Politics & Prophecy: A Lawyer’s View of the End Times
Part 5 – The Kingdom of Christ
by Gerald R. Thompson
The kingdom of Christ is what everything is about. Jesus, the Bible, God’s will, man’s purpose, the universe – the meaning of everything is tied to the coming kingdom. So it makes sense that we should take care to find out everything we can about the nature of that kingdom.
Zech 14:1-5, 12-15 (summary) – Jesus stands on the Mount of Olives, which splits from east to west creating a large valley. The holy ones come with him to do battle with all the nations. The flesh of the people who wage war against Jerusalem will rot as they stand. Same for the horses and other beasts. The wealth of surrounding nations will be plundered and returned to Jerusalem.
Mat. 24:29-31, 36-44 (summary) – For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. After the great tribulation, sun and moon will be darkened, and the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven. Jesus will appear on the clouds, with a loud trumpet call, and gather His elect from the four winds. Plus, no one knows the day or hour.
John 14:3 – “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
Acts 1:6-11 (summary) – “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” As Jesus ascended in a cloud, He will come again in a cloud. “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
2Th. 2:1-12 – The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ will not occur, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed. This Antichrist will be killed by the appearance of the coming of Christ.
Rev. 19:11-21 – A rider on a white horse, King of kings, Lord of lords, who comes to judge the nations. The armies of heaven follow on white horses. He will strike his enemies and rule with a rod of iron. At the Great Supper of God, birds will feast on the flesh of the nations arrayed against God. The beast and False Prophet will be thrown alive into the lake of fire.
The Second Coming, a/k/a the Second Advent, is one of the most foundational doctrines of Christianity. It, like the resurrection from the dead and life everlasting, is a key hope of all Christians and a core belief of the faith. The Second Coming serves three basic purposes:
1) Jesus comes to finalize the judgment of the world by conquering the Antichrist personally;
2) Jesus comes to redeem His Church (that is, transform the bodies of all believers), both alive and dead; and
3) Jesus comes to inaugurate His kingdom reign on earth (including the restoration of Israel).
The conquest of the Antichrist was discussed earlier regarding Armageddon and the Great Day of the Lord. The redemption of the Church was discussed under the topic of the First Resurrection and is treated in detail there. The inauguration of the earthly kingdom is discussed under the topic of the Millennium, which I will come to shortly. Here, we will examine the manner and timing of the Second Advent, and why it is so important.
The Second Coming of Christ was predicted by Him both in Mat. 24:29-44 and John 14:3, and was also foretold by the angels immediately following Jesus’ ascension (Acts 1:11). It is a fairly common theme in Paul’s epistles as well. But its origins trace much farther back, certainly to Zech. 14:3-4, where it is said that the Lord will do battle with the nations and stand on the Mt. of Olives.
But it goes back even farther, at least as far back as Isaiah 9:7: “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.”
You see, the very concept of the Messiah, as prophesied throughout the O.T., is that of a conquering king who will sit on the throne of David and rule the world. That is why the Jews, in the time of Jesus’ First Advent, kept expecting Him to conquer Rome and establish His earthly kingdom at that time. They did not realize what God was doing, namely, splitting the kingdom of Christ into the spiritual and the physical, and establishing each of them at different times. They expected that these would both happen at once, and so they missed what God was doing.
But just because Jesus came the first time solely to establish the Church and not to overthrow Rome, does not mean the Jews were entirely wrong, or that God’s plans for a physical kingdom had changed. The biblical concept of a Messiah still requires, as it always did, that Jesus would at some point conquer the nations and set up His kingdom in a physical sense. That is why the Second Coming is such a crucial doctrine of the faith – it is part and parcel of the concept of the Messiah, which cannot be complete without it.
The apostles knew this to be true because they asked Jesus, just before He went up to heaven, whether this was the time He was restoring the kingdom to Israel. Acts 1:6. They knew at that point the establishment of a physical kingdom was absolutely essential to God’s plan. They only saw it in terms of restoring Israel, but they knew there was something undone.
However, Jesus had not yet even finished with the inauguration of the Church (as the Holy Spirit had not yet been sent), so He told them about the coming of the Holy Spirit and deferred the kingdom question with the statement: “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.”
In other words, Jesus did not deny that He would restore the kingdom to Israel. He simply deferred answering the question, as if to say, “It isn’t time for you to know the answer to that question yet.” Perhaps it was even that He could not answer the question, because no one knows the day or hour of his coming except the Father alone, not even the Son. Mt. 24:36. If anything, Jesus’ answer would seem to be a confirmation that He would return to restore Israel, rather than a denial of it.
The manner of the Second Coming is this:
1) Every eye will see him, even those who pierced Him, and all the tribes of the earth will wail over Him. Rev. 1:7. The phrase, every eye will see him, even those who pierced Him is interesting, because all those who crucified Christ are dead. The phrase recalls Zech. 12:10, speaking of the nation of Israel, that “when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child.”
This suggests that Israel will have a collective memory and remorse for their part in the crucifixion. The Jews will recognize Jesus as the firstborn son they rejected, and will feel regret. Perhaps this will help to trigger their turning to Christ after this. But the phrase can also mean that to God, all people have an eternal spirit which remains after the body dies. So even the physically dead will know that Jesus has returned.
The fact that all the nations of the earth will mourn or wail at the Second Coming should be obvious. All of the faithful will likely be dead at the time, leaving only the unbelieving masses to witness Jesus’ return. They will, of course, be painfully aware that all the hope and trust they have placed in the beast kingdom (by accepting the mark of the beast), the Antichrist and the dark armies has been seriously misplaced and in vain. They will realize that all of their denials of the divinity and power of Christ have been wrong, and like it or not they will be under His direct rule here on out in spite of their efforts to defeat Him. Not a very happy prospect, if you have spent your life in defiance of Him.
2) The sign of the Son of Man will appear in the heavens. Jesus will appear on the clouds, with a loud trumpet call, and come in great power. Mt. 24:30-31. At the First Advent, when Jesus came to the world as a baby, certainly some people did take notice of him, but for the vast majority of people on the earth, His appearance was unnoticed. Not so the Second Advent, when everyone will take notice. This will be the greatest theatrical event in all history, and no one will be able to deny it.
I don’t assume this means everyone on the globe will have a direct line of sight, for that would seem to be impossible. However, with all the attending signs of His coming – clouds, strange stuff happening with the sun and moon, a loud trumpet blast – I conceive everyone on earth will know something big is happening when it happens. Not just that they see it on the news, but all men will see and hear for themselves that something very unearthly is happening.
As for the sign of the Son of Man, Mt. 24:29 says that “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” But v. 30 continues, “Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man.” In other words, the sign of the Son of Man follows these other heavenly signs – they are not one and the same. I take it that the appearance of Jesus is the sign of the Son of Man – Jesus Himself is the sign.
3) It will be a unique day, neither day nor night. Zech 14:6-7. We already know that immediately preceding the appearance of Jesus, probably only by minutes or hours, “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” Well, I guess that’s as good a way as any to describe a day when daytime and nighttime are jumbled up.
But the full text of Zech 14:6-7 is worth looking at. “On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost. And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light.” Like I said – grand theater for a grand entrance. And why not?
4) Jesus will gather His elect from around the world, both dead and alive, and meet them in the air. Mt. 24:31; 1Th. 4:16-17. We have here described the First Resurrection, which some people view as the Rapture, and others view as part and parcel of the Second Coming. I am in the second camp, for reasons explained previously. Regardless, this is the event in which believers are translated, that is, given new bodies which will not die and are incorruptible.
Notice that there is a kind of up and down thing going on. First, the saints (the dead in Christ and then those who are alive) are caught up from the earth and meet Jesus in the air, which I take to be mid-descent on His part. Then, the saints follow Jesus the rest of the way so that when He touches ground, all the saints will be with Him, riding white horses, no less. Zech. 14:5; Rev. 19:14.
One of the arguments put forth by dispensationalists in favor of the secret Rapture is that it supposedly makes no sense for believers to go up to meet Christ, only to immediately come back to earth. Therefore, the First Resurrection cannot happen at the same time as the Second Coming (so the argument goes). I frankly don’t know why this should pose a logical problem.
How does it make any more logical sense for believers to be translated, go all the way up to the third heaven, and wait around doing nothing until they are needed to return with Christ? Strictly speaking, God can do this deal any way He likes – both are within His power. But which way has He revealed in His word?
5) Jesus will touch down on the Mount of Olives with His followers with Him on white horses, to conquer the nations. Zech 14:3-4. Rev. 19:14. OK, so now we have a location. Jesus isn’t going to return to earth just anywhere randomly, but He will come specifically to the Mt. of Olives, which is on the doorstep of Jerusalem. Convenient, since the enemies of God will be waiting on the mountains around Jerusalem. That way, they can all get together.
Don’t miss the fact that when Jesus returns to the Mt. Of Olives, it will not only be in the same manner as when He ascended into heaven (in a cloud, standing up), but it will also return Him to the exact spot from which He ascended to heaven. Acts 1:12. Nothing about His return will be random.
We are also told that “On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward.” Zech. 14:4. So when Jesus returns, He will not only shake the sky, but split the earth.
6) Jesus will personally defeat the Antichrist and throw him and the False Prophet into hell. 2Th. 2:8; Rev. 19:20. I have already mentioned that Jesus will kill the Antichrist by the mere appearance of His coming. A word will go forth from His mouth like a sword, and fire will come down to destroy the armies of the Antichrist. The saints won’t have to lift a finger. I have also already discussed how the Antichrist and False Prophet will be immediately thrown into the lake of fire, and Satan locked in the abyss. And this is how the Second Coming will come to a close.
Although, we can expect that there will be a substantial aftermath of this event. Those who dwell in the cities of Israel will go out and make fires of the weapons wielded by the enemies of God and burn them for seven years, so that they will not need to take wood out of the field or cut down any out of the forests. They will seize the spoil of those who despoiled them, and plunder those who plundered them. Finally, all the multitude of the armies of the Antichrist will have to be buried in the Valley of the Travelers, in Israel. Ezek. 39:9-11.
7) No one knows the day or hour except the Father alone. Mt. 24:36. This is a rather strange statement, given that Jesus said He and the Father “are one.” Jn. 10:30. Doesn’t Jesus know what God the Father knows? Now, yes. But when the statement was made, Jesus was in His human form, in which He had laid aside certain attributes of divinity. Phlp. 2:6-7. No, I don’t think members of the divine Trinity keep secrets from each other.
Now, as to timing, 2Th. 2:1-12 makes clear that the Second Coming will not occur until after the Antichrist is revealed. Since the appearance of Jesus results in the immediate defeat of the Antichrist, his coming must be at the very end of the Tribulation.
If you’re thinking people will be able to figure out when Jesus will return by knowing how long the Tribulation is, that won’t necessarily be easy to determine. Will the Tribulation be seven years or 3½ years long, and is that on the Gregorian or Hebrew calendar? Actually, in my opinion that answer is more likely 1290 days or (my favorite) 1335 days as per Dan. 12:12. Then again, it could even be the 2300 days of Dan. 8:13-14. Wait – this was supposed to be easy! No wonder Jesus said no one knows the day or hour.
Even the very next scripture (Mat. 24:32-35) in the lesson of the fig tree, tells us that people will know when it is time for these things to take place, but it’s not very helpful. “When you see all these things, you know that he is near.” See all what things? By the time anyone sees the sign of the Son of Man, it will already be over. More likely, Jesus meant that when you see the Abomination of Desolation, you’ll know things are near. Sooo – you might be able to figure it out, but only if you are alive at the end of the Tribulation. And if you are reading this now, you probably won’t be.
The Sabbath Principle, or the 7,000 Year Plan for Man
The material I present in this current section will be different from the rest of this book in a key respect. The rest of this book is almost exclusively based on a careful exegesis of the scriptures. But here, it is not the text of the Bible we will examine so much as making observations about the world, about history, and about the ways God appears to work in human affairs so as to discern, if possible, patterns in the way those things occur.
One of the many advantages of believing in the laws of nature and nature’s God as I do, is that it does not exclude the law of nature component from our efforts to discern God’s will. Remember, the laws of nature and nature’s God consists of the revealed word of God in the Bible and the person of Jesus Christ, and the general revelation of God’s will in the observable creation (i.e., the law of nature) and our consciences.
As between the two, the revealed will of God in the Bible is always of more authority than what we merely guess it to be from making observations. Yet it is valid to make observations about matters not addressed in the scriptures, and to the extent such observations do not contradict the scriptures they may be used to formulate arguments which are entitled to as much respect as they are persuasive. So please allow me to make some observations and put forward arguments based on them as best as I can. I will let you judge the extent to which any of them are persuasive.
The Sabbath Principle is simple – 6 days of labor followed by one day of rest. Gen. 2:2-3; Exo. 20:11. Does the same thing hold true for millennia? That is, does God have a 7,000 year plan for man – 6 millennia of labor followed by one millennium of rest (Jesus’ kingdom)?
If I understand the millennial kingdom of Christ correctly, it will be a time of relative rest (that is, compared to what we have now). The curse of the ground will remain, but the face of the earth will be changed, cleansed, and in all probability be a more friendly environment over the globe. Men will still be born with a sin nature, but Satan and his demons will be removed from all earthly influence. Israel will be restored, and the earth will experience a time of unparalleled peace and prosperity. People will live longer, disease and pestilence will be rarer, and war will be abolished. It’s not heaven – but isn’t it the definition of a period of rest from what we now have?
So the question which naturally arises is this: Assuming the Millennium will be a period of rest arguendo, has all the prior history of the earth occurred in only 6,000 years? For the following reasons, I believe the answer is yes’ – approximately. Plus or minus 50 -100 years. Ask me again a hundred years from now.
A. The biblical genealogies, if one takes them at all seriously, or as trustworthy, cannot put together a chronology going back to Adam which extends beyond roughly 6,000 years. Numerous biblical scholars have constructed timelines of world history, and every one I have ever seen puts Adam at 4001-4004 B.C. Even if creation pre-dates Adam, all prophecy is concerned with (think back to Gen. 3) is human history, which only goes back to Adam. Unless, of course, you just plain reject the biblical genealogies or reject a literal Adam and Eve who were created by the direct act of God and did not have any human parents.
However, consistency is important. If we’re going to assume for the sake of this discussion that the Millennium will be literal, it only makes sense to take the creation account of Gen. 1 & 2 literally, as well as the genealogies going back to Adam. Put another way, No, I don’t think the biblical genealogies are another example of God’s exaggerations about lineages and life spans.
But a review of the evidence in this regard is beyond the scope of this book, except to say that it isn’t a matter of science. Rather, it is a matter of documentation – what the oldest writings testify about the origin of man and whether those documents are reliable. I told you up front this was going to be a lawyer’s perspective on things. And to a lawyer, documents are competent evidence. God never said science holds the key to history.
So humor me, even if I may be out of my mind on this point. The documentary evidence is on my side, so it is at least a plausible and rational basis for proceeding, even if you disagree.
B. There are scientific studies of the distribution of blood types (A, B, AB & O) worldwide, showing how they are perfectly harmonious with the human race being started by only two individuals, followed by a catastrophic event which severely restricted the gene pool (i.e., the flood of Noah). The blood type distribution data of the present world fits exactly the predictive model based on the book of Genesis being taken literally. Here, obviously, I defer to scientists, but I leave you to your own devices in checking me on this, and I only suggest that if you are open to the idea, scientific research exists to support my claim. See, for example, http://www.icr.org/article/abo-blood-human-origins.
C. There are scientific population studies with complex mathematical formulae calculating the rates of population growth over the centuries. The fact is, today’s world population fits exactly the predicted amount if one assumes eight people stepped off Noah’s ark around 2344 B.C. If you vary any basic assumption – e.g., Noah’s flood was only regional, not worldwide; or Adam and Eve were not literal, but representative of many more people living at that time; or that the human race started even a modest 10,000 years ago (much less 100,000 years ago or earlier); the numbers don’t work.
Make any of those assumptions supporting a non-literal understanding of Genesis, and the world population skyrockets – even taking into account wars and plagues – so that we would be stepping all over each other with no unpopulated areas of the earth, resulting in many times the current world population. Today’s world population only makes sense if the human race is very young. Again, if you look into this, you will be able to find research by actual non-lawyers in support of what I have said. See, e.g., http://www.icr.org/article/67/.
D. The Jewish calendar, which purports to keep track of the years since Adam’s creation is currently at year 5777 (in our year 2017). There are some interesting theories of why the Jewish calendar has a 240 year “gap”, but the point is, no reworking of the Jewish calendar will get you beyond 6,000 years since creation. And who on earth would have a more reliable continuous calendar going back to creation (according to the Genesis account) than the Jews? Oh, you want to rely on the Egyptian calendar? Good luck with that.
E. Many of the significant events in biblical history have occurred near 1,000 year or 500 year markers since creation, with a plus or minus of about 50 years. Namely, the births of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus, all of whom were instruments to bring in a new divine covenant. I argue the divine covenants are the key events in all of human history. Coincidence, or planned? It seems that God has tended to do big things in increments of 1,000 years throughout history – including the coming Millennium. Will the Second Coming follow this pattern? Who can say?
In calculating our current position in world history, I wonder whether, from God’s point of view, the historically significant date is the birth of Jesus or the death of Jesus. Since the Church was founded at His death, not His birth, I lean toward viewing His death as the more significant. Thus, if God were to go out 2,000 years from that date, it would take us to- ah, but that is what the next section is all about.
In any event, God is in charge of history. I’m not a numerologist – trust me, I’ve seen and studied many timelines and charts showing how God is supposed to work in certain multiples of years, etc. For the most part, I have not been convinced by any of these. But I know He is in charge, and nothing happens truly by accident, both at the small level and in the big picture. So whether history is only 6,000 years old or not, God has a plan and history is not just a series of random events over endless amounts of time. History has a beginning, an end, and a plan that goes all the way in between.
“I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ … I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.” Isa. 46:9b-11.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Rev. 22:13.
All of this discussion leads to a final question. OK, let’s assume arguendo that the history of the human race has taken roughly 6,000 years so far. Let’s also assume that any earthly kingdom of Christ, if it were to exist, would be a time of relative rest. But does any of that mean that God has actually planned for the totality of history to be structured this way? Not necessarily, but if that isn’t the grand plan, then what is? Is Jesus really going to wait 100,000 years before returning? Does God need that much time to spread the gospel to all nations? Does Satan need that much time to bring sin to its full fruition? Also see Job 5:19.
Oh wait! I forgot to put my postmill hat on. According to that view, Christians are gradually going to transform culture and dominate the world before Jesus returns. At the current rate of progress, it would probably take them about 100,000 years. No, I’ve changed my mind. There is no Christian cultural progress. The Church will never get there. Do you think the Church will ever really dominate the world before the Second Coming? Where is the evidence? Is Christianity trending on social media?