THE KINGDOMS OF THE WORLD
By D. M. PANTON, M.A.
[It should be evident at a glance to all who believe the prophecy of our Lord Jesus Christ, (Matthew 24) that the present age is getting worse and not better; Christ's prophecy runs contrary to what many of our Church leaders and politicians would have us believe.
An increased activity in terrorism, drug abuse, lawlessness, sodomy, unnatural sexual relationships - and a general disrespect for all in authority by both children and adults alike - are major contributory factors which make our world a more dangerous place in which to live. Add to all of this, our environmental problems of pollution, flooding, oil spillages (on land and in the sea); and an increase in natural catastrophes - famines, earthquakes, typhoons: and then there is the imminent threat of another long war against terrorism, the relaxed attitude toward convicted criminals by the governing authorities, the lack of finance for medical treatment, etc. etc.: all of these facts, give us a more accurate picture of the state of the world in which we are now living.
Vast amounts of effort and finances are being expended in an enormous effort to improve our environment; and at the same time, increased levels of vandalism are continually destroying and frustrating governments and local authorities.
The following tract shows clearly the outcome, and how "the creation" will, at long last, be liberated from its present burden under sin.]
One utterance, based on the character and power of God, runs through all the ages, and was never more needed than today. It is, so far as the earth goes, the summing up of all prophetic words in one; and it is uttered in the one Book of the Bible that paints international inquiry the blackest. "THE KINGDOMS OF THIS WORLD ARE BECOME THE KINGDOMS OF OUR LORD AND OF HIS CHRIST, AND HE SHALL REIGN FOR EVER AND EVER" (Revelation 11: 15). No visionary kingdom, or remote rule in far-off worlds: these very nations around us, aptly described in prophecy as 'wild beasts', shall be under the rule, and devoted to the person, of Christ: universal, complete, and final will be God's transformation of this old earth. Men around us think that we evangelicals care nothing for political, social, economic, [or environmental] conditions, since we abandon the world in despair, while now concentrating solely on regenerating truth, have an outlook for the world that makes them the most radiant optimists on earth. Ours is the prayer of [twenty] centuries fulfilled at last:"Thy kingdom come."
Now the arrival of the Kingdom is set in the most extraordinary conditions. No sooner have the corpses of the Two Witnesses been raised on the streets of Jerusalem, and been rapt into Heaven, than there follows the blast of the Seventh Trumpet, and the burst of Heaven's triumphant song - at the very moment when earth is abandoned by God's mightiest workers. "And there followed great voices in heaven, and they said, The kingdoms of this world are become" - from this moment onward : the crisis is over and passed - "the kingdoms of our Lord and of His CHRIST". But could any moment to declare it be more extraordinary? The Day of Terror is now opening on earth; Satan has descended, with all his host; Antichrist is about to assume world dominion: nevertheless that last trumpet blast, under which the final judgments occur, is, in the deep-taught ears around the Throne, absolutely decisive. The Tribulation judgments begin at once that culminate in the Stone, which, descending with smashing force, pounds all preceding Empires to dust (Daniel 2: 35); and the blast, announcing Hell's doom, equally announces earth's Golden Age.
The wording of the triumphant shout explains exactly how this is so. "We give thee thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, BECAUSE THOU HAST TAKEN THY GREAT POWER, and didst reign." Throughout the four thousand years since the Flood, and supremely in the crucifixion of Christ and the unresisting grace of a cross-bearing Church, the Most High has so restrained His power, in profound respect for the free will of man, and in love's prolonged appeal, that that power has seemed utterly abrogated and non-existent. But the long patience of God at last ceases. The Second Advent is the moment when God resumes power over the world, and never lays it down again: "He shall reign for ever and ever."¹ Iniquity is so intrenched, and so impregnably wicked, that nothing but the shattering power of God can reform a world which Christ's blood has redeemed: the Kingdom will be based on power, and on that power alone which is safe to be omnipotent - Divine power.
Very remarkable is the deciding factor. "And the nations were wroth, and thy wroth came"; that is, it is the wrath of man that kindles the wrath of God. It is exactly what is foretold in the Second Psalm. "Why do the nations rage?" why are the nations enraged? "the kings of the earth set themselves against the Lord, and against his Anointed: then shall he speak to them IN HIS WRATH" (Psalm 2: 1). By the time the Great Tribulation opens, the Anti-God crusade, now incipient in all nations, matures; and the coming judgments only exasperate the nations: mere indifference, scepticism, unbelief passes, and is replaced by a real belief in God, coupled with open and passionate hate of Him. But the wrath thus hurled at God kindles the Divine anger, and closes the Day of Grace. Simultaneously with the anger of the nations, but far transcending it, is the wrath of God.
So the consequences at once emerge; and the first is exactly what we should expect - judgment. "And the time of the dead to be judged." The Seventh Trumpet covers the whole of the remainder of earth's history, and therefore all judgment: the judgment of the Church in the clouds, the judgment of the living nations on Olivet, and the judgment of the dead at the great white Throne.* "The season of the dead to be judged" : the time when it is the turn of the dead to have justice done to them; or else to incur judgment which had not yet been inflicted; in other words, Grace is over, and Righteousness assumes her reign. Do we realize what it would mean if judgment never came? It would mean that God is careless of good and evil, or else is evil Himself; that man is free to break God's laws, and not only not suffer, but actually profit, by sin; that therefore all righteousness sufferers of all ages have based their lives on an illusion: that the Bible, since it is full of this illusion, is false; and that so far from God loving a holy world, it is immaterial to Him whether the world, or the universe, is good or bad. Solomon thunders the reverse: "God shall bring every work into judgement, with every hidden thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil" (Ecclesiastes 12: 14).
[* That is, as long as this earth lasts: then, after the Millennium, in the New Earth.]
So, inevitably, dawns the day of recompense. "And the time to give the reward to thy servants." And the reward begins with the Lord. No sooner is it announced that the nations rage, and that God responds in wrath, than He says to His Anointed: "Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession" (Psalm 2: 8). Those also rewarded are the Prophets - "ye shall see all the prophets in the Kingdom of God" (Luke 13: 28); the Saints, the sanctified from all dispensations, saints by practice (Romans 16: 2) and not only saints by calling (Romans 1: 7), and not only slain saints, martyrs, as many in the Early Church supposed; and the Fearers of God - probably those saved in response to the Angel's gospel - "Fear God, for the hour of His judgement is come" (Revelation 14: 7). The most moving reward for all God's sufferers is the vindication of His honour, the approval of God, the triumph of goodness and right. "The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: so that men shall say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous, verily there is a God that judgeth the earth" (Psalm 58: 10, 11). WHERE THE LORD WAS CRUCIFIED IS WHERE HE WILL REIGN.
So here we get remarkable confirmation of the fact that Christ's Reigning on earth not only is the season of all reward, but itself IS the reward: "The time to give the reward to thy servants". So our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount makes the 'reward' and the 'kingdom' synonymous. "Blessed are they who have been persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; blessed are ye when men shall persecute you, for great is your reward in heaven" (Matthew 5: 10,11): in other words, the persecuted both have reward and have the Kingdom - that is, the reward is the Kingdom.* The Lord Jesus, addressing one Church makes it as explicit as words can make it that the Kingdom is a reward, not a gift of grace. "He that overcometh, and he that keepeth my works unto the end" - thus excluding all backsliders - "to him will I give AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to shivers" (Revelation 2: 26).** Those who have mastered self-control by lifelong fidelity are entrusted with a shattering power for the government of entire peoples.
[* To assert that two specific classes are promised the Kingdom - prophets (Luke 13: 28) and martyrs (Revelation 20: 4) - if as a matter of fact all believers will obtain it, would be as meaningless as it would be misleading. "If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him"* (2 Timothy 2: 12; Romans 8: 17), and prophets and martyrs have been the greatest sufferers in history.]
Keep in mind: "The ‘prize’ is not heaven, which
is ours by the gift of God, but it is the reward granted to exceptional
holiness and earnestness of life. We must distinguish between grace that gives
the title to heaven, and the reward of grace according to our works as
believers. The fact that we reach
heaven will be of grace, but our place
in heaven will be proportionate to our faithful use of the grace
given. It is possible to be content with a low standard of Christian
living without growing in grace and holiness. The soul may be saved
though the life be lost. Consequently, the
Epistles are full of earnest exhortations and appeals to Christians to press
forward to the highest possible attainments in holiness and good work.
Notice the various "crowns" - "Crown of
Righteousness," "Crown of Life", "Crown of Joy", all
implying the rewards of faithfulness. It was to this that the Apostle
undoubtedly referred." -
The third event of the 'season' which the Trumpet blast opens, follows. "And [the time] to DESTROY them that destroy the earth." It is exact judgment, retribution in kind, for nothing more closely characterizes the Man of Sin than his destructiveness, "And he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper and do his pleasure; and he shall destroy the mighty ones and the holy people" (Daniel 8: 24). But, as the word implies, it is more than destruction, it is corruption; "He shall corrupt the corrupters": so the rottenness of the grave is invoked on the rottenness of lawlessness and immortality - rottenness for rottenness. So Isaiah (66: 24) closes his whole prophecy with these awful words of Jehovah: "And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh."
beautifully the scene closes with an opened Heaven. "And there was opened the
[* At present the awful fact is that Satan largely controls the nations of the world (Matthew 4: 9), and the day hastens when the whole earth worships the Dragon (Revelation 13: 4).]
For lo, the days are hastening on
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the AGE of GOLD;
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendours fling,
And the whole earth send back the song
Which now the angels sing.