THE KINGDOM PERSONAL

 

BY ROBERT GOVETT, M.A.

 

Because the kingdom in manifestation has been so long delayed, Christians in general have come to regard the kingdom in mystery as the only one.  They rest their views upon the exceptional texts, and try to force more than a hundred to mean this present scene.  Hence false principles of interpretation are adopted, and produce consequences full of mischief.

 

It is strange to suppose that the kingdom of God is come, when the true king is far away, when the world refuses Him and His laws, and breaks them unpunished; when a rival is on the throne, and the kingís adherents are oppressed, persecuted, and slain.

 

Take an illustration from English history.  In the sixteenth century Cromwell sat on the throne of England; and Charles, the son of the previous king, sought in vain to re-enter the land; while his partisans were in peril of life.  Would that be accounted part of the reign of Charles the Second?  In law-books it might, were lawyers wish to make all events smooth.  It was the reign of Charles II de jure, it may be said.  But it was a poor reign, when a rival sat in fact on the throne.  Most reckon the reign of Charles II to begin only when Cromwell was dead, when Charles was owned by all England, and in possession of palace and throne, army and fleet.

 

So in the days of David.  Saul was rejected by Jehovah, David was anointed king over Israel.  But Saul was still in possession of the kingdom; David was in daily peril of his life, refused by the nation in general, without settled abode, or regular supply of his necessities.

 

Now, does scripture regard those eight or nine years of Davidís trouble, as years of his reign?  No! His reign is not reckoned as begun till Saul is slain, and he is anointed at Hebron over the two tribes.  Nor is he regarded by God as reigning over all Israel, till seven years after his anointing in Hebron, after his rival Ishbosheth is cut off.

 

It is even thus with our Lord.  He was anointed king at His baptism. But, as yet, He is only king of right; He is not hitherto king in fact. Satan is now ruler; and that rival must be put down and imprisoned ere Jesusí reign is come, John 12: 31; 14: 30; 16: 11; Rev. 20.

 

The character of the kingdom depends on the presence of the king. Now it is the proclamation of the kingdom, with a view to gather those who, believing and obeying 'the word of the kingdom,' shall be rulers in it when the power of the kingdom is come, Matt. 4: 23; 10: 35; 11: 12; 12: 19-52; 16: 19.  Great is the difference between hearing the word of the kingdom which comes in grace, and feeling the sceptre of the kingdom when it breaks foes in the day of judgment.

 

The promises made to the lord Jesus about His kingdom are not yet fulfilled.

 

Let us look at the scripture descriptions of what a king should be. "We will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us, and fight our battles." 1 Sam. 8: 19, 20.  This gives the main features of the kingly office; the internal administration for his subjects, and his personal presence for war as well as in peace.  But exceptions may be taken to this passage, as only the word of Israel, while following their own heart.  Let us look then at the inspired description of the New Testament.

 

"Rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.  Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power?  Do that which is good and thou shalt have praise of the same, for he is the minister of God to thee for good.  But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil:" Rom. 13: 3, 4.

 

Now these words are not yet true of Christ.  It is as yet the hour of the kingdom of the wild beasts of Daniel; Dan. 7.  The last ruler of the fourth of these kingdoms slays 'the saints,'* unhindered, till the Son of Man comes in person, and takes away his power.  Then is the kingdom given to the saints, and manifestly administered by the Son of Man. (1) Jesus is not now using the sword, a terror to evil-doers: (2) Nor is He giving praise and reward to the doers of good.

 

[* That is, regenerate believers left behind after the first rapture, (Rev. 13: 10; Rev. 7: 14; Rev. 3: 10.)]

 

Daniel does not regard the kingdom as come, while the wild beasts are reigning, and the Son of Man is away.  But after their power is taken away, after the image is smashed in pieces by the stone descending from heaven, then has the God of heaven set up his kingdom: Dan. 2: 44.

 

The saints are not to reign till the day of trial and suffering is over, and they are pronounced conquerors, receiving their rewards from Christ in person.

 

"He that overcometh and keepeth my words unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father:" Rev. 2: 26, 27.

 

This conduct would be wholly unchristian now, for it is the day of grace.  The reign of the saints is to be with Christ.  "They lived and reigned with the Christ a thousand years. They shall be priests of God and of Christ and shall reign with Him a thousand years:" Rev. 20: 4-6.

 

Jesus is as yet the priest in the sanctuary amid the lamps: Rev. 1-3. He has not the kingdom actually conferred, till the throne of Rev. 4 is set: and that throne is not brought into the Holiest till the lamps are removed, because the churches are no longer recognised before God.  Jesus Himself is waiting: "From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool:" Heb. 10: 13.  So then we too are to be "waiting for the kingdom of God:" Luke 23: 51.

 

Even after the throne of judgment is set in the 4th of Revelation, and after even the fifth seal is broken, when the cry of vengeance against the man of earth goes up, it is silenced with the word - ĎWait awhile! Earth has still to become worse, and more murderous, ere Godís vengeance is poured outRev. 6: 9-11.

 

But when the king is come, the righteous are to flourish, and the oppressor to be broken in pieces: enemies are to be destroyed, and all kings to obey the Redeemer: Psalm 72: 3, 4, 11.  Righteousness is to be the girdle of the Kingís loins.

 

Not such is the principle of our day of grace; not of this character is Christís agency now.

 

Let me now state the proposition to be proved by evidence of scripture.

 

THE MANIFESTED KINGDOM REQUIRES THE PERSONAL PRESENCE OF THE KING.

 

Take some testimonies from the Old Testament.

 

"He (Jesus) shall smite the earth with the rod (blast) of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the Wicked" (one.) Isa. 11: 4.

 

Paul, expounding this says, "Then shall the Wicked One be revealed, whom the Lord (Jesus) shall consume with the spirit (breath) of his mouth, and shall strike powerless with the manifestation of his presence." (Greek) 2 Thess. 2: 8.

 

At present the Saviour is away; none but his friends behold Him; and they by faith alone.  But when this verse is fulfilled Jesus will be manifestly present in person, and in judgment will destroy His great rival, the false Christ.

 

2. From Dan. 2: 34, 35, we learn that the kingdom is to be set up not by agency of mercy upon earth, but by a stroke of justice from the heaven.  The kingdomís acting is not internal, tranquil, gradual, invisible; but the visible descent of Christ from on high, in an instant breaking in pieces before him all previous kingdoms, after which the stone that smote the image becomes a great mountain and fills the whole earth.  The kingdom of the God of heaven shall not be transmitted to any other, "but it shall break in pieces, and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever" 44.

 

"I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them, till the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High, and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom:" 7: 21, 22.

 

As truly as the Lawless One is a person who reigns personally on earth, so truly is the Righteous One a person who shall also reign on earth.  The transference of the kingdom occurs "suddenly at an instant."  Up to that hour the saints are oppressed.  Then the Son of Man strikes powerless, dethrones, and consumes His foe, and gives over his power to the saints, up to that time oppressed and slain.

 

3. Zechariah describing the last siege of Jerusalem says, the city shall be taken by all nations assembled against it.

 

"Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.  And his feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof, toward the east and toward the west:"4.  "And the Lord shall be king over all the earth:"9.  "Every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem, shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles:"16.

 

Turn we now to evidence from the New Testament.

 

It is granted, that the Jews and the apostles of our Lord were expecting a personal reign of Messiah on earth.  But then it may be replied, ĎYes, but the Jewsí expectations are not to be depended upon.í  We answer, it is true, that in some points Israelite anticipations about the kingdom were mistaken; but it is also true, that the New Testament exhibits for us those points in which they were mistaken, and appends the correction of them.

 

1. They were wrong in regard of the time if its coming; for they expected it as soon as Jesus had entered Jerusalem.  The Lord, therefore, at the last Passover spoke the parable of the Pounds, on purpose to correct this error: Luke 19: 11-27.  He showed that the nobleman had to travel to a far country in order to receive a kingdom, and to return the same long journey ere he began to reign. That he would by his absence allow a considerable period to elapse in order to discover the characters, both of his friends and of his foes, rewarding each according to his works, on his return.  The Jews had overlooked the testimony of the 110th Psalm, which witnesses that Messiah had to sit in heaven at Godís right hand, before his enemies were destroyed, and his sceptre is sent out of Jerusalem: Matt. 22: 44.

 

2. Israel was mistaken also in supposing, that the kingdom of God would be entered on the ground of natural birth of Abrahamís race. Both John the Baptist and our Lord smote and scattered this error. None are to be accounted of Abrahamís seed, but the men of Abrahamís faith.  No trees to be allowed as Godís, but the bearers of good fruit: Matt. 3: 9-12.  "Many shall come from east and west and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.  But the children of the kingdom (Jews by birth [and unrepentant, disobedient regenerate believers]) shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth:" Matt. 8: 11, 12.

 

3. They thought that entry was to be obtained on the ground of Mosesí law.  Jesus teaches, that the men of the law cannot enter: quite a different character is required, quite a different rule is given: Matt. Chapters 5-7.  "For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith:" Rom. 4: 13.

 

4. They were looking for a time of peace at once.  Jesus dashes their expectation to the ground.  "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth, I came not to send peace but a sword:" Matt. 10: 34.

 

5. They probably expected, that it was to be by the swords of Israel, that the kingdom of Messiah was to be set up.  Jesus assures us, that not men, but angels are to clear the world in order to the making it His kingdom: Matt. 13: 27-30, 39, 40.

 

6. They expected Messiah to reign, simply as a man in a mortal body of flesh and blood.  Jesus teaches Peter, that He must first die before He show himself the Rock of His church and the Son of Man in resurrection: Matt. 16: 16-23.

 

7. They overlooked the testimonies of Israelís unbelief and rejection of Messiah.  These surely could not come to pass after Messiahís reign.  The promises of God prevent that: Isa. 59: 20, 21; 62: 5-12. They must, therefore, be fulfilled previously to the reign of the Christ.  And so Jesus testified in His parable of the Wedding Garment.  The bidden ones refuse the kingís invitation; and so the feast must wait till the number of the guests is complete: Matt. 22: 1-14.

 

8. They beheld only the earthly department of the kingdom, and supposed that the risen would marry and be given in marriage, as now.  Jesus therefore corrects their error, and sets the heavenly department of the kingdom on its everlasting basis: Luke 20: 27-38.

 

But while these errors about the kingdom are corrected by our Lord, I do not find that their ideas as to the nature of the kingdom as a visible and personal one, were rebuked.  On several occasions the expectations of the apostles, as to the kind of kingdom which is to come, were strongly confirmed.

 

1. After Jesus had been rejected by Israel he gave to three of the disciples a view of His kingdom, such as it should be, on the mount of transfiguration.  He promised that He would, after His disciples had suffered for His sake, return, and in person render rewards to the confessors to His name.  In order to cheer them, and strengthen their courage to endure, He gave to Peter, James, and John, a view of the time of the resurrection of the just, and of the glory of the millennial day.  Accordingly, when transfigured He was personally present on earth; so were Elijah and Moses - the chief of the law, and the foremost of the prophets.  Peter would have set Moses and Elijah as co-ordinate with Jesus; but this was rebuked by the Fatherís voice from on high, "This is my beloved Son, hear him." In his presence Moses and Elijah are nothing; the Lord Jesus is to be the one centre of the kingdom.  The master and the servants, the sowers and reapers, men of the law and men of the gospel, those in the flesh and those risen, are to be possessors together of the kingdom of glory: John 4: 36.

 

2. But there was another scene strongly confirmatory of their expectations.  Jesus, after many miracles, came up to the feast at Jerusalem, entering the city of the Great King, as foretold by the prophet, on an ass.

 

The multitudes shout His titles of ĎKing of Israel,í and ĎSon of DavidTheir joy overflows; they strew His path with garments and branches of trees.  But Israel was not ready for their king, though He offered Himself as predicted.  Nor were the disciples themselves.  When the noise of the Saviourís cavalcade stirred the attention of the city, and the inquiry went forth, ĎWho is this?í the disciples instead of replying, ĎThis is the Son of David, the king of Jerusalem,í made answer "This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee:" Matt. 21: 2.  Moreover, Jesus finds secret foes on His way to the temple, and entrenched within it.  The dark days of Israelís unbelief must first come.  Jesus is not to be seen henceforth till they repent.  The temple, even when rebuilt, is to be destitute of the presence of God.  Not till the tribes repent, is Messiah to be seen: Matt. 23. Not till they own their sin are the times of refreshing, the period of the restoration of all things to come: Acts 3: 20.

 

What said Zechariah about the kingdom?  He foretold the entry into Jerusalem of Messiah, meek and lowly.  But he foretold too, - what was not then accomplished, - the cutting off of instruments and weapons of war, and peace among the nations, Messiahís dominion being from sea to sea, and from Euphrates to the end of the earth: Zech. 9.

 

In these two scenes we behold the two compartments of the kingdom; the heavenly portion, a secret glory on the mountain top apart by night, light streaming from the bodies and dress of the glorified; and they but few.

 

But the earthly sphere of the kingdom is of quite another kind.  It takes place by day in the midst of joyous multitudes of Israel in the flesh; its material centres are Jerusalem and the temple; its time the Passover; the Saviour the visible human centre, exercising power over all things.

 

3. When the rich man turned away sorrowfully from the Saviourís call, Peter enquired, "What should they the apostles enjoy, seeing they had obeyed the Saviourís demand, and had forsaken all?"  And Jesus said to them, "Verily I say unto you, that ye which have followed me, in the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit upon the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel:" Matt. 19: 27, 28. Was not this a strong confirmation of their views?  The twelve tribes were to be restored.  Jesus was to be King of kings; they subordinate kings, each ruling a tribe.  As long as the gospel lasts Jesus is hid in heaven, and does not appear as the Son of Man.  As long as the gospel lasts, apostles are not to rise from the dead, nor is Israel to repent.  Not till Jesus descends from the heaven into the air are the sleeping saints and the waking to be assembled to Him: 1 Thess. 4.

 

4. Two of the apostles make use of their mother to bespeak for each of them an especial throne - one at the right hand of Messiah, the other on His left: Matt. 20: 20.  Jesus assures them that they were not aware of what they were asking for.  If they would have especial glory in the future kingdom, they must endure especial suffering now.  If we would reign with Christ HEREAFTER, we must suffer with Him now: 2 Tim. 2: 12That was a principle for which they were quite unprepared.  Jesus owns them the reality of the point petitioned for: but the principles of its assignment were unlike their expectations. And when the indignation of the ten apostles broke out against the two, Jesus does not say that their hopes were unreal, but bids them if they wished glory in His future kingdom to seek it in service and suffering.

 

5. Shall we turn to the angelís promise to Mary concerning Jesus? "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David. And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end:" Luke 1: 32, 33.  Where was Davidís throne?  In heaven?  DAVID HAS NEVER ENTERED HEAVEN: HOW CAN HIS THRONE BE THERE? "For David is not ascended into the heavens:" Acts 2: 34.  Where did David reign?  "And the days that David reigned over Israel were forty years: seven years reigned he in Hebron, and thirty and three years reigned he in Jerusalem.  Then sat Solomon on the throne of David his father, and his kingdom was established greatly:" 1 Kings 2: 11, 12, 24.

 

David reigned in person: so must Christ.  While Jesus is away His foes reign; they are not yet set as the footstool for His feet.  And Israel does not yet own Jesus as Messiah.  The kingdom cannot come till then.

 

Shall we appeal to some of our Lordís prophecies?

 

6. Take then Luke 13: 23-29.

 

One enquired of our Lord, if the saved* would be few?

 

[* It should be apparent from the context, that the word "saved" should be interpreted and understood as referring to a future salvation when the Lord returns.]

 

Jesus does not reply directly, but bids him strive to enter into the kingdom.  For many would be excluded, as soon as the king had risen up, and closed the door.  Those on the outside would then appeal to the king to admit them; but he would refuse.  They would plead, that they had been personally acquainted with him, and had been actually seated with him once at table.  But he would reject them as workers of iniquity.  There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.  "And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God."  Hence it is plain that Jesus must be present in person in order to give sentence.  It is the desire of the petitioners to be where Messiah and His friends are, which calls forth the earnest pleas of those outsideHere too is resurrection; Jews and Gentiles, men of the law, and men of the Gospel, are there in person.  It can be no scene taking place under the Gospel dispensation.  As long as that lasts, there is no shutting of the door, and no sentence against the workers of iniquity is executed.

 

7. Does not the parable of the Pounds clearly prove the personality of the kingdom?  The men of Israel were expecting a personal kingdom: and this parable was uttered to rectify their ideas about it. Does it then teach anything about a kingdom exercised while the king was away in the far country?  By no means!  It tells of the kingís personal presence then as the nobleman; and of His future return in person.  Upon that His kingly action begins, first judging and rewarding His servants; then destroying His foes. "Those mine enemies which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them BEFORE ME:" Luke 19: 11-27.

 

Here is the King present, is there not?

 

8. What shall we say to the parable of the Sheep and Goats?

 

It opens with the testimony of the coming of the Son of Man in His glory, together with His angels, and His session on the throne which streams with splendour.  Then He judges the nations living upon the earth, and distinguishes them as blessed or cursed, according as they have acted towards His "least brethren," the men of Israel.  After the sentence of "the King," the cursed depart into the everlasting punishment of eternal fire; and the accepted enter into the kingdom which then begins.  This is a personal award (is it not?) which the king utters.  And the friends of Messiah and His foes are alike personally present.  ĎTis no picture of the Gospel.  It is eternal bliss, or eternal damnation come.  Must not that be awarded by Jesus in person?  This parable too gives us no resurrection, no burning up of the world.  The kingdom is not then given up; but then begins.  Both the saved and the lost behold the king, and address Him as present. "When saw we thee an hungered and fed thee?"  It is, then, the personal kingdom of Christ, the result of His coming in person.

 

9. The same result appears from the consideration of the celebrated passage, Rev. 20: 4-6.

 

This is closely connected with chapter 19, which describes the Saviourís advent in person from the sky, along with the armies of the heaven.  It is not the Gospel; for Jesus comes not in grace, but in judgment.  "He judges and makes war in righteousness:" verse 11. His dress is dipped in blood; He smites the nations with a sharp sword, and breaks them as potterís vessels.  Before Him the hosts of His enemies are slain, and their leaders cast into eternal punishment. Then Satan, as the chief instigator of the plots against God and man, is seized and confined.  This cannot be done at present, or by men. As long as the church lasts Ďtis the evil day of battle, against Satan and his forces at large.  But in the opening of the millennial day he is imprisoned.

 

The apostle then describes the glory of the first resurrection.  It is assigned to persons of three classes.

 

1. "And I saw thrones, and (men) sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them.

 

2. "And (I saw) the souls of them that had been beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God.

 

3. "And whoever worshipped not the Wild Beast, nor his image, nor received his mark upon their forehead or on their hand; both lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years."

 

"But the rest of the dead lived not (again)* till the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.  Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of the Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years."

 

[* The author has inserted the word 'again' inside brackets.  This is misleading. It implies that all regenerate believers would be resurrected at the time of 'the first resurrection' to be judged; and afterwards, those who were not 'accounted worthy' to reign with Christ, would return to the death state and into Hades: an impossibility according to Christ: "neither can they (i.e., those who have been previously resurrected) die any more," (Luke 20: 26).  Hence, 'the dead lived not (again),' inferrs that they would be resurrected, a second time, at a later date, and at the end of the thousand year reign of Christ.]

 

The saints who come with Christ seem to be the first of these three companies.  And they come out of the heaven personally with Christ, and reign in person with Him.  As surely as many have suffered death in persecution, so shall they be restored to life in their bodies, in requital of their faith and courage. "He that lost his life for my sake shall find it." It is a SELECT RESURRECTION - they came forth from the tomb leaving most still incarcerated there.

 

10. Saints may not reign as long as the church lasts.  They are forbidden so to do.  It would be self-exaltation out of due time, to be visited with abasement when the kingdom of Christ comes.  Paul rebukes the Corinthians for attempting such a thing.  It was ignorance; it was wholly unfit, that they should be reigning over the world while apostles, Christís more excellent servants, were daily suffering, daily debased, and in danger of death from the same evil world: 1 Cor. 4: 8-16.  While Christ is waiting till the Father gives Him the kingdom, we are to wait till "judgment is given" to us.  As yet the word is "Judge not, that ye be not judged."

 

It is in resurrection that Christ is to reign and we with Him. It is after the Saviourís judgment has been passed upon us as faithful or otherwise; and not before.  There is no manifested kingdom till after the saints are risenThere is no manifestation of resurrection, till after Christ in person has descended from the heavens to call his people up to Himself, whether they be among the sleepers or the wakeful.

 

Thus our state in the kingdom demands the Saviour in person.  For none but He will raise us from the dead.  And His judgment of each preparatory to His assigning the place of each during the kingdom, demands our Lord in person.

 

For this wait, believer!  ĎTis as yet the day of conflict, of clouds, night, wounds.  But the day of victory is at hand.  Figure to yourself a corporal of the army of the Crimea recommended to the Queen for the distinction of the Victoria Cross.  On the appointed day he is ushered into the Queenís court: - around her throne stand her nobles, her ladies of honour.  His name is pronounced, and he steps forward, and kneels at her feet, while her Majesty encircles his neck with the sparkling jewel.  What an hour is that to him!  It is the noon of his life.  And ever will he and his family, and his friends remember it.  On every fitting occasion that cross will glitter on his bosom, a proof of valour in his countryís cause.

 

The campaign in which he won the prize was long, and dreary. Weary night-watches, wintry cold and snow, hunger, loss of friends, night-alarms in the trenches, sickness, wounds.  But all are forgot in the blaze of that day of his reward.

 

What then, shall be the glory of him who is "COUNTED WORTHY" to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God!  Yea, to be associated in kingly power with Jesus Himself, and, that for a thousand years!  Seek then, CHRISTIAN, to approve yourself to Christ!  He, the King of kings shall adjudge and bestow the ďPRIZEĒ.  No partiality, or jealousy, or forgetfulness shall mar the full result of the reward to service and suffering in His behalf.

-------