[From the author’s book ‘The Greatness of the Kingdom’ pp. 170-177.  Photograph: Whitepark Bay, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.]



Thy kingdom come ... in earth, as it is in heaven. - Matt. 6: 10



Centuries before the first Christian disciples were taught to pray, “Thy kingdom come this petition had been often upon the hearts of godly men and women in Old Testament days.  In fact, apart from the great prophecies of the Old Testament, there could have been no basis or inspiration for such a prayer. For in this hope for the coming of the Kingdom were gathered all the best and highest aspirations of that elect people, who historically had been made the channel of divine revelation.  It was in the spirit of the Old Testament prophets, therefore, that the ancient petition was laid in a new way upon the lips of the men who by grace would become members of the royal family of the Mediatorial King.  To them He said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Matt. 5: 17).  And later when His chosen apostle to the Gentiles had been brought before King Agrippa to answer the charge of apostasy from Old Testament revelation, his reply was, “I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come” (Acts 26: 22).  Whatever light has been shed upon the coming of God’s Kingdom, in its original source, has come from the prophets of the Old Testament.



1. The Time of Its Coming



The vision is yet for an appointed time ... though it tarry,

wait for it; because it will surely come. - Hab. 2:3



a. The Chronological Question



This was not born out of mere curiosity.  Considering the dark background of divine judgment on the historical kingdom, over against the glowing promises of better things to come, it is not surprising that the words “How long were often on the lips of the people of God.  The prophet Isaiah, with hopes for his nation revived by reason of the magnificent accomplishments of King Uzziah, had seen these hopes fail when the king was suddenly struck down by the wrath of God (2 Chron. 26: 20-21).  And as if this blow were not enough, “In the year that king Uzziah died” (Isa. 6: 1 ) there was laid upon the prophet a terrible commission: to proclaim against his own nation a further judgment of spiritual blindness and estrangement from God.  And although Isaiah’s submission is unreserved – “Here am I; send me” - we cannot fail to sense the heaviness of his heart in his cry, “LORD, how long?” (6: 8-11).



Yet this was not a cry of despair, but rather an expression of unyielding hope on the part of one who knew that ahead somewhere down the long corridors of time there would surely be a Kingdom of God on earth for the rectification of ancient wrongs and the establishment of righteousness.  We hear it again in the 74th Psalm where the afflicted nation complains: “We see not our signs: there is no more any prophet: neither is there among us any that knoweth how long.  0 God, how long shall the adversary reproach?  Shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever?” (vss. 9-10).  “Arise, 0 God, plead thine own cause” (vs. 22).  The same question is uttered in the 89th Psalm, perhaps the greatest of all the Kingdom songs, where the writer describes the heartbreaking disparity between the glorious promise of the future Kingdom and the present devastation in Israel (vss. 27-45).  For, concerning David and his kingdom, had not God promised that “His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me” (vs. 36)?  Yet now the judging hand of God had “cast his throne down to the ground” (vs. 44).  And once again we hear the expectant cry, “How long, LORD(vs. 46).



b. The Appointed Time



On the one hand, in Old Testament prophecy, sometimes it seems that the coming of the Kingdom must be very near at hand.  Haggai says it will come in “a little while” (2: 6-9).  And Isaiah specifies the extension of time as “a very little while” (29: 17-18).  But other predictions indicate that the Kingdom is far distant in the future, after the lapse of “many days” (Hos. 3: 43), and in the “last days” (Isa. 2: 2).  The proper reconciliation of these forecasts, doubtless, may he found in the difference between the divine Mind and man’s ideas.  For our “many days” may be only a “very little while” to that eternal God in whose sight a thousand years are but “as yesterday when it is past” (Ps. 90: 4).



But the time of the coming Kingdom is lifted out of the realm of total ambiguity in other prophetic utterances.  Speaking in the midst of national affliction, the psalmist is confident that Israel’s God will “arise, and have mercy upon Zion”; and he refers to that future season of divine blessing as “the set time” (Ps. 102:12, 13).  The context here goes far beyond any event in Biblical history.  This “set time” will arrive when the LORD Himself “shall appear in his glory when the nations and kings of the earth are gathered together to “serve the LORD” (vss. 16-22).  Also in the prophecy of Habakkuk there is a reference to a specific time.  Beyond the disturbing moral contradictions of his own day, Habakkuk saw a vision of better things when “the earth shall he filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (2: 14).  And if the arrival of this blessed time seems long delayed, the prophet is assured that the vision will not fail; its fulfilment will “surely come” at God’s own “appointed time” (2: 1-3).



c. The Intervening Events



In looking forward to the establishment of the coming Kingdom, the prophets agree that this grand event will follow certain preliminary circumstances and conditions, which will be rather fully discussed later in the next chapter (XVI).  It will he sufficient here to notice that the Kingdom will not come “until” after a period of complete devastation in the land of Palestine (Isa. 6: 11-12; 32: 13-18); until after a period of world-wide dispersion of the nation of Israel (Amos 9: 8-10); until after a prolonged period when Israel will be “without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice” (Hos. 3: 4-5); until after a long succession of four world empires culminating in a world dictator whose terrible persecution will mark the end of Jewish suffering (Dan. 7: 17-27); and until after a resurrection of godly Israelites (Dan. 12: 1-3).  The totality of these events, even apart from others yet to be mentioned, cannot he equated with anything in the known history of the world.



d. The King’s Arrival Is Dated



When we come to the visions of the Book of Daniel, the prophetic calendar becomes more specific, actually now a matter of historical chronology.  Standing near the end of seventy years of Babylonian captivity foretold by Jeremiah (Dan. 9: 1-2; Jer. 25: 12), Daniel prayed for light as to the future of his people and city in relation to the coming Kingdom (9: 16-19).  The answer came swiftly by the hand of the angel Gabriel: “Severity weeks” (of years) are determined upon Israel and Jerusalem to bring in the long predicted blessings of the Mediatorial Kingdom (9: 24).  These seventy weeks of years will begin with “the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem”; and the end of the first sixty-nine of the weeks will mark the arrival of “Messiah, the Prince” (9: 25).  Passing over for the moment the problem of the seventieth week and any events which may intervene between the first sixty-nine and the final week, the reader should note that in these sixty-nine weeks we have one stretch of prophetic time which is definitely clocked, not only in length but also as to its beginning and its end.  The official “commandment”* authorizing the rebuilding of Jerusalem was issued to Nehemiah by the Persian king, Artaxerxes, in “the twentieth year” of his reign, which happens to be one of the best authenticated dates in ancient history - 445 B.C.**  From this date to the arrival of the Messianic King, according to Daniel, will be 69 weeks or 483 prophetic years.  After allowing all due consideration for the various differences in computing these years, the prophecy remains unshaken.  Its terminus ad quem, within close limits, is fixed and must fall somewhere within the earthly career of Jesus of Nazareth.  If He is not the Messianic King of Old Testament prophecy, then prophecy has failed, and we can have no certain hope that there will ever he any such king.


* Against the argument that this “commandment” was wholly of God, and therefore either uncertain or unascertainable in exact time, Keil has well said that “the ‘going forth of the commandment to restore,’ etc., must be a factum coming into visibility, the time of which could without difficulty be known - a word from God regarding the restoration of Jerusalem, which went forth by means of a man at a definite time, and received an observable historical execution” (Commentary on Daniel [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., reprint, 19491, p. 352).  This view is supported by James Strong against Otto Zockler in Lange’s Commentary, in loc.


**See my Daniel’s Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks (7th ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1940), pp. 17-19 with note 3.



e. The Kingdom’s Establishment Is Left Undated



From the prophecy of the seventy weeks itself (Dan. 9: 24-27), even when read apart from the light of New Testament history, interpreters should have been cautioned against any dogmatic attempt to identify chronologically the establishment of the Kingdom with the initial arrival of its King.  Certain features of the prophecy are definitely opposed to any such identification.  For instance, when the King arrives, according to verse 26, He will be “cut off and shall have nothing” (ASV).*  Certainly, the meaning of “shall have nothing” must be limited by the context: that is, the Messianic King will have none of the blessings named in verse 24, for these attach specifically to Daniel’s historic “people” and “city” when the Kingdom shall have been established on earth in accordance with other Old Testament predictions. And it should be carefully observed that, in the literary sequence of the prophecy, both the cutting off of the King and a subsequent destruction of Jerusalem are placed before the seventieth week, the end of which will bring in the Kingdom’s blessings for Israel as described in verse 24.  The time which may intervene between the sixty-ninth and the seventieth weeks is left indefinite and obscure for a divine purpose, which will become apparent when we consider the New Testament material.  Thus, in Daniel’s prophecy, while the King’s arrival is definitely clocked, the establishment of His Kingdom is left uncertain chronologically.**


* This rendering is supported by Hengstenberg, Barnes, Ellicott, et al.


** For the best discussion of this prophecy, see The Coming Prince by Sir Robert Anderson (11th ed.; Edinburgh: Pickering and Inglis, no date).



2. The Manner of the Kingdom’s Coming



“Jehovah saith unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, Until I make thine enemies thy footstool. ... The Lord at thy right hand will strike through kings in the day of his wrath.  He will judge among the nations, He will fill the places with dead bodies; He will strike through the head in many countries.” - Ps. 110: 1, 5, 6, ASV



a. It Will Be Sudden and Catastrophic



There is a current and popular idea that the coming of the Kingdom of God to earth is a process, long and gradual; at times so imperceptible that sceptics may he able to dispute seriously whether there he such a thing as the reign of God.  Such a notion has no foundation in the writings of the Old Testament prophets.  Malachi declares the Lord of the Kingdom for whom Israel had long been waiting “shall suddenly come to his templeto he a “swift witness” against all who practice immorality, oppression, and false religion (3: 1-5).  Again, in chapter 4, the same prophet sees that day coming as a fire which quickly consumes the “stubble” of the field; and the Lord of the harvest arrives as the “Sun” rising in the morning (vss. 1-2).  In that “day of the LORD’S wrath there will be a “speedy riddance” of all those in Jerusalem who, because of God’s long delay in openly manifesting His righteous rule upon earth, will be arguing that there never will be any such reign (cf. Zeph. 1: 18 with 1: 12).  In the case of those Gentile nations which have contemptuously scattered and afflicted the chosen nation of Israel, there will come divine retribution “swiftly and speedily” (Joel 3: 14).  And in the visions of Daniel the Kingdom of God comes down from heaven to earth after the manner of a stone falling from a mountain to crush the political world systems (2: 45).  Such descriptions as these can never be reconciled with the notion of any long, drawn-out evolutionary development of the divine Kingdom on earth.



h. It Will Be Supernatural



During the present age the control of God’s Universal Kingdom over earthly affairs has been largely providential. Therefore this divine control has been veiled from the eyes of all, except those who have been enlightened spiritually from above.  And even the people of God have been deeply perplexed at times about the long silence of God, so far as any apparent supernatural intrusions of power on earth are concerned (cf. Ps. 73: 11-17).  In referring to these matters, the prophets use two striking figures of speech: the face of God and the arm, or hand, of God.  The Old Testament usage of both figures would richly repay a more careful examination than can he given in this study.  But the connection is clearly shown in Psalm 44 where the writer looks back to those great supernatural acts of divine power which brought the chosen nation into the promised land: “They got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them; but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favour unto them.  Thou art my King, 0 God” (vss. 1‑4). Later in the history of Israel, when there was a period of divine silence with reference to exhibitions of God’s regal and supernatural power, the “face” of God is spoken of as hidden: “Wherefore hidest thou thy face? ... Arise. for our help” (Ps. 44: 24‑26). And Jehovah Himself, speaking through Isaiah of this period of His silence, says to Israel: “In a little wrath I hid my face from thee” (Isa. 54: 8).  The same prophet recognizes both the nature of this divine silence and also that it someday will come to an end: “I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him In the meantime the people of God are enjoined not to seek spurious signs of supernatural power, but to rest in the written word of God (Isa. 8: 17-20).



It is especially in connection with the coming of God’s Kingdom on earth that the prophets speak of the “arm” of God, which will then be “made bare” and “stretched out  In that coming day when men shall say to Zion, “Thy God reigneth,” Isaiah describes it as a time when “the LORD hath made bare his holy arm” in comforting Israel and redeeming Jerusalem (52: 7-10).  It will he a day of wrath upon the enemies of God when the amazing Ruler comes “glorious in his apparel and saying, “the day of vengeance is in mine heart ... Therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me” (63: 1-5). What is done in that coming day will he the work of God alone, in which human effort will have no place.  Certainly the context of the chapter forbids any attempt to limit this “salvation” to spiritual matters alone.  For the God who comes to deliver His people is the same God, who in history led them supernaturally through the sea “with his glorious arm dividing the water before them” (vss. 11-12).  In his picture of the coming Kingdom, Ezekiel also emphasizes the supernatural aspect of its coming: “As I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, surely with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm ... will I he king over you” (20: 33, ASV). And the re-gathering of scattered Israel will be accomplished by supernatural means: The Lord “will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm” (vs. 34).



In sharp contrast to these overwhelming manifestations of supernatural power at the establishment of the Mediatorial Kingdom, Isaiah speaks of the lowly career of the King on His first arrival.  Although mighty works of divine power would not be wholly absent, they would he restricted in number, duration, and extent, so that the prophet describes thus the scepticism of that day: “Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?” (53: 1).



c. It Will Be Tangible



In the day of the coming Kingdom, it will not be necessary to write endless volumes on Christian “evidences” and “apologetics Debates on the existence of God will become absurd and obsolete, suited only to be classed with arguments over the existence of sunlight.  Eschatological systems which define the Kingdom of God wholly in terms of the invisible will need to he revised.  For the supernatural evidences of the existence of God, and of His Christ, and of His Kingdom, will be open to all men [then].  “The glory of the LORD shall he revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it” (Isa. 40: 3). In that day it can be said truly that “the LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” (Isa. 52: 7-10).



The same prophet who, writing by divine inspiration, solemnly affirms, “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne” (Isa. 6: 1), also declares that at the coming Kingdom “Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty” (33: 17): For those who may be inclined to limit these texts to subjectively perceived visions, the parallel of Isaiah 53: 2 may he cited.  For the latter passage refers to the first coming of the King in humiliation, asserting what has already been historically fulfilled, “When we shall see him, there is no beauty* that we should desire him  Here there can be no question about literality, for the men who saw Him failed to see anything desirable in Him.  Hence, the aspect of spirituality is excluded.  Likewise, the eyes of all, even of the unsaved, shall see the King when He comes to establish His glorious Kingdom on earth.


* The Hebrew words rendered “beauty” in Isa. 33: 17 and 53: 2 are different, but that does not affect the argument.  Both imply visibility.



It is true that Daniel speaks of the coming of the Kingdom as a stone which is cut out of the mountain “without hands” (2: 34, 45).  But in the symbolic dream of the Babylonian king, as confirmed by the prophet, the stone was seen; the cutting act was seen; also its fall and the consequent destruction of the image.  The words “without hands” are intended to indicate the supernatural origin of both the King and His Kingdom.  Although tangible to men, no human or natural means have any part in the ushering in of this Kingdom.



The coming of the Kingdom, attended by a supernaturalism fully tangible to all, will put an end to the rationalistic taunts of men like G. E. Lessing who once wrote, “I do not deny at all that prophecies were fulfilled in Christ; I do not deny at all that Christ wrought miracles; but I do deny that these miracles, since their truth has altogether ceased to be evinced by miracles which are still accessible today, since there exist nothing but accounts of miracles (no matter how un-denied, how undeniable, they may be supposed to be), can or ought to bind me to the least faith in any other teachings of Christ.”*


* Quoted by B. B. Warfield in his Cbristology and Criticism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1929), p. 319.