Politics & Prophecy: A Lawyer’s View of the End Times
Part 2 – Judgment of the Nations
by Gerald R. Thompson
THE SECOND COMING, CON’T
He Will Raise Us Up on the 3rd Day
There are other historical patterns people have suggested for how history may be organized. Thus, for example, some have suggested a model for the Millennial timetable based on the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. In other words, He lay in the grave for two days, and arose on the third. Again making an argument based on a figurative day as a literal thousand years, this would put the beginning of the Millennial kingdom 2,000 years out from the crucifixion, or about 2030 A.D. In other words, two thousand years when Jesus was absent from the earth, and then a thousand years when He is brought back to life. [Note: I did not come up with this theory.]
Let me here submit an interesting scripture for your consideration, namely, Hos. 6:1-2. “Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.”
Many people regard this text as a prophecy concerning the resurrection of Christ, but the text suggests otherwise. There is no mention of the Messiah, an anointed one, the Rock, the Branch, the root of Jesse, the Son of David, or any other messianic language. The text is part of a larger context of God voicing a complaint against the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah. All the pronouns are plural – we, and us.
So think about these verses in light of our previous discussion of the time of the Gentiles. Israel was the most favored nation on earth from the Exodus until the crucifixion, when the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom and access to God was thrown open to the Gentiles. This began the time of the Gentiles and threw Israel’s national prominence into suspension – a time when Israel as a nation was put in the grave, so to speak. In other words, in God’s eyes, at the crucifixion the nation of Israel was torn, struck down, and knocked out. That happened in 30 A.D.
If Israel is to be revived, healed and raised up, what does that mean, except the restoration of Israel? And when does that happen? – at the Second Coming. So two days from the crucifixion is, again, 2030 A.D. Which means, working backwards, that the Tribulation could start in 2026 or earlier.
OK – no, I am not making a prediction, and I am not setting dates. All I’m doing is looking for patterns in history, seeing if there is any possible support in scripture, and making an extrapolation. The pattern I think I’m seeing may not actually be there. Yes of course I could be wrong – and if I am it won’t change any of my analysis of prophecy generally. If you have a better interpretation of After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, I’m willing to hear it.
So when I talk about a 7,000 year plan for man, I really mean a 7,030 year plan for man. In other words, the birth of Christ did not divide time, but rather his entire life span divided time – 4,000 years before, and 3,000 years after. Now of course, the scripture says we cannot know the day or hour when Jesus returns (Mat. 24:36), but what is the lesson of the fig tree (Mt. 24:32-35) if not that we will know the season when these things will take place? And a season is only 91-92 days long.
Plus, all guesses of this nature have an implicit plus or minus factor, which I generally place at up to 50 years. Although, going in the minus direction would seem to be pointless. But I could easily be off by 50 years – or more. When we get closer – when we see the ten nation confederacy forming, when Jerusalem is actually attacked, or when the Jews regain control of the Temple Mount – then and only then, will we know that the season is near. Until then, we will just have to wait.
But before you get fixated on dates, consider the real importance of Hos. 6:1-2. Namely, God was not caught by surprise when Israel rejected Christ in 30 A.D., God did not have to put into effect a contingency plan to delay the coming of His kingdom, and the Church Age is not (I repeat NOT) a “parenthesis” in the timeline of prophecy. It is not true that if Israel had only accepted Jesus during His First Advent, then His earthly kingdom would have come much sooner (i.e., in the first century A.D.). God knew all along, and even disclosed the fact to Israel (if they had taken the time to look for it), that the kingdom would not come so soon after Christ’s resurrection. It’s right there in black and white.
I do not present this argument as doctrine, or as a prophetic revelation. It makes a certain amount of logical sense, but whether it has any connection to historical (or future) reality is something I can only guess at. That it has been almost 2,000 years since the crucifixion I take as a fact. That the Millennial kingdom will be 1,000 literal years I take on faith. Whether the end of one will be the beginning of the other remains to be seen.
Although some people immediately jump to 2 Pet. 3:8 (“one day is as a thousand years” ) to bolster their position either as to the 7,000 year plan for man or as to the 3,000 year scenario, I do not take that statement as laying down a rule of prophetic interpretation. It just means that God exists transcendent of time, and time doesn’t affect Him. To read a prophetic rule into that verse is not required by the text.
However, I cannot deny the possibility that such a rule might be true for reasons other than the existence of the verse. Let me explain, again going back to the law of nature.
We know that murder has been wrong from the beginning of history, as may be discerned from the account of Cain and Abel. Gen. 4. We also know that murder was prohibited in the Ten Commandments, but that those commandments were specifically given to and directed solely towards Israel in its national capacity. Ex. 20. Thus, as a matter of scriptural interpretation, we do not properly say that murder is wrong in Gentile nations today because the Ten Commandments say so. Rather, murder is wrong in Gentile nations because it is part of the law of nature, which we can prove without resorting to the Decalogue.
That these two should agree is no surprise, because the law of nature (or general revelation) and the laws of nature’s God (or special revelation, including the Decalogue) have the same author, namely God. So the fact that murder is prohibited in the laws of ancient Israel is not what makes that law applicable elsewhere, but it gives us a clue of what to look for in nature that might be proved by other means.
Similarly, the laws of immorality God used to vomit the Canaanites out from the Promised Land in Lev. 18 were not made applicable because those same laws were recited in the Mosaic code. Instead, the strong inference is those laws must also be a part of the laws of nature, and that’s what made them applicable to the Canaanites.
So too, when looking at 2 Pet. 3:8, the question is not whether the verse states a prophetic rule binding on God, but whether an observation of history corroborates or contradicts the possible existence of a pattern whereby God works in human affairs in 1,000 year increments. Present your arguments either for or against, and make your case. Until the pattern be proved or disproved, let others agree to disagree. But it does present an intriguing possibility.
The one thing I would caution in all of this is that even though God certainly knows how to count days and years, the imposing of judgment is always a matter of discretion (i.e., sovereignty) and therefore He is not constrained to act with any sort of mathematical precision. The human tendency – which we must resist – is that once a pattern has been discerned, we try to quantify it with numerical precision so we can calculate things in advance. God doesn’t work that way. Know when the season is at hand and be prepared, but don’t waste your time trying to predict things in advance because the numbers line up a certain way.
Rev. 20:1-6 (summary) – Satan is seized, thrown into the bottomless pit, and chained there for a thousand years. Then the pit is shut and sealed over him to prevent him from deceiving the nations until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while. Then, seated on thrones “were those to whom the authority to judge was committed.” Also, the souls of those who had been beheaded for the sake of Jesus and who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received the mark of the beast came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.
The Millennium is, for all practical purposes, the same as the Golden Age of the O.T. The difference is that O.T. prophets saw this period primarily in terms of the restoration of Israel. Whereas Revelation sees it primarily as the establishment of the earthly kingdom of Christ, in which Christians will rule and reign. These two things are not incompatible, nor are they completely separate, nor are they completely identical. They are symbiotic and complementary.
Which is to say, Jesus will establish His worldwide earthly kingdom with its capital in Jerusalem. He will rule all the nations, but Israel will play a prominent role in that kingdom. Israel’s land, fortune and reputation will have been restored, and people from around the world will come to Jerusalem both the worship the king and also conduct official business. Israel will be the center of the world not only geographically, but politically. Don’t be surprised if the GMT/UTC is reset to Jerusalem instead of Greenwich, England.
As an example of this symbiotic relationship between the restoration of Israel and the rule and reign of the Church, consider Mat. 19:28-29:
Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.”
Clearly, the bulk of Jesus’ remarks are directed to believers in Him – those who have left family and property “for my name’s sake.” So He is not speaking primarily to ethnic Jews. Yet, the twelve apostles will sit on twelve thrones governing not the Church, not twelve nations, but the twelve tribes of Israel. Yes, of course the apostles were all Israelites. Yet they will not sit on those thrones merely because of their ancestry, but because they were foundational to the inauguration of the Church. Frankly, I would have expected these twelve thrones to be occupied by the twelve sons of Jacob. So Israel and the Church will both be exalted in the Millennium together, symbiotically.
The Millennium, the 1,000 year earthly kingdom of Christ, is only mentioned once in the entire Bible as a fixed period of time, in Rev. 20:1-10. For this reason, some people discount it as something of an aberration – supposedly you can’t get good doctrine from just one text. And normally I would agree. But the phrase thousand years is mentioned six times in those few verses, adding considerable emphasis. Plus, when put together with scriptures regarding the Golden Age and other scriptures regarding the rule of the nations by Jesus with a rod of iron, you get a fairly comprehensive picture of the time we call the Millennium. The point is, you have to put them together.
Why Christ’s Kingdom Will Be Physical And Political
There are several reasons why a literal, physical 1,000 year earthly kingdom of Christ preceding eternity is plausibly a part of the overall plan of God, even if we were to ignore the mentioning of it in the first few verses of Rev. 20. I have alluded to a couple of these early on, namely, that there is something more that Jesus needs to do on earth, and there is some unfinished business relating to the divine covenants. Both of these are discussed in detail in the next section. Additionally:
1) God is as concerned with the physical as He is with the spiritual.
It really bothers me when people think God is only concerned with spiritual things, and to regard physical things either as necessary but unimportant, or as corrupt and to be avoided. It borders on Gnosticism – the belief that all material things are evil. In eschatology, the view which emphasizes all things spiritual and de-emphasizes all things material is amillennialism. Hence, in the amillennial world, the political kingdom of Christ is not past, present or future, it is non-existent.
There are so many ways in which God has shown himself to be concerned with the physical world, and that it matters, I cannot list them all. But here are a few: God created man from the dust of the ground, a physical being, perfect, without sin, and it was very good. God gave man dominion over the spiritual (oops! I meant physical) world – stuff like plants and animals, involving physical work. The whole familial system created by God is gritty and earthy – sex, children, food, shelter, clothing. And all of it was very good when created, too.
If you consider the various laws God gave to ancient Israel, only about half of them concerned the temple/ tabernacle, priests & Levites, sacrifices, feasts and holy days – you know, spiritual’ things. The rest of the laws concerned clean and unclean food (not from a spiritual perspective, but a physical health perspective), dealing with bodily discharges, waste, various diseases and other health concerns. Not to mention all the commercial and economic laws, land laws, inheritance laws, the judicial system, etc. For a God supposedly only interested in spiritual things, He sure spent a lot of time and effort on physical things and wanted His people to do the same.
And then there’s the whole aspect of redemption. Spiritual redemption you know about. But God also provided for redemption of people from physical bondage (whether slavery or indentured servitude), redemption and release from financial burdens (debts, sureties & pledges), and redemption of the land (whether from transfers or conquests). See, e.g., Lev. 25:25-54; 27:13-33; Num. 18:15-17.
When He sent Jesus to earth, it was done in the most physical of ways – not by dropping in out of the sky, not by miraculously appearing, but being born as a child to real parents, and growing up to adulthood in the real world working as a carpenter. God didn’t have to do it that way. Don’t tell me God isn’t concerned with the physical world – He wanted to do things that way. And just as Jesus came to earth in bodily form (the incarnation), so His kingdom will come to this earth incarnate. When Jesus said His kingdom was “not of this world” (Jn. 18:36), He only meant, “not yet.”
2) Either the Golden Age will be literal or God is a great exaggerator and a liar.
One of the most profound questions you can ever ask someone about prophecy is, “Does God exaggerate?” Amillennialists especially, but also some postmillennialists, would have us believe God didn’t literally mean it when He said Satan will be bound for 1,000 years, the dead in Christ will rise from the dead and rule on earth prior to heaven, the throne of David will be reestablished, or that Israel and Jerusalem will be restored in physical terms in history. They would have us believe all these things are merely allegorical, spiritually symbolic, or a type of things to come in eternity.
Well, if that’s all those things mean, then God is a great exaggerator and a liar. Because the Jews of the first century knew what those things meant: the Messiah would conquer Israel’s enemies in this world and restore Israel in this world. The Jews weren’t actually wrong about that – they just got the timing wrong. Jesus is still going to do those things, and the Jewish Messiah is still going to come. The apostles knew it, too (Acts 1:6).
I don’t know about you, but if all the above prophecies are just allegorical, then I guess all that stuff about Adam and Eve was probably allegorical, too. The flood of Noah probably only covered the Black Sea. Jesus wasn’t really born of a virgin – what does it matter anyway? – his birth was just a spiritual type. We just need to believe, right? Nonsense.
I know God often uses symbolic and allegorical language – much of this discussion is devoted to acknowledging and understanding those symbols. But not everything, not even the majority of things, can be merely symbolic, or the whole framework of understanding God, man and the world in which we live falls apart. Allegorical things are the exception, not the rule, and we have to identify them carefully. Everything else must be literal.
So the way I answer the question is this: God sometimes speaks symbolically, but no, He never exaggerates, and no, God never lies. God is a God of truth. Isa. 45:19; Jn. 1:17; Jn. 14:6. And when God inspired the scriptures, He chose words carefully and knew what He was doing. 1 Tim. 3:16.
The Nature of Kingdom Government
Isa. 2:3b-4 – “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.”
Mic. 4:3-4 – “He shall judge between many peoples, and shall decide for strong nations afar off; 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; but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid, for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.”
These scriptures tell us what the government of the Millennial kingdom will look like. We already know Jesus will rule as King from the Third (or future) Temple in Jerusalem. We also now know He will issue and promulgate laws, and He will judge between the nations as its supreme court of last resort. In other words, Jesus will be the supreme executive, supreme lawgiver, and supreme judge of the world, uniting all three branches of government in Himself without corruption. “For the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver; the Lord is our king; he will save us.” Isa. 33:22.
In saying that Jesus will rule and judge all the nations, of necessity it means that nations will still exist. There may be a one world government in the Millennium, but it will not eliminate separate nations. Scripture teaches us that nations were not invented by men, they were created by God in the dispersion following the tower of Babel. Gen. 10:32-11:9. Governments are created by men, but nations were created by God. See my extensive treatment of this subject in my essay, The Right To Alter Or Abolish The Government.
The one world government of Christ will be in stark contrast to globalization movements today, whereby people attempt to destroy what God has created by eliminating both national sovereignties (governments) and national identities. There is only one way to have a godly globalization: maintain national identities and have Jesus Christ as the one world ruler. All current globalization efforts are doomed to fail because they deny these two requirements.
Under Christ, not only will national identities be preserved, but also to some extent national sovereignties. That is, not the governments in place now, but new national governments which are separate from each other. We can expect Jesus to follow the pattern of Exo. 18:24-26 in establishing levels of inferior courts so that He is, in fact, only a court of last resort. It is not by accident that the scriptures tell us that Christ will judge the nations.
Similarly, we can expect Him to appoint national and regional governors, etc. to maintain internal governments for each nation. Perhaps the same will also be true of national legislatures. In other words, the U.S. model of federal and state government will likely be applied to the whole world. No, of course I don’t mean to imply that Jesus will follow the pattern of America – don’t be silly. What I’m saying is that America simply got the idea from the Bible and God’s pre-existing plan.
As noted earlier, every mortal person who enters the millennial kingdom will be an unbeliever. The righteous will all have been transformed at the Second Coming. Only unbelievers will be left. Many people will come to Christ during the Millennium because of the pervasive and visible presence Jesus and His kingdom will have worldwide. But even then, no one will be forced to accept Christ, and many will not.
For those who are born during the millennium especially, it will be all they have ever known – so they will take the kingdom of Christ for granted and it will simply be the system in power. They will not know what it was like before the Second Coming, just like we cannot know what it was like before the First Advent or before Noah’s flood. Reading about the present age will not make it real. They will not necessarily see the millennial kingdom as something special, but treat it as background noise, like Washington politics.
Yet, they will all be born with a sin nature, as this will not have been bred out of the human race. They will act just like people being born now, except the official government position will support Christianity and the knowledge of Jesus will cover the earth. But each person will still have to choose for himself. Just because the world will be a theocracy does not mean people will be made to profess Christ at the point of the sword – that’s Satan’s modus operandi, not Christ’s.
Added to the mix are those unbelievers surviving Armageddon who will remember what it was like before – how they once had freedom to indulge in all kinds of sinful activities, and now they cannot. Some may turn to Christ, but Revelation says repeatedly that in spite of God’s many judgments, the people would not repent. Rev. 9:20; 16:9, 11. So just because Jesus comes to earth to visibly rule does not mean He will be welcomed by the masses. He is just as likely to be greeted with disdain and contempt. They will acknowledge His lordship and sovereignty, but grudgingly.
Many people seem to be under the impression that only Christians, or primarily Christians, will enter the Millennium period. This is often based on a misreading of Mat. 5:20; 7:21 and similar scriptures that an unbeliever cannot enter the kingdom. Oops! I stopped too soon. An unbeliever cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Which is not the same as Christ’s earthly kingdom. The first is spiritual and eternal. The second is physical, and temporary (1,000 years). One is already here, after a sort (the heavenly, or spiritual). The other has not yet arrived. Don’t get these two confused with each other.
Some people argue Mat. 25:31-46 is a basis for claiming that only believers will enter the Millennium. That text provides:
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” … Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
According to advocates of this view, verse 31 (the first sentence) refers to the Second Coming. Therefore, all the rest of the text refers to the beginning of the Millennial kingdom. So when Jesus separates the sheep from the goats, only the sheep (believers) will inherit the Millennial kingdom, and the unbelievers will not enter in.
There are several factors which mitigate against such an interpretation. First, Jesus will in fact judge all the nations at the Second Coming, but this will be done in the context of Armageddon, where he will not separate the unbelievers, rather He will destroy them. Second, unbelievers are not sent to the lake of fire at the beginning of the Millennium, but at the end. Third, the Millennial kingdom has not been prepared from the foundation of the world, which speaks of eternity, because the Millennium will be merely an earthly kingdom.
Clearly, the context in Mat. 25 is the Great White Throne judgment which occurs at the end of time. It is only then when believers and unbelievers are separated, eternal rewards and punishment are meted out, and the wicked are sent to the lake of fire. The jump in time between verses 31 and 32 is just one more example of when separate events are telescoped together when viewed from a long way off. It’s not as if this is the only time such a thing occurs in biblical prophecy. So v. 32 (separating the sheep and goats) refers to the beginning of eternity, i.e., the new heavens and new earth.
What’s that you say? “Every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess, that Jesus is Lord.” Isa. 45:23; Rom. 14:11; Php. 2:10. True enough. That’s what people will do outwardly, and that’s what everyone will see in public. But is that what absolutely everyone on earth will believe and accept in their heart? Are these verses actually to be understood as standing for universal salvation? Is that what the Bible says – everyone on earth will be saved once Jesus returns? I’d be a little cautious of making that leap, if I were you.
If absolutely everyone is going to be saved in the Millennium, who are the people who will be waiting for Satan to lead them in a final battle against the God most High? Don’t tell me these are more backsliding or apostate Christians coming to plague the world again! Aren’t these people in fact going to be unbelievers in the time of Christ’s kingdom who will not accept Him, and who are biding their time to get out from under His thumb (the rod of iron)? Is Jesus really going to need to rule a kingdom composed of 100% believers with a rod of iron? So what is the rod of iron?
* Ver. 8.0. Copyright © 2013-2020 Gerald R. Thompson. All rights reserved. Used by permission. All Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version.