THE REIGN OF CHRIST ON EARTH

 

By D. M. PANTON, M.A.

 

The sudden defection of so able and godly a teacher as Mr. Phillip Mauro from Millenarian truth - an abandonment, after decades of conviction, of belief in our Lord's thousand summers on earth, and on the grave stand that it is anti-Scriptural* - is a sharp challenge to all who hold it.  For if a coming Kingdom of God breaking in miraculously upon the present order is a myth, and a downward plunge of the world to Armageddon an illusion - as far the larger section of the Church, though not Mr. Mauro, contend; and the denial of an earthly Reign and the refusal of a physical Advent are two views which naturally and usually coalesce - the paralysis of all political and social action which such an error must engender, when every nerve should be strained so to Christianize the world as to make the Church triumphant, can be nothing short of an immeasurable disaster, and an error profoundly displeasing to God. It is a challenge extraordinarily practical and of the first magnitude.

 

[* For we so understand Mr. Mauro. "As regards the period given us as a thousand years," he says, "We should seek the spiritual and symbolical meaning of the term" (Patmos Visions, p. 502).  In the new dispensationalism which contradicts the Word of God, he places, as a leading tenet, "that all mankind will enjoy uninterrupted peace, plenty, and every earthly gratification for a thousand years" (The Gospel of the Kingdom, p. 215).  Earth is destroyed in the moment of the Advent (ib. p. 207).  The Great Tribulation is past, Israel is lost beyond all hope, the Saviour will never be crowned where He was crucified, the Millennium is a dream.  Mr. Mauro's defection is a grave reminder that we are all treading a glacier, and that we do well to walk humbly with our God.]

 

THE KINGDOM

 

Now to Daniel it was given supremely to see and foretell the crumpling up of all earthly empire in the inauguration of the Kingdom of God; and in Daniel the solution of the problem is immediately to our hand.  "In the days of those kings" - earth's final monarchies - "shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom; it shall BREAK IN PIECES" - therefore coming into actual, physical collision with the world-kingdoms - "and consume" so to replace, physically, actual kingdoms which it annihilates - "ALL these kingdoms" - earth's entire catalogue of empire - "and it shall stand for ever" (Dan. 2: 44).  The earthly sphere of this final Empire of God is as explicit as language can make it: "no place was found for them" - earth's vanished empires; "and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, AND FILLED THE WHOLE EARTH" (Dan. 2: 35).  So the Bible begins, as it closes, with an earthly Reign of God; for "the kingdom of the world is (to) become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever" (Rev. 11: 15).

 

EARTHLY EMPIRE

 

Now the origin and nature of this Kingdom, as revealed by Daniel, could not be more sharply defined.  Our Lord said: "My kingdom is not from hence" (John 18: 36): so here, a Kingdom in the form of a descending Stone, hewn by no earthly hands, is launched like a torpedo from an aeroplane.  It is "the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, rendering vengeance" (2 Thess. 1: 7).*  It is exclusively a kingdom from on high: its abrupt collision with world-powers is no gradual permeation, but sharp military overthrow; the vacuum it creates, it fills - therefore the Kingdom is as literal and earthly as the kingdoms which it supplants: it is earth's final royalty, imperishable, unchanging, divine.  It reigns in the sense they reigned.  Mineral replaces mineral.  Imagery is a falsehood, and language is meaningless, if the Smashing Stone is not a catastrophic Advent, followed by a literal Empire.  "Behold there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto the son of man, and there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, THAT ALL THE PEOPLES, NATIONS, AND LANGUAGES SHOULD SERVE HIM" (Dan. 7: 13).

 

[* Protestant controversialists on the Temporal Power misquote our Lord, Jesus said, "My Kingdom is not from (ek) this world": He never said:- "My Kingdom is not of this world."  The Stone descends from heaven, but it is earth which it fills.]

 

THE NATIONS

 

So our Lord shows us the actual descent of the Stone:- "When the Son of Man shall come in his glory" - that is, as He has already once been on earth, on the Mount of Transfiguration - "and all the angels with Him, then shall He sit on the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered ALL THE NATIONS" (Matt. 25: 31).  It is manifest from the thronging Angels that it is the descent of the Lord at the Second Advent, which the Saviour had just indicated:- "then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven, and they shall see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and with great glory" (Matt. 24: 30).  It is a judgment of "nations" - therefore not of the dead, among whom there are no nations; as the final judgment is of the dead alone (Rev. 20: 11), so this judgment is of the living alone; resurrection is never once named; and it is pre-millennial, for the Judge says, - "Come ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom" (Matt. 25: 34). Finally conclusive are our Saviour's word to the Apostles :- "I appoint unto you a kingdom; and ye shall sit on thrones JUDGING THE TWELVE TRIBES OF ISRAEL" (Luke 22: 29).  That is, the "kingdom," according to our Lord, is the epoch of the re-emergence of the Twelve Tribes; and so, manifestly, a fulfilment of the word which follows the prediction of His descent on Olivet, when "the Lord shall be KING OVER ALL THE EARTH" (Zech. 14: 9).

 

RESURRECTION

 

So now we arrive at the Kingdom itself as revealed in a passage the peculiar value of which lies in its unique revelation of the kingdom's duration.  "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them; and they lived" - that is, came to life, they ceased to be the dead - "and REIGNED with Christ" - whose literal return to earth has been recorded in the preceding chapter - "A THOUSAND YEARS; this is the first resurrection" (Rev. 20: 4).  It has been universally assumed, with almost unbroken unanimity, that the dead who stand, at the close of the Thousand Years, before the Great White Throne (20: 11) are a resurrection: the conclusion therefore is inexorable that the first resurrection, preceding it, and ushering in the Thousand Years, is no less literal.  "The thousand years are mentioned not less than six times: this intentional, emphatic repetition shows that real importance is attached to the number" (Hengstenberg).  The Kingdom, as Dr. Lange says, is "an aeon, and specifically the transition-aeon between this present world and the world to come."  It is peculiarly and exclusively the Kingdom of the Messiah, and so it is four times named in the Apocalypse as the Kingdom of "the Christ".  For "he that overcometh," Jesus promises, "I will give to him to sit down with Me in My throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with My Father in His throne" (Rev. 3: 21): two distinct thrones; the Lord being now seated on His Father's, but then on His own: while the Throne of Eternity , beyond, is the joint "throne of God and the Lamb".* And most startling is the nature of the Kingdom depicted, not as a permeating leaven, or a mystical rule, but as a smashing enforcement of righteousness; for "he that overcometh, 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 IN SHIVERS" (Rev. 2: 26).

 

[* Since no man can share the present Throne of God, and equally no man can share the eternal Throne of God and the Lamb, the Throne to which Christ invites fellow-occupants, and which He makes dependant on overcoming grace, can only be the Millennial.

 

FALSE PROPHECY

 

For the grave truth is that golden predictions of earth's future, apart from the physical Advent, are not merely a denial of God's forecasts, but, actually constituting false prophecy, reveal an attitude of acute danger.  For if the world is to be conquered for Christ by the Church, the spending of all our energies on the Gospel alone when God meant those energies to reform the world is a wrenching of Niagara from its bed in a gigantic miscarriage; but, on the other hand, if earth's iniquity is heading it for Armageddon, and only the catastrophic miracle of the Advent can save the world, the situation is exactly reversed.  It must be one or the other.  For what would a cheerful optimism in man's future have betrayed while the Ark rose plank over plank? or the angel's wings quivered above Sodom? or the Roman legions struck camp for the Holy City?  It would have proved a total inability to gauge the moral condition of society as a whole; a complete disbelief in the warnings and judgments of God, prophecy becoming either misleading metaphor or else purely fictitious apocalyptic; a constructive policy (political and social) roofing a volcano; persistent refusal of the only and fundamental Divine remedies which would avert the judgments; and an acute personal peril of the approaching earth.  No man does his fellows or himself a more cruel wrong than the false prophet.*

 

[* It is of the utmost gravity that far the major portion of the truly regenerate are thus denying the Kingdom as revealed by the Scriptures.  The [regenerate] believer who shares in a measure of the world's unbelief must share in an exactly commensurate measure of the world's judgment.  All of Israel who denied the Holy Land missed it.  "Not every one who saith unto Me, Lord, Lord" - however vitally (1 Cor. 12: 3), much less hypocritically (Matt. 7: 21, 23) - "shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father" (Matt. 7: 21)].

 

Doing the Father's will is a large demand far exceeding simple, saving faith, or a backslidden or carnal life.  The Crown of righteousness Paul confines to those who love His appearing.)

 

THE PRIZE OF OUR CALLING

 

So the closer that the great event approaches, the more urgent and crucial becomes the problem of the co-kings of the Christ.  Dr. E. R. Craven gives the conflicting solutions of the problem that are offered: "Some hold that they are all the saints; others that they are only the martyrs; others still, that they are the specially faithful, including the martyrs."  With such scholars as Lange and Stier; such students of prophecy as Govett and Pember; such saintly souls as Fletcher of Madeley, and Robert Chapman; such God-used missionaries as Hudson Taylor, and evangelists as Paul Rader:- we share the profound conviction that in the third solution all Scriptures fit as cogs into a wheel.  It is extremely suggestive that the main objections to a literal Thousand Years Dr. Barnes finds in the assumption that all the saints reign with Christ.  He says:- (1) Every other description of the resurrection and glory of the saints as such is catholic in its character, while this is limited; (2) none but the wicked would remain to be judged in the last judgment, which is inconsistent with the implication of the opening of the Book of Life: (3) to tell us that saints risen from the dead, and reigning in glorified bodies with Christ, are holy, seems to me very superfluous."  These difficulties die at once under the third solution.  The overwhelming predominance of the martyrs - they compose three out of the four classes named - makes it virtually impossible to suppose that the Kingdom is shared by all believers, irrespective of suffering or fidelity, and obviously implies that it is the epoch of recompense for fiery trial; while the beatitude - "blessed and holy is HE that hath part in the first resurrection" - carefully individualizes the reward, and isolates the victor in a peculiar sanctity, and devotes him to an appropriate joy.

 

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