The Book of Books—Part 5

God’s Kingdom Conquers—Part 1

ONE of the principal themes of the Bible is revealed in the many promises of God to establish a triumphant kingdom on the earth, designed and empowered to rule the people in righteousness, assuring them peace and joy and life. These kingdom blessings begin to be described in the first book of the Bible. In the Book of Exodus there is a promise of God to the nation of Israel that this people would be a “kingdom of priests.” (Exod. 19:6) Later the kingdom of Israel was established and became a type of the future kingdom of the Messiah.

In the Book of Psalms there are many promises relating to the kingdom of Christ and the blessings it will assure to humanity. The same is true of the Books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. The word kingdom itself is not always used in association with these promises, but all of them definitely disclose God’s purpose to intervene in the affairs of men, and through Christ, to establish control over the people. Through the conquering power of the messianic kingdom, the Lord will quell the rebellion against divine law which occurred in the Garden of Eden.

As we continue to trace this glorious kingdom theme through the remaining books of the Bible, we find them calling attention to one detail after another of the manner in which this new government will benefit mankind. It is to conquer and destroy all selfish, humanly constituted government. Under its rulership the meek of the earth will prosper, while those who continue willfully to oppose the Lord will be destroyed. Those who obey the laws of his kingdom will live forever.


A human-like image … Four beasts … Time of the end … Increase of knowledge … A time of trouble

The Prophet Daniel was a Hebrew captive in Babylon when the nation of Israel was conquered by King Nebuchadnezzar. He was very young at the time, but thoroughly devoted to the God of Israel. By divine providence he soon gained favor with the king, and was exalted to a very high position in the Babylonian government.

Daniel was greatly used by God as a prophet, and the first prophecy of his book is based on one of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams, which he was requested to relate and interpret. It is in the second chapter of the book that we are told about this dream and Daniel’s interpretation of it. In his dream the king saw a human-like image, with head of gold, breast and arms of silver, thighs of brass, legs of iron, and feet and toes of iron and clay mixed. In this dream Nebuchadnezzar also saw a stone cut out of the mountain without hands. (Dan. 2:45) The stone smote the image on its feet, causing it to fall. Then the stone grew until it became a great mountain which filled the whole earth.

Daniel explained to the king that the gold, silver, brass, and iron of the image represented four kingdoms, beginning with Babylon. Historically, the other three have proved to be Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. The feet and toes of the image, Daniel explained, were of iron and clay mixed. This he interpreted as representing weakening influences entering the Roman Empire, and its divisions pictured by the toes of the image. Thus the prophecy is seen to be remarkably true to historical facts. This gives us confidence that the remainder of the prophecy will also be accurately and completely fulfilled.

In Daniel’s interpretation of the dream he explained that the stone which was cut out of the mountain without hands, and smote the image on its feet, represented the kingdom of God. After the smiting, this stone became a great mountain which filled the whole earth. Just so, the mountain—kingdom of the Lord—will extend its sphere of influence until it becomes a dominating power in the affairs of all nations, being established, as the Prophet Isaiah wrote, in “the top of the mountains.”—Isa. 2:2-4

Thus we find that the Prophet Daniel continues the great kingdom theme of the Bible, furnishing the additional information that this kingdom will be established upon the ruins of the kingdoms of this world. Today we are beginning to see a remarkable fulfillment of this prophecy. Already the remnants of the old Roman Empire are nearly all destroyed. This should give us confidence that the mediatorial kingdom, which was to take its place and to be the next world government, is now very near at hand.

Later, in God’s providence, Daniel became an important figure in the government of the Medes who, under the leadership of Cyrus, captured Babylon and took over the rulership of the empire. This transfer of rulership occurred in connection with Belshazzar’s feast, when he saw “the handwriting on the wall”—those famous words, “Mene, mene, tekel upharsin,” meaning, “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.” (Dan. 5:25-28) Even as these fatal words appeared on the wall in Belshazzar’s banquet hall, King Cyrus of the Medes, having turned aside the water of the river Euphrates which ran under the walls of Babylon, thus leaving the riverbed dry, was marching his soldiers through the drained riverbed and into the unsuspecting city.

It was after Babylon was overthrown that Daniel himself had a prophetic dream in which he saw four great beasts, which, as was explained to him, represented four kings or kingdoms. These are undoubtedly the same kingdoms which Nebuchadnezzar saw represented in the human-like image. His was the human viewpoint, however. He saw the kingdoms of this world as glamorous—like gold, silver, brass, and iron, but Daniel saw them from God’s standpoint as being like beasts, ferocious and repelling.

The prophetic interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream reaches through the ages to the establishment of the messianic kingdom—that mountain (kingdom) which is destined to fill the whole earth. The same is true of the interpretation of Daniel’s dream. The fourth beast in his dream represents the Roman Empire, and the prophecy shows that when the time came for it to be set aside its place would be taken by the kingdom of God.—Dan. 2:44; 7:26,27

An Increase of Knowledge

The last chapter of Daniel’s prophecy also has a vital bearing on the times in which we are now living. In keeping with all devout Israelites, Daniel looked for and longed for the coming of the kingdom which God had promised. In the two prophecies we have already examined, Daniel was given assurance that the messianic kingdom would ultimately be established, that it would “break in pieces and consume all these [worldly] kingdoms,” and that “it shall stand forever.” (Dan. 2:44) But in chapters eight to eleven of the Book of Daniel, many things are shown which would have to intervene, including much hardship and persecution for his people—the people of God.

He was, therefore, very anxious to be assured that there would be an end to evil and evil rulership in the world, and this assurance was given to him as recorded in the last chapter of the book, chapter twelve. In verse four, reference is made to the time of the end—not the end of time, nor the end of human experience on the earth, but the time of the end of the evil conditions which had so distressed Daniel. This time of the end, he was told, could be identified by the fact that then there would be a great increase of knowledge, and much running to and fro—that is, a great deal of moving about on the earth, augmented by various means of rapid travel.

The last hundred years has seen a remarkable fulfillment of this prophecy. There has been this foretold increase of knowledge throughout the world, as witnessed in the thousands of educational institutions, public schools, advancement in science, and in many other ways. This has led to inventions, including those which make rapid travel possible. Knowledge has, indeed, increased, with the result that modern means of travel and communication have brought the far-flung nations of earth close together and made them interdependent one upon the other.

But while the nations have thus been made neighbors, they are far from neighborly, with the result that strife has been fomented among them, causing a national and international time of trouble such as the world has never before experienced. And in verse one of the chapter, Daniel refers to this, describing what the world has witnessed since 1914 as a “time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation.”

The prophecy explains that this time of trouble would be caused by the standing up of Michael. Michael is one of the titles the Bible gives to the Messiah. Then shall Michael stand up, the prophet declares. This expression denotes the act of taking control, and, as we have seen, the first result of Christ’s exercising control in the affairs of men is a time of trouble. This harmonizes with the prophecy of the second chapter, in which—picturing the downfall of Gentile kingdoms as a result of being smitten by the stone (kingdom of the Lord)—the explanation is given that in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom.

When we realize how vividly the Bible thus describes the progress of events in our day, it makes us realize the importance of becoming better acquainted with its entire testimony pertaining to the plans and purposes of God. Daniel was told that in the time of the end, when knowledge would be increased, and when people would run to and fro, none of the wicked would understand, but the wise would understand. For himself, he was told to close the book, which would be sealed until the time of the end. He was assured, nevertheless, that he would then stand in his lot, meaning, of course, that he would in God’s due time be raised from the dead and witness the complete fulfillment of all the wonderful things which God has promised.

And Daniel will not be the only one thus to be awakened from the sleep of death. In describing the time of trouble with which this age will close, and the increase of knowledge, and running to and fro, the prophecy also states that then “many that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake.” (Dan. 12:2) The expression, ‘dust of the earth’, takes our minds back to the original sentence of death passed upon father Adam—“Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Gen. 3:19) The time of the end is at the close of the Gospel Age, to be followed by the age during which there will be a resurrection of all who have gone down into death—into the dust of the earth—because of Adam’s sin.


Restoration in latter days … The greater than David … Hell’s destruction foretold

Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel are known as the major prophets of the Old Testament, and there are twelve minor prophets, of whom Hosea is the first. The writings of these twelve make up the closing books of the Old Testament. Hosea’s prophecy was written before Daniel’s, for he was contemporaneous with certain kings of Judah and with Jeroboam, king of Israel; and, as we have seen, the nation was overthrown, and its kings passed from the scene when Daniel, together with the other Israelites, was taken captive to Babylon.

We have already noted that after the death of King Solomon a division occurred in the nation, ten tribes separating from the remaining two tribes. Hosea’s prophecy is directed almost altogether against the sins of the entire nation—the ten tribes and also the two tribes—and is a warning of the severe punishments the people could expect, resulting from their worship of false gods and their disregard for the laws of Jehovah.

But Hosea’s prophecy is not entirely one of doom, for it also promises the restitution of Israel in the latter days. (Hos. 3:5) In this prophecy, the transgression of Israel against the covenant into which they had entered with God at Mount Sinai is compared with Adam’s transgression of God’s law in the Garden of Eden. The marginal translation of Hosea 6:7 reads, “They, like man [Adam], have transgressed the covenant.”

Although the nation had transgressed the covenant, and would be cast off from God’s special protecting care, God promised to make a New Covenant with them, as we ascertained in our study of the Book of Jeremiah. Their restoration is foretold by Hosea, who, in the fifth verse of the third chapter, says that “afterward [in the times of restitution] shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear [reverence] the Lord and his goodness in the latter days.”

In the testimony of God’s holy prophets pertaining to the great hope of restitution, we are assured that there is to be a resurrection of the dead. This means, of course, that King David himself will return from death and once more be associated with his people. This, as Hosea indicates, will be in the latter days. However, there is to be a much larger fulfillment of this prophecy, for David is used in the Bible as a type of Christ, the Messiah of promise. He is the one who is to be king over Israel in the latter days when the New Covenant is made with the restored nation.

Thus we see that although the major portion of the Book of Hosea is a denunciation of the sins of God’s people Israel, the prophet, like all the others, was used by God to give assurance of the ultimate return of divine favor to both Jew and Gentile. The fulfillment of these promises will mean rich blessings of prosperity and life for all Israel under the rulership of the antitypical David. And, as this prophet reminds us, just as all mankind lost life through Adam’s transgression, so in the latter days this larger family, even the human family itself, shall also be restored and inherit a global paradise.

With this work of restoration complete, man’s greatest enemy, death, will no longer strike down its victims; for, through Hosea, the Lord assures us that he will plague death and destroy the grave. In Hosea 13:14, the Lord says, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction.”

While this wonderful promise is recorded in the midst of warnings to Israel of the dire results of sin, this but emphasizes the fact of God’s purpose ultimately to deliver Israel as well as all mankind from death by means of a ransom—“I will ransom them from the power of the grave.” This is one of the Old Testament promises of God to send a Redeemer, one who would die as a ransom for Israel and for the world. This work of redemption, as we shall later see, was accomplished by Jesus.

Jesus came to ransom the people from the power of the grave. The Hebrew word here translated ‘grave’ is , the word already noted as being the only one in the Old Testament that is translated hell. Had it been translated hell in this text, as it could have been, all would have known that it was God’s purpose to deliver the people from hell, which is the condition of death.

In this wonderful promise the Lord tells us that he will plague death. This reminds us of the time when he plagued the Egyptians to bring about the deliverance of his people from their slavery in Egypt. So death will be plagued by God, with the result that it will deliver up its prisoners. This is simply another way in which the Lord assures us of the fact that in his own due time he will restore the dead to life, and give them an opportunity to live forever.

In this promise the Lord also assures us of his intention to destroy the grave, that is, sheol, the Bible hell. He says, “O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave [sheol, hell], I will be thy destruction.” How wonderful it is to find such promises as these in the Word of God! Beginning back in the Dark Ages, when Bibles were not available for general use, the theory was developed that hell was a place of torment where those who died unconverted would be caused to suffer throughout the endless ages of eternity. But now, as we become better acquainted with the Bible, we find these wonderful promises of God assuring us that hell is to be destroyed.

As we have discovered in our review of earlier books of the Bible, this Hebrew word sheol, the Old Testament word for hell, is simply the condition of death, that state of sleep, or unconsciousness, into which both the righteous and the wicked go when they die. God’s promise to destroy sheol is simply another way of saying that he will destroy death.


Day of the Lord foretold … Restoration of Israel … Preparation for war … A silver lining

Joel was the second of the minor prophets. He calls attention to the sins of Israel, and to the calamitous events which were to come upon the nation as a result. One of the purposes of his message was to bring about a repentance of the nation, which in turn would lead to averting the calamities which he prophesied. But the nation did not repent, and therefore suffered the foretold judgments of God, and was finally taken into captivity.

Joel also prophesied events in the outworking of the divine plan which were many centuries in the future from his day. The opening verses of chapter two read: “Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand; a day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations.”—vss. 1,2

It might seem strange that the day of the Lord should be one of darkness and of gloominess. However, this prophecy parallels the one in Daniel 12:1, where we are told that as a result of Michael—that is, Christ—standing up to take control in earth’s affairs there would be a “time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation.” Clouds and darkness are used in the prophecies to symbolize trouble and distress among the people and nations of earth.

The day of the Lord is the period in the divine plan when the promised divine king overthrows human rulership and sets up his government, the increase of which there shall be no end. (Isa. 9:6,7) Temporary trouble and distress among the nations is the inevitable result of this change in rulership, hence the day of the Lord is one of darkness, for in it there is a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation.

Another prophetic event that continues during the day of the Lord is the regathering of the Jewish people into the Promised Land. This is foretold in Jeremiah 16:14-17; and, as we noted, also in Ezekiel, chapters thirty-six through thirty-nine. It is referred to in Joel’s prophecy, and is associated with a warlike gathering of the Gentile nations as they assemble in the great time of trouble with which the present age ends. We quote:

“Behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land.”—Joel 3:1,2

Here another of the Bible’s symbolisms is introduced—the valley of Jehoshaphat. This name means ‘Jehovah has judged’. In the fourteenth verse of the chapter it is defined as the “valley of decision.” The thought is that in these last days, the day of the Lord, when all the nations of earth are assembled in global strife, a divine decision is rendered against them, resulting in their overthrow to make place for the establishment of the kingdom of Christ.

In Joel’s prophecy, one of the reasons for this adverse decision against the nations is indicated to be their attitude toward the Israelites regathered in Palestine. Throughout the age, the Gentile nations have almost continually been responsible for the scattering of this people, and now, at the end of the age, when God’s time has come for them to repossess their own land, the Gentiles, through the United Nations, decree a division of their land. God does not wish this, hence his controversy with them over his heritage Israel.

Verses nine and ten of the chapter describe further the gathering of the nations for their final struggle. We read, “Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles, Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong.” This is just another way of saying that in the day of the Lord the nations would engage in a gigantic armament race in which a peacetime economy would give place to one of war and the preparation for war.

We of the present generation have witnessed this in progress, and the end is not yet. However, the prophecy has already been fulfilled to such an extent that seventy-five percent of all the peoples of the earth do not have sufficient food and clothing. The outlook would be most discouraging were it not for the promises of God in which we are assured that soon the kingdom of Christ will take control of earth’s affairs.

The Prophet Joel directs our attention to this silver lining of the present dark clouds of trouble, saying that “the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk.” (vs. 18) The Prophet Isaiah, in one of his symbolic descriptions of Messiah’s kingdom, uses similar language, saying that “in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.”—Isa. 25:6

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