The Messiah's Kingdom-Daniel 7:13-14

By

Joseph A. Seiss

 

I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they, brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed (Daniel 7:13-14).

 

That this vision contains a prophecy concerning "the last times" will not be denied. That the "one like the Son of man" is Jesus Christ, in His glorified human nature, is admitted on all hands. That His "coming with the clouds of heaven" refers to His final advent in this world is also the common belief of interpreters. His being led to the Ancient of days to receive dominion plainly denotes His investiture with rulership, and His inauguration into the august office of the almighty Sovereign of the nations. This dominion is something more than His present spiritual reign in men's hearts; for He does not enter upon it until He comes in the clouds. It is also a kingdom the affairs of which are to be administered by Christ in person, or by those under His immediate control and direction., for it is given to Him as the Son of man, and His personal descent at the time of receiving it is explicitly affirmed. It must also be a visible and terrestrial kingdom, for the "nations" are mentioned as its subjects.

 

The doctrine which I accordingly deduce from this text, and which I shall aim to set forth in this discourse, is: That the Lord Jesus Christ will return again to this world, and here set up a visible Christocracy, or empire of His own, and personally reign over the nations in the bliss and glory of a universal and eternal kingdom. There are many good people who believe no such thing. My main object will therefore be to prove it by solid Scriptural arguments. And if I can show that it has a firm foundation in the word of God, I certainly have a right to claim for it the respect due to a doctrine of inspiration. Let us then approach the subject with humble reverence, sincerely desirous to learn the truth, and earnestly praying that God may give us a proper insight to this wonderful mystery.

 

The Predictions Of The Old Testament

 

I remark then, in the first place, that the prophecies of the Old Testament, when taken in their plain and natural sense, certainly predict the Messiah as a great prince who shall reign in this world. To establish this remark is no difficult task. The very first words that ever were uttered concerning Christ already imply it. When God reckoned with Adam, though He excluded him from Paradise, He left him this consoling promise: The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head (Genesis 3:15). Satan had assailed our first parents and overcome them. By that victory, he became the reigning prince of this world, and to this day he holds his dark supremacy in nearly every department of the earth. The crushing of this serpent's head can mean nothing less than the demolition of Satan's empire and the establishment of the empire of the woman's seed in its place. And if Christ, as the Son of man, is to displace Satan and reign over the nations as Satan now rules over them, nothing short of a literal, real, and universal empire can be the result.

 

The next distinct allusion to this "seed" is in God's covenant with Abraham, where it is said that he shall "possess the gate of his enemies and all nations of the earth be blessed in him" (Genesis 22:17-18). Paul tells us that this promise did not belong to Abraham's posterity at large, but only to "one, which is Christ." To possess an enemy's gate is to conquer that enemy - to take his last defence. And when it is said of Christ, that He shall possess the gates of His enemies, and bless all nations, we have before us the idea of a great, victorious and universal prince, making himself the master and the benefactor of the world.

 

Another reference to the same thing we find in Hannah's song, where it is said, "The Lord shall judge the ends of the earth, and He shall give strength to His King, and exalt the horn of His anointed" (1 Samuel 2: 10). Here too we have the princedom of the Messiah in this world, and His universal sovereignty, pointedly asserted.

 

In God's promises to David, we have the matter still more particularly amplified. God says to the monarch of Israel, "When your days are fulfilled, and you sleep with vour fathers, I will set up your seed after you, and I will establish his kingdom, and the throne of his kingdom, forever. And YOUR HOUSE and YOUR KINGDOM shall be established forever before you: YOUR THRONE SHALL BE ESTABLISHED FOREVER" (2 Samuel 7:12,16). If this promise refers pre-eminently to Christ "the Son of David," as all agree that it does, then He is to be a great earthly prince; for He is to occupy a throne and possess a kingdom; and that throne and kingdom are identical with the throne and kingdom of His father David. Much as men may dislike to admit this, here is God's promise, in words as plain as any man can use. David had an empire in this world; and he reigned as a prince in this world. God says that His promised Son shall take David's place and establish David's throne forever.

 

David himself certainly so understood the promise, and by divine inspiration so prophesied of it in the Psalms. As he had his court in Mount Zion, so he represents his illustrious Son as "King upon the holy hill of Zion " (Psalm 16,8) with the heathen given to Him for His inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession. "He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth. Yes, kings shall fall down before Him; all nations shall serve Him" (Psalm 72:8, 11). Who can listen to such language with an unbiased mind and not gather from it the idea that the prophet is here speaking of some great and mighty king who is to sway the sceptre of literal empire over the inhabitants of this world?

 

Turn now to Isaiah, the great evangelical prophet, and see how he describes the Messiah. "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and His name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The Father of the everlasting age, The Prince of peace" (Isa. 9: 6). Nobody misunderstands this. All take the words just as they are written, without looking after some mystical or allegorical meaning. By what authority then shall we reject the literal acceptation of what fellows? And the government shall be upon His shoulder. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall he no end, UPON THE THRONE OF DAVID AND UPON HIS KINGDOM, to order IT, and to establish IT with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever" (9: 7). What could more unequivocally describe the Messiah as a great prince, reigning in David's place in this world?

 

If we turn to Jeremiah, we find the Saviour spoken of in the same manner. "Behold, the days come, says the Lord, that I will raise UNTO DAVID a righteous Branch, and a KING shall reign and prosper, and shall execute justice and judgment IN THE EARTH. In His days JUDAH shall be saved, and ISRAEL shall dwell safely" (Jer. 33:15-16). "And they shall serve the Lord their God, and David their King (in his promised Son) whom I will raise up unto them" (30:9).

 

These are very plain and positive predictions. Others of like import might be presented. Here and elsewhere, the Messiah is again and again called a king. He is to possess and occupy David's throne. He is to be a conqueror of His enemies and the possessor of their cities. He is to reign over the nations. He is to be the commander around whose banner the Gentiles shall be gathered. His kingdom is to be in a sense the kingdom of David, re-established, exalted, extended over all the earth, and made forever permanent. This is the natural and obvious meaning of the words, and there is no reason why we should understand them differently or seek for some other remote and occult meaning. The literal meaning is evident. There is not only no necessity for departing from it, but we cannot depart from it without violence and inconsistency. I therefore claim it as a fact - that the Old Testament writers have predicted Christ as a great prince who is literally to reign upon the throne of David in real empire over all the world.

 

The Expectation of A Great Prince

 

It is also true, in the second place, that when the Saviour came into the world, as the Son of Mary, He was expected as a great prince who should set up a literal empire in this world. This is a point so notorious, and so much dwelt upon by theologians and preachers that it is hardly necessary to do more than state it. And so uniform is the testimony on this point, that it is unnecessary to argue it.

 

When Herod inquired of the chief priests and scribes where Christ should be born, "they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea; for thus it is written by the prophet, And you Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the princes of Judah; for out of you shall come A GOVERNOR that shall rule my people Israel" (Matthew 2:5-6; Micah 52). This shows how the Jews understood the ancient prophets and what were their expectations at the time. Herod certainly acted the apprehension that the coming Christ was to be a great prince when he gave orders "and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof" (Matthew 2:16). Why adopt measures to slay the infant Saviour if he did not fear that Christ would again restore the Jewish throne?

 

We read that even from far beyond the limits of Palestine, certain "wise men came, saying, 'Where is he that is born King of the Jews?" It would seem that wherever a knowledge of the Hebrew prophecies had gone, it was uniformly expected that the promised Messiah would be a sublime and triumphant Jewish king whose dominion would absorb all other kingdoms and stand forever.

 

That extravagant and unfounded notions were entertained by many, I have no doubt. Some looked for Christ only as a military hero and conceived of His reign too much after the style of ambitious tyranny. They sometimes spoke of Him as a conquering leader, whereas He is at the same time a divine spiritual Saviour. They surrounded Him too much with their own carnal and resentful feelings, and overlooked that meekness and holiness of spirit that is indispensable to a blissful participation in His princely ministrations. They failed to apprehend that great foundation-fact, that He was first to suffer before He should reign, and bear the cross before reaching the crown.

 

But, with all their narrow bigotries and carnal hopes, they did not misconceive this one prominent feature of the matter - that the promised Messiah was to be a great prince, who should reign upon the throne of David His father and extend His royal dominion over all the earth. So the prophets had spoken, and so they understood what the prophets said.

 

The New Testament's Picture of Expectancy

 

I proceed, then, to a third remark: That the New Testament nowhere contradicts what was thus expected of the Messiah. There are, indeed, a few passages which seem to conflict with these expectations, but when attentively considered, and their real meaning ascertained, they will be found entirely accordant with the doctrine which I am endeavouring to set forth.

 

That Christianity is an eminently spiritual religion, all who understand it must admit. The fundamental principle of the Messiah's kingdom is His reign over the heart, bringing all its affections and impulses into subjection to the will of God. This is the germ on which everything else depends. He who is not spiritually renewed, and morally assimilated to Christ, has neither part nor lot in Christ's kingdom, whatever may be his birth, blood, or external relations. "However different the extent and outward form of the kingdom," says a distinguished author, "however great its ultimate triumph and glories, this is still its peculiar feature and character - God, the Saviour, reigning supreme in the heart of the once-alienated and rebellious sinner, and all dispensations are but hastening on this great result the more fully over all the earth." We would ignore the most glorious and most distinguished feature of Christianity, if we were for a moment to think differently.

 

It is therefore to he presumed that the Saviour and His inspired servants should set forth this point with marked perspicuity. And we would especially expect them to express themselves strongly on this feature of the kingdom, as there were many of their hearers who had quite lost sight of it. It was the most serious mistake of the Jews, not that they expected Christ as a triumphing Lord, but that they did not comprehend how He was, at the same time, to be a spiritual Redeemer, and that the blessings of His glorious reign were to extend only to those who should be inwardly subjected to His holy will. They thought their lineal descent from Abraham, and their formal submission to the Mosaic ritual, presented all that was needful to secure for them the full benefit of the sublime achievements of their expected King. This was a disease needing to be cauterised.

 

When the Pharisees asked Jesus "when the kingdom of God should come," He at once struck at the root of their false hopes and called them back from their dreams of glory to those first rudiments without which neither Jew nor Gentile shall ever see the kingdom of God. He answered and said, The kingdom of God comes not with observation" (Luke 17:20). That is, the essence of the Messianic reign does not lie in the pomp, show, and outward demonstrations of power for which they were looking. "Neither shall they say, Here it is! or, There it is!" as if it were to be set up with mere physical victories. "The kingdom of God is within you" (17:21). Its seat is in the heart, and unless it is first found in the heart, it will never be found at all. This is what they had overlooked, and this is all this passage teaches.

 

It is to the same point that Paul speaks, when he says, "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Romans 14:17). The antithesis which he presents is not between a visible personal reign of Christ, and a mere reign by His Spirit and grace, but between the true prerequisite spiritual submission to Christ and that mere ceremonial righteousness upon which the Jews so much boasted and relied.

 

But the fact that a man's heart must be renewed and purified as a condition of participation in the blessings of the mediatorial kingdom by no means proves that that kingdom is not hereafter to take form and be outwardly manifested in a triumphant personal reign of the Saviour in this world. For if we interpret these words so as to confine the divine kingdom to the heart, and to righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, we necessarily exclude from it the outward church, the sacraments, and a future home in heaven. Yet, if we dare extend the limits of the divine kingdom beyond the mere inward experiences of the soul, there is nothing to prevent us from extending it so as to embrace also the future personal reign of the Messiah upon earth. For if the present existence of the kingdom in men's hearts is reconcilable with the hope of a more glorious form of the kingdom in the heavenly world, it is equally reconcilable, and on the same grounds, with the doctrine of the future princely reign of Christ over the nations.

 

Another passage often misquoted on this subject is that where Christ says, "My kingdom is not (ek) FROM this world" (John 18:36). When He uttered these words, He was on trial before Pilate. He had been accused of treasonable purposes. Pilate, therefore, asked Him whether He was a king. He boldly affirmed that He was a king. But to quiet their apprehensions that He was about to undertake to subvert the existing authorities by carnal violence, He qualified His avowal; and these words contain the qualification. He does not say that His kingdom is not to be located upon earth, for it is located here. His church and all its ordinances are on earth. The children of the kingdom live and operate in this world.

 

He only says His kingdom is not from this world, that it is of heavenly origin, and that it is to be set up by supernatural means and not by human prowess or the might of earthly arms. That this is what He means, and all that He means, is evident from all the circumstances of the case and is made abundantly clear from the additional words: "Else would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews" (18:36). Why did He not allow His servants to fight? Because His kingdom was not to be built up in that style. He is to enter upon His throne by a different process. He is to receive His dominion from above and not from beneath. The Lord will give it to Him. It will not come out of this world.

 

I may therefore say, with perfect safety, that there is nothing in the New Testament to contradict the cherished expectations that the Messiah is to reign as a great prince on David's throne in this world.

 

The New Testament's Confirmation Of Christ's Kingship

 

I will go still further and say that there is much in the New Testament tending directly to confirm and deepen these prevailing expectations. Look for a moment at what the angel said to Mary when he came to announce to her the birth of the expected Christ. Gabriel there says to the Virgin, "You shall conceive in your womb and bring forth a son and shall call his name JESUS. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest" (Luke 1:31-32). These are plain words. All understand them just as they stand. And what follows is equally plain, and by all sound principles of interpretation must be taken as equally literal. "The Lord shall give Him the THRONE OF HIS FATHER DAVID. AND HE SHALL REIGN OVER THE HOUSE OF JACOB FOREVER; and of His kingdom there shall be no end" (1:32-33).

 

Now what effect could such an announcement have upon those who were looking for the Christ as a great reigning prince, but to establish and fix all their prepossessions concerning Him in that respect? And when His virgin mother first brought Him as a babe to the temple, Simeon and Anna, by direct divine inspiration, spoke of Him as the consolation for which Israel was looking, and as the one to accomplish in Jerusalem the very redemption that Judah was expecting. What could be the tendency of such utterances, but to make the people who heard them still more enthusiastic in the hopes they were cherishing?

 

When Nathanael first recognised the Saviour's Messiah-ship, and addressed him as "Rabbi, the Son of God, the King of Israel" (John 1:49), he evidently conceived of that kingship according to the prevailing belief of the time. And yet Christ passed it as a proper conception and replied to it in a way which could only give intensity to the anticipations that were entertained. When the 5,000, who had been miraculously fed in the wilderness, would have taken Him by force, and placed Him on the throne, He withdrew himself, for His time for that had not yet come (John 6:15). Neither was that the way in which He was to obtain His crown. But He uttered not a word of censure to indicate that they were wrong in looking upon Him as He who should hold earthly dominion and reign with authority like that with which they desired to invest Him.

 

When He made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the people around Him shouted, "Blessed be the King!" "Blessed be the kingdom of our father David which comes in the name of the Lord!" "Hosannah to the Son of David!" what did they mean? Did they not thereby point to Him as their expected Messiah, who should break the power of their enemies, renew the Jewish throne, establish an earthly empire, and reign as a mighty prince? What else could they have meant? And yet Jesus received it all with approbation and never once so much as hinted that they were the least mistaken. No; when the enraged Jewish officials came to Him, angrily complaining of what had been said of Him by the shouting multitude, He not only sided with the applauding people, but declared that if these held their peace, the stones themselves would cry out (Luke 19: 37-40)! What more impressive endorsement could He possibly have given to what the exulting crowd had uttered? Did He not thus acquiesce in their views? Did He not thus most effectually set His seal of sanction to the proclamation and emphatically declare himself the King of the Jews, who should restore and occupy the throne of David and reign in Mount Zion according to the letter of prophecy?

 

Again, when the mother of Zebedee's children asked Him that her two sons might sit, as ministers of state, the one on His right hand and the other on His left in His kingdom, she doubtless conceived of that kingdom as a princely reign in this world. Her request is amply indicative of this. But if she was wrong, the Saviour's answer certainly went much further to confirm her views than to undeceive her. True, He did not agree to grant her desire; but He left her under the belief that there are such places to he filled in His empire, and that they are reserved for those for whom the Father has prepared them. Are we to suppose the holy Jesus capable of encouraging delusion? He knew what sort of views that woman had of His kingdom; and if it were not in His purpose to establish that kingdom as she apprehended that He would, His conduct and answer are quite inexplicable.

 

The prayer of the penitent thief on the cross presents a similar case. That heartbroken sufferer besought the Saviour to remember him when He came in His kingdom. His ideas of that kingdom were doubtless, in the main at least, just what were generally entertained. And the Saviour answered him without intimating that he was at all mistaken, and left him to die under the impression with which he uttered the prayer.

 

See, also, with what firmness the Saviour expressed himself when before Pilate. He was there charged with conspiracy and treason. The question of Pilate was addressed directly to His political pretensions. His accusers were standing by, eagerly watching for the smallest intimations on which they might secure His condemnation. But His great spirit did not quail. Rising up in the sublime dignity that belonged to His high nature, He boldly affirmed His claim to royal appointment and power.

 

Then, at the last, having spent 40 days with His disciples after His resurrection from the dead, "speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God," how impressive is the sanction which He gave to the fond expectations concerning His earthly princedom! Certainly, all these special instructions to His disciples upon this particular subject left them no room for any further misunderstanding. Yet, at the last hour of His stay on earth, we find them still identifying the Messiah's reign with the restoration of the Jewish throne, and Christ himself still replying to them in a way which could only deepen and strengthen their ideas of the matter. If there were nothing else upon the subject in the New Testament but this account of Christ's last interview with His disciples, it would be enough upon which to base the belief, that it is His purpose, at the appointed time, to revive the throne of David and to reign personally upon earth. They expected Him to "restore the kingdom to Israel and wished to know the time, and all He said, and the last He said, was that they were not "to know the time" (Acts 1:3-7).

 

There is also another class of New Testament passages, equally, if not still more strongly, corroborative of the common expectations of the Messianic reign. When the disciples asked the Saviour what they should have in return for their sacrifices in His cause, He replied, When the Son of man shall sit in the throne of His glory, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matthew 19:28). I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father has appointed unto me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Luke 22: 29-30). "Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled ... When you see these things come to pass, know that the kingdom of God is at hand. Truly, this generation - this Jewish race - shall not pass away - not cease from being a distinct people - TILL ALL BE FULFILLED" (Luke 21: 24-32).

 

He here appropriates to himself a future kingdom. He says that it is to be set up at the expiration of the Gentile dominance, and while the Jews still continue as a distinct race. He says that the apostles are to share in the administrations of that kingdom, as judges of the twelve tribes of Israel. And what effect would such declarations produce upon the minds of men who contemplated the Messiah's reign as a literal kingdom upon earth? What language could have been framed that would more certainly have been interpreted in favour of their views? May we not then set it down as settled and clear that the New Testament, so far from contradicting the literal statements of the old, or the expectations founded thereon, speaks in the same strain and fans those anticipations into greater brightness and intensity?

 

The Scriptural Testimony to the Coming Kingdom

 

Again I remark that the Scriptures explicitly speak of the setting up of a kingdom in connection with the Saviour's final advent, which answers exactly to the literal predictions of the ancient prophets which I have quoted, and to the expectations of the Jews and His first disciples. Upon this point the text itself is conclusive. All agree that it refers to the Saviour's coming in glory to judge the world - to His personal coming at the end of the present dispensation. And it is here affirmed, with an explicitness which cannot be evaded, that at the period of His coming there is to be "given Him dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all people, NATIONS, and languages SHOULD SERVE HIM. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed" (Daniel 7:14).

 

That there might be no misunderstanding or mistake about the matter, an angel explains the vision and says that the blasphemous and persecuting power denoted by the little horn is to prevail against the saints until "The judgment shall sit, " and THEN "the kingdom, and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom UNDER THE WHOLE HEAVEN, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and ALL DOMINIONS SHALL SERVE AND OBEY HIM" (Daniel 7:27).

 

These words describe a literal kingdom. a universal kingdom, a kingdom under the heavens, over the nations and tribes of this world, and which is only to be set up at the session of the judgment and the coming of the Son of man in the clouds.

 

Look also at the vision of the great golden-headed image, and the stone cut from the mountains without hands, which smote the great image, broke it, and filled all the earth. We have there an epitome of this world's history. First, the four great monarchies beginning with Babylon and extending down to the sovereignties which now occupy the territory of the ancient Roman empire. Second the utter extinction of these monster powers during the regency of the ten kingdoms into which the Roman empire was ultimately divided; and third, the setting up in their place of a divine, universal, and eternal empire, symbolised by the stone from the mountains.

 

Daniel thus interprets the vision: "In the days of these kings" - that is, in the days of the kingdoms denoted by the ten toes of the great image, during the existence of the Roman empire in its last form of ten kindred regencies - "shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever " (2:44).

 

The stone-kingdom that God is to set up, and which is to consume and destroy all other kingdoms and stand forever, is a literal, real, outward, terrestrial empire. The time when that kingdom is to be set up is the time when the last forms of usurped dominion, denoted by the ten toes of the great image, are to be broken in pieces. The ten toes of that image are acknowledged on all hands to be the same as the ten-horned wild beast of John's Apocalypse. The ten-horned wild beast is only to be taken and destroyed when the heavens shall open and the Son of God come forth to tread the winepress of God's wrath and give judgment to the martyrs and saints. Therefore the coming of Christ is to be attended with the setting up of a visible, outward, universal, divine, and eternal empire, such as the Jews associated with the Messianic reign.

 

The Saviour himself has spoken of the matter to the same effect. Hear His words: "WHEN the Son of man SHALL COME IN HIS GLORY, and all the holy angels with Him, THEN SHALL HE SIT UPON THE THRONE OF HIS GLORY; and before Him shall be gathered all nations, and He shall separate THEM (THE NATIONS) one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats., and He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. THEN shall THE KING say to them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, INHERIT THE KINGDOM prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matthew 25:31-34). In the same strain, He elsewhere says, They shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud, with power and great glory ... WHEN you see these things come to pass, know that THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS NIGH AT HAND" (Luke 21: 27-28).

 

Paul also says to Timothy: I charge you therefore before God, even the Lord Jesus Christ. who shall judge the quick and, dead AT HIS APPEARING AND KINGDOM" (2 Timothy 4: 1). All these passages unequivocally connect the setting up of the glorious Messianic kingdom with the Saviour's final coming.

 

Elsewhere Paul connects the final advent with the sounding of "the last trump," and when we turn to John's vision of what attends the sounding of the seventh or last trumpet, we read, "There were great voices in heaven, saying, THE KINGDOMS OF THE WORLD ARE BECOME THE KINGDOMS OF OUR LORD AND OF HIS CHRIST; AND HE SHALL REIGN FOREVER AND EVER" (Revelation 11:15). And that there might be no misapprehension of the time to which this vision relates, the four-and-twenty elders respond with thanksgiving that it is "the time of the dead that they should be judged" - the time of giving reward to the servants of God, the prophets, saints and all that fear Him - the time that Christ shall "destroy them that corrupt the earth" (11: 16-18).

 

Paul also connects the resurrection of the saints with Christ's final coming: "The Lord himself shall descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ shall rise first" (1 Thessalonians 4:16). In this he agrees exactly with John's vision of "the first resurrection." But in that vision John saw thrones, and the martyrs, the blessed and holy, seated on them; and they were made kings and priests of God, "and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years" (Revelation 20:4).

 

In all these passages, we have a literal, universal, and abiding kingdom ascribed to Christ in connection with His second coming. It is not a kingdom far off in the remoteness of unknown space, but here in this world. It is to be "Under heaven." It is to embrace "the kingdoms of the world." Its subjects are to be "people, nations, and languages." To take possession of it, Christ is said to "descend from heaven," "come," "appear," and stand again upon the earth. It is then of necessity just such a kingdom as the prophets foretold, and as the Jews and apostles expected. It is to be outward, literal, universal, glorious, and eternal.

 

It is not "from or out of this world," just as John's baptism was not "from or out of this world." It comes from God. It originates from above, not from beneath. It is not set up by earthly means, but by divine power. But as John baptised on earth, although his baptism was not "from this world," and as the church is located on earth, although not of the earth, so Christ will reign in this world in the sublimities of visible empire. We never read of His return to heaven after He once comes to this world a second lime. He remains here. His tabernacle is then to be "with men, and He will DWELL among them, and they shall be His people, and God himself shall be with them" (Revelation 21:3).

 

This reign of Christ, then, is also to be a personal reign. He was "made in the likeness of men." He must therefore have a local dwelling place. As the Son of man, He is now in heaven. And when it is said that He will come again to earth, and dwell with men, we must believe that this world will be His home. He cannot dwell and reign on earth as the son of David and not be personally present on the earth.

 

Every point, then, at which the Scriptures touch upon this subject furnishes something to corroborate and strengthen our doctrine that the Lord Jesus Christ will return again to this world, and here set up a literal empire or Christocracy and personally reign over the nations in the bliss and glory of a universal and eternal kingdom. The prophecies of the Old Testament, taken in their plain natural sense, teach it. When Christ was on earth, both Jews and Christians held it. The New Testament nowhere condemns it as an error, but in many places refers to it as a matter well and correctly understood.

 

In the Old Testament and the New, we find many passages which cannot be consistently interpreted without admitting it as a true doctrine of God. We cannot, therefore, escape from the conclusion that the blessed and adorable Son of the Virgin is yet to reign in this world as a great and glorious divine prince, whom all the nations shall obey and the world hail as its only King. All the Scriptures proclaim it; the whole creation groans and longs for it, and I cannot but believe it. Next to the doctrine of atonement for the world's guilt, it is the dearest of all the revelations of God.

 

To this hour, the greatest desideratum of our race is good government - government freed from the frailties and unrighteousness which have ever adhered to that department of human interest. The church, too, is crippled, torn, and disordered, for want of some present divine umpire to judge between its contending sects, purge out its ambitious disturbers, and quell its feverish perturbations. All nature seems to have heard the promise concerning the seed of the woman and His restorative empire and has stood in anxious expectancy ever since. All the world, in all its departments, has been longing and prophesying for ages for a divine Deliverer and the age of gold which His administrations are to bring with them. And yet he has not come.

 

I do not, indeed, deny that Christ now reigns in the hearts of His children, or that He exercises a providential control over the affairs of the world. I know and rejoice that there is a sense in which He is present now, even where but two or three are assembled in His name; and that wherever a sinner turns to God, there something of His regal authority and power are felt. But I also know that, with all His spiritual and providential presence and rule, as now in the world, everything is imperfect as compared with the promises of what is to be hereafter.

 

Satan, for the most part, is yet the king and master of this world, and not the illustrious Son of David. Everything in church and state, public and private, is more or less disjointed, weak, sickly, and failing of what we most desire. Remedies only multiply wants and defects. "That which is crooked cannot be made straight; and that which is wanting cannot be numbered." The best-planned institutions and the wisest laws are constantly disappointing us. The holy law itself was "weak through the flesh;" and the same is to be said of all that we now have. No one adequately fulfils or can fulfil his relations. The consciences even of the best Christians, if properly enlightened, continually reproach them. Everything seems to feel the absence of its redeeming Lord.

 

He does not yet reign as it is necessary for us that He should reign. "We see not Yet all things put under Him" (Hebrews 1: 8). Matters now are only in a stage preparatory to something still beyond us. The throne of David is yet less than a cipher. The promised Son has not yet lifted it out of its degradation. Mount Zion is still trodden by the vile foot of the destroyer. Israel, that is to be redeemed and become the standard-bearer of ransomed nations, is still scattered over all the earth. The enemies of God still vaunt themselves over His Anointed.

 

Ignorance, fanaticism, and infidelity still stalk abroad, even through the church. The man of sin, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, still sits in the temple of God. Great Babylon still stands, drunk as she is with the blood of the saints. The wild beast and the false prophet are still allied against the Lamb and against the witnesses of Jesus. Evil men and seducers are still waxing worse and worse. Despotism and tyranny still hold the places that justice and charity alone should fill. War and bloodshed still devastate and deluge this poor fallen world. Rapine and plunder still press their foul trade on land and on sea. Ambition, intrigue, finesse, and deceit still hold disgraceful sway in the best parliaments and legislatures on earth. Scoffers abound everywhere, walking after their own lusts and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming?" (2 Peter 3: 3-4). The wails of suffering and wretchedness still float on every breeze, and the cries of wronged millions still go up into the ear of Jehovah.

 

Oh, do not tell me that this is the glorious reign of Messiah! Tell me not that these are the scenes to which the saints of old looked with so much joy! I will not so disgrace my Saviour or His word as to allow for a moment that this dispensation is the sublime Messianic kingdom. No, no, no; Christ does not yet reign in the kingdom which He has promised and for which He has taught us to pray.

 

Isaiah and Gabriel have said that He should occupy the throne of His father David and reign over the house of Jacob, and establish His government in eternal peace and righteousness. But David's sceptre He has never held; over Jacob's house He has never ruled; and the whole world is yet full of iniquity and woe. The Psalmist has taught us that "all nations shall serve Him, the Gentiles be His inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth His possession" (2: 8); but there is not a nation in all this wide world that is thoroughly Christian and not a people who unanimously acknowledge that Christ is Lord.

 

Of the ten hundred millions of souls that now constitute the family of man, not two-fifths are even professedly Christian! Take from the most Christian community all who are not of the household of faith, and what a scanty population would remain! Take the most enlightened and cultivated of the nations, containing the most churches and the greatest number of devout people; examine the structure of its government; test the operations of its laws; sift the character of its inhabitants; weigh it in the balances of Scripture truth and divine requirements; aggregate its good and its evil; strike the balance between righteousness and iniquity, and them tell me whether there is a nation on all the globe that does not gravitate towards hell rather than towards heaven!

 

The church itself, enclosing within its pale all the purest and holiest specimens of humanity, after the toils and prayers of 18 centuries, is still a feeble craft, working against wind and tide! Where, then, is that universal righteousness, peace, and glory which gave inspiration to the songs of the prophets and hope to the souls of the dying saints of old?

 

The reign of Messiah is to be a reign of glory, power, and triumph, where vice is unknown and iniquity at an end - here the branch from the root of Jesse is to strike all enemies dead and the Sun of righteousness disperse all darkness forever - ere all nations shall serve, worship, and obey the King of Israel, and the earth shout the alleluia of her ultimate redemption. It is worse than useless to try to persuade ourselves that such a condition of things belongs to this dispensation.

 

Nor is there anything by way of inference from the past, or from indications of the present, or even in the sublime promises of the word of God, by which to assure ourselves that such a condition of things ever will be realised until the personal return of the blessed Christ for whom we wait. It is only when He shall come that He will sit upon the throne of His glory. Antichrist will not die till then. The world will not be fully redeemed till then. The glorious kingdom will not come till then. That is the grand climax of our faith, that is the sublime ultimatum of all our hopes.

 

Long, long has this great consummation been delayed - so long that even pious men begin to doubt whether it ever shall come. But the word of Jehovah is out; He cannot recall it; He must fulfil it. Soon it will be here. Soon shall Messiah come in His glory and set this imprisoned and down-trodden world at liberty. Soon shall the Son of Mary stand upon the Mount of Olives and plant His throne upon the hill of Zion. Soon shall the glorified saints supplant besotted politicians, and the swelling tide of righteousness and peace overflow the earth. Soon shall the new-born nations send up their delegations to Jerusalem to worship the King in His beauty and go forth with joy in the blessedness of obedience to Him.

 

Men may scoff and say that we are degrading the blessed Saviour to a level with earthly monarchs and surrounding Him with the miserable trappings of their foul courts. They may ridicule us and say that we are dragging down the throne of Heaven's King to place it amid graves, almshouses, hospitals, penitentiaries, labour-prisons, sickly cities, and worn-out states. But they forget that the promise is that Christ shall "MAKE ALL THINGS NEW" and banish forever all these evidences and emblems of depravity and sin. They forget that death is to be swallowed up of life and the whole sentence of the world's curse forever rescinded. They forget that all tears are to be dried, and that there is to be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor tears, nor any more pain, nor any more sin within all the domain of Messiah's eternal dominion.

 

Oh, that Christians did but look at these things as God has presented them and lay hold of the promises that He has given to encourage us. Then would they go forth to duty with greater earnestness and joy. Then would they pray, with fond hope, "Your Kingdom come!"* and ever and always respond, "AMEN, EVEN SO COME, LORD JESUS!"

 

- Joseph A. Seiss.

 

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From The Last Times And The Great Consummation. As far as we aware, this book is presently out of print.

As found in "The Coming Day" - a publication by:

 

SEARCHLIGHT

P.O. Box 5206

Newark NG23 6YL

England.

Tel/Fax: +44 (0)1636 821322

E-mail: searchlight@onet.co.uk.