor. 15:22-25).
Notice how the First Resurrection is linked with the Second Coming, which in turn is linked to the establishment of the kingdom of Christ. All of which happens on the same day. Leading me to conclude that the Marriage Supper of the Lamb is a metaphorical ceremony by which individual believers are inducted into the physical kingdom of Christ on earth.
Of course, when this whole thing goes down, there won’t be time for an actual ceremony. The entire event (transformation, meeting Jesus, and being united with Him) will all take place in the blink of an eye. (1 Cor. 15:52). Then Jesus will appear with his holy ones to destroy the enemies of God. And for you skeptics – Yes, I do believe that watching the birds eating the flesh off the enemies of God will be a joyous occasion, and cause for a great celebration.
Then the real work of establishing the kingdom on earth will begin. No time for partying. Believers will be lifted up, as it were, then immediately return to earth with Jesus to inaugurate the kingdom of Christ. There will be no time spent in heaven after the meeting up. There won’t be any watching of the events on earth unfold, as if from a heavenly balcony. No one is going to heaven – yet.
Remember that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 15:50-52). The First Resurrection and the earthly kingdom of God are linked together. Believers are transformed in order that they may then enter the kingdom of Christ on earth. Being changed into an immortal body isn’t the ticket for entrance into heaven – it is the ticket for entrance into the physical kingdom of God on earth. Isn’t that good news? Say it with me – good news.
In this we also see the ultimate completion of the grafting process described in Rom. 11. When the apostle Paul said that God had the power to graft the Jews back into the olive tree of God again, He wasn’t just speaking hypothetically. He was speaking prophetically, for the Jews will indeed one day see Jesus, repent, and immediately return to Him. According to Isaiah, this mass conversion of the Jews will happen in a single day. (Isa. 66:8).
And what day will this be? The day of the Second Coming. Which means that the Gentiles will be finally and fully grafted into the kingdom of God on the very same day the Jews are re-grafted in. Does it make sense now? Consequently, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb won’t be a culmination of the Church experience so much as it will be a transition into the kingdom of Christ. And upon inheriting this kingdom, everyone will have a specific job to do (see below).
In this light, we can better understand the wedding-themed parables Jesus told. The Parable of the Wedding Feast (Mat. 22:1-14) describes a wedding feast where the initial invited guests refused to come, so the door to the feast was thrown open to people who were found out in the street. The main point of the parable is to explain that the Jews would reject Jesus as their Messiah, so God would throw open the door of salvation to the Gentiles. But don’t miss the secondary point – when the wedding feast occurs, only the Church will be there.
Similarly, in the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Mat. 25:1-13), two groups of virgins are compared – the foolish and the wise. All of them are ostensibly waiting for the arrival of the bridegroom (i.e., Christ), but when He comes, the foolish are not prepared. Meanwhile, those who were ready went in with Him to the marriage feast, and then the door was shut. After which the foolish could not get in. This is a direct reference to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, which will occur on the day Christ returns – no do-overs or second chances.
The Marriage Supper will mark the end of the Church in its present form. It is when the Church transitions from being composed of mortal sinful beings living on a broken and decaying world, to being composed of immortal sinless beings living on a restored and flourishing world. More importantly, it is a transition from the Church doing spiritual things very imperfectly, to the Church performing worldwide governance perfectly. The Church does not complete its task at the Marriage Supper, but is repurposed for a new task. You know – ruling and reigning with Christ. On earth. (Rev. 20:4).
This, too, is part of the gospel of the kingdom.
God Isn’t Finished With You Yet
If you have gone to church most of your life, what I have said so far may sound unfamiliar. That is undoubtedly due, in part, to a line you have been fed all your life, that when you die you will immediately go to heaven. Similarly, much of Christianity is infected with the belief that once Jesus returns, history as we know it on earth will cease.
I am here to tell you that before eternity comes, there will be an interregnum period known as the kingdom of Christ. And every Christian in this life will actively participate in that kingdom.
The kingdom of Christ will be an intervening government between the world as we know it now and the eternal kingdom of God with the New Jerusalem set upon a new earth. The present world, of course, is governed by competing nations which prey upon and devour other nations in an endless cycle of wars and destruction. In the kingdom of Christ, nations will still exist, but they will no longer be governed competitively or destructively, their governments being unified under a global head.
This kingdom of Christ will be physical, on the present earth, in history. It is still future – we are not in the Millennium now, gradually bringing about the kingdom of Christ on earth. Neither will the kingdom of Christ be merely spiritual, that is, merely a reference to the eternal state. And you have not yet been resurrected – guaranteed – if you have been saved, because the resurrection relates to your physical body, not your spirit.
Perhaps you are wondering why God would provide for a physical kingdom of Christ before eternity kicks in. I have two responses, perhaps there are others.
First, I believe God wants to demonstrate a kingdom progression, at least in terms of the physical manifestation of the kingdom of God. He wants people to know His plans ensure that things will only get better in the long run. I described this progression of the kingdom a few pages back.
Second, I believe God wants to demonstrate a Sabbath principle in history. Namely, just as He created the world in six days and then rested, world history will undergo a time of great agitation and decay for six thousand years, then experience a thousand years of peace and prosperity. In comparison to prior history, the Millennium will feel like a period of great rest. That is, a great physical rest for the world, in addition to the spiritual rest for the people of God. See, Heb. 4:9-10.
In a sense, the Tribulation period is what will make this period of great rest possible. Sure, the return of Jesus with His holy ones will maintain the peace, safety and prosperity of the world during the Millennium. But before that can happen, the agitation, sin and decay of the prior six thousand years must be thrown off and paid for. This is what the destruction of God’s enemies and the judgments on the earth up to and including the battle of Armageddon will accomplish.
I see the Millennium as a time when God will let people see what the world could have been like, if they had followed the laws and commands of God from the beginning, and had governed themselves with the Golden Rule as their main goal. I can’t prove this from scripture – it’s just the conclusion I draw when I look at biblical descriptions of the kingdom of Christ.
So what will this kingdom of Christ look like, structurally? There will be three groups of people on earth at that time. First, a remnant of the Jews will survive the Tribulation, who will accept Jesus en masse at the Second Coming, and be imbued with a special knowledge of God’s laws via a seventh divine covenant between God and Israel. (Jer. 31:31-34). These people will all be normal, mortal human beings, raising families, living and dying as usual, though perhaps longer.
Second, a remnant of the Gentiles around the world will also survive the Tribulation. They will not be saved, because if they were, they would have been resurrected with the Church. Some will undoubtedly come to have faith in Christ, but not all. Scripture says every knee will bow, and every tongue confess (Rom. 14:11; Php 2:10-11), but it does not say every heart will believe. Indeed, many of these will rebel at the end of the Millennium. These will also be normal, mortal humans.
Third, there will be the resurrected saints. Immortal. No marrying or having kids. These will all be citizens of the kingdom, ruling and reigning with Christ. The unsaved Gentiles are likely to be mere subjects of the kingdom.
Israel, as such, will be a self-governing nation, presumably governed by the resurrected apostles. (Mat. 19:28; Lk. 22:28-30). The Levites and priests, particularly the sons of Zadok, will minister to Christ in the rebuilt Temple. (Eze. 44:15). The Jews in general will at that time truly become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, as foretold in Exo. 19:6. (See, Zch. 8:23). From these facts it can be inferred that Jerusalem will be the religious center of the world, and the Jews will be the worldwide ministers and agents on behalf of Christ for religious purposes.
But, what of the rest of the world, the Gentile nations? Even in its restored state, Israel will only be a very small parcel of land, and its people a small fragment of the world population. The Gentile nations, in order to keep the peace and prevent any and all wars, will ultimately be ruled by a world civil government flowing from Christ in Jerusalem. And who will Jesus use to rule the Gentile nations during the kingdom of Christ? He will contact the Human Resources Dept., obviously.
Human Resources Department
Today we usually think of infrastructure as relating to roads, bridges, buildings, water & sewer, various utilities and other physical alterations to the landscape for housing, transportation, communications, power generation and distribution, etc. However, governments have infrastructure, too. We are all too familiar with the various levels of local, state and federal government organizations, departments, agencies, etc.
Governments, like any private business, need to move things around, house assets in various locations, establish lines of authority and communication, and most importantly, assign various people to perform specific tasks. The kingdom of God, when Christ comes, will be no different. And those people who are given tasks to perform on behalf of the kingdom of Christ will probably consist entirely (100%) of the members of the Church who have been resurrected.
The Gentile nations, being fallen mortal people, will need to be governed. But I suspect the rule providing for the government of the people by the consent of the governed will be largely, if not entirely, suspended. For this will be a time when nations will no longer have conflicts, wars will cease, and absolute peace and freedom from conflict will persist. Which means that the government of the Gentile nations will not be left to the discretion and choices of imperfect human beings.
Instead, Christ will establish regional, national and probably local leaders, all of whom will be perfect and immortal. He will draw from the pool of resurrected saints, who very shortly after coming to earth with Christ, will be assigned some specific government job, which they will faithfully carry out for the next 1,000 years. Yes, folks, this is what it means to rule and reign with Christ. (Rev. 20:4). At least, that’s how I see it, based on the available evidence.
Remember that earlier we noticed how any kingdom, and the kingdom of God in particular, has ministers, that is, government agents. Well, when the kingdom of God comes to earth, people who are members of the Church now will become those government agents. It is for this purpose that all believers will be resurrected and united with Christ. What? Nobody ever told you that?
I fully expect Christ to follow the model first used by Moses, to appoint “chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.” (Exo. 18:21). Isn’t this in fact exactly what Christ meant in the parable of the talents, when He said to the faithful servant, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Mat. 25:21). Set him over much when and where? And much what?
In Luke’s version of the parable, the promise is made more clear. The servant who was faithful over ten minas was given ten cities, and the one who was faithful over five minas was given five cities. Ten cities and five cities where? And when? In the kingdom of Christ. Again, Jesus said “Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.” (Mat. 24:46-47). That is, in the kingdom.
The universal lesson in each of these examples is that the servant who is lazy and unfaithful, rather than being rewarded, will be punished. From this I conclude that positions in the Millennial government of Christ will be distributed on the basis of merit, and not randomly. Which strongly suggests that each believer has a certain hand in determining the extent of their own reward. Do you want to have a key role in the kingdom of Christ? What are you doing now to prepare you for your future role? How much are you advancing the kingdom of God? Not the Church – the kingdom!
When was the last time any of your church leaders told you any of these things, if ever? Or are they still looking only backward to Christ crucified? Friends, do not be deceived. The kingdom of Christ is coming, and coming soon. How prepared are you for it?
No matter how spiritual you are, your life is likely to be plagued by governmental problems. And not necessarily because of anything you have done personally. We all live in a sinful and corrupt world. Thus, the people of God – throughout history – have been justifiably concerned about governmental things. And God is not displeased with this – He does not sit up in heaven wishing we were all more spiritually-minded.
It is far more likely that God wishes we were all more government minded. Not worldly government minded – not consumed by mere politics – but more godly government-minded. Realizing that good, godly government, and mirroring our laws after the model of God’s laws, are things God not only wants us to do, but in fact made us to do. Because, when all is said and done, that’s who God is. We often think of how God is light, God is love, or God is holy. But how often do we seriously consider that God is law, and God is government?
Isa. 33:22 says, “the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver; the Lord is our king.” Is that not the very essence of government? Did you really think the three branches of government were invented by people? Which is more likely, that God created and fitted mankind to operate in His law and government framework, or that He made people without the slightest regard for such things?
Therefore, a righteous concern for law and government is an inherent part of our makeup. It is a part of being made in God’s image. We do not deviate from God’s plan by devoting ourselves to matters of righteous law and government, we in fact fulfill His plan for us by doing so. And historically, the people of God have always recognized this.
When the Israelites were stuck in slavery in Egypt, what were they complaining about? Lack of prayer and devotional time, personal piety, or the inability to witness for Jehovah? No, they were looking for a Deliverer, not a spiritual Savior, just as in the time of Jesus. Nor is this merely a Jewish or O.T. mind set.
When the Pilgrims were about to land at Plymouth Rock, before they could leave the boat, they first had to make sure they had all their gospel tracts in order and their evangelistic strategies in place. Oops – sorry. Actually, the first order of business was to form “a civil Body Politick.” Then when later colonists came to America, surely they immediately set up a nonprofit and tax exempt organization, with specific fund-raising goals and a planned giving program. Er, not exactly.
The Virginia settlers desired to bring the inhabitants of the new land “to human Civility, and to a settled and quiet Government.” The colonists of Connecticut declared, “the word of God requires that to maintain the peace and union of such a people there should be an orderly and decent government established according to God, to order and dispose of the affairs of the people at all seasons as occasion shall require.” Wow. What worldly heathen they were.
And of course, when the founders of America decided to break from England, it was for reasons relating to maintaining the purity of the gospel, evangelizing the lost, and promoting personal piety throughout society. No, it was to secure their God-given rights. Relying, in the end, on Divine Providence [i.e., God] and appealing to the supreme judge of the world [i.e., God]. And this made America a Christian nation.
In the end, so-called social issues always come down to questions of who is going to be in charge, what limits are in place to prevent governmental abuse, and making sure that the governmental mistakes of the past are not repeated. Dare I say, the universal thrust of mankind, across nations and centuries, has been to hope for, and to try to bring about, a good kingdom, and to avoid becoming a bad kingdom.
What was all the recent furor over the 2020 election, Trump, and the storming of the Capitol? To expose and root out the Deep State, to restore free speech, freedom of religion and other constitutional freedoms, and to end oppressive legislation and injustice. When the pandemic hit, what got people riled up? Mask requirements, social distancing, business closures, travel restrictions and quarantines imposed without any finding of actual infection or fault.
I am not endorsing the means or methods used by everyone in these recent instances of governmental turmoil. I am not saying whether the people involved were acting rightly or wrongly. They are all simply examples of people instinctively acknowledging that God made them for good government. You can evaluate each of these on your own, based on God’s laws and His principles of government, assuming you know what they are. Don’t know what those are? Better look into it.
It’s amazing how the Christian community, as a whole, failed to grasp what was going on with individual Christian responses to the election and the pandemic. The religious community seemed to think people’s loyalties were being misplaced, their focus was being drawn away from the gospel (you know, what is truly important), and were chasing after a false (i.e., political) god. In so doing, ministry leaders just showed themselves to be ignorant and completely clueless.
In reality, Christians were, and are, responding just as people in general, and the people of God in particular, have always responded. “Let us throw off the systems, institutions and governments (i.e., kingdoms) of our oppressors, the agents of the Devil, and bring about systems, institutions and governments more in line with scripture and the laws of God.” I suggest there could not possibly be a more holy enterprise than this, and God understands it completely.
In fact, that is what the Gospel of the Kingdom is all about. Not political action, as such. But a genuine concern to see the laws of God and godly government implemented in our lifetime, because that is the way He made us. My message to churches everywhere: Get with the program.
Yes, I know that ultimately, all such human efforts will fail. But guess what? All human efforts to transform the world by evangelizing the lost will fail, too. Even the most Spirit-led revival will fail to prevent the world from descending into chaos, or prevent the Devil’s kingdom from rising. Only the coming kingdom of Christ will succeed, where all others have failed. And that is the best news of the kingdom of God that you will ever hear. So be bold and tell others about it. It is the Gospel, after all.
First: No Gospel Without the Kingdom / What Is the Kingdom of God?
Second: The Gospel of the Kingdom, Which Is Not the Church