The LORD Reigneth

“Fear before him, all the earth: the world also shall be stable, that it be not moved. Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice: and let men say among the nations, The LORD reigneth.” —I Chronicles 16:30,31

ONE of the fundamental causes of all human suffering is the failure of the people to recognize the right of the Creator to rule in their hearts and lives. Adam and Eve were the first to rebel against God’s will. This was when they chose to partake of the forbidden fruit. The majority of their descendants have followed the same rebellious course, desiring to be free from the restraints of his righteous laws. This has resulted in untold suffering, every generation throughout the many long centuries of human existence having experienced its bath of blood and tears.

But this situation is not to continue forever. One of the great themes of the Bible is the glorious fact that human rebellion against the authority of the Creator is to be put down, that his will is yet to be done in the earth even as it is now done in heaven. It is for this blessed consummation of the Creator’s purpose that Jesus taught his disciples to pray, and for which thousands are still praying—“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth.”

The kingdom theme is a very prominent one in the Scriptures, being introduced in the first chapter of Genesis, and mentioned for the last time in the closing chapters of the Book of Revelation. Genesis 1:28 records the commission which the Creator gave to the first human pair to be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

In giving man this commission to be king of earth, God was not relinquishing his own right to rule, but merely making man his representative in this earthly domain. If men had retained God in their hearts and continued to recognize and rejoice in his will, this ideal relationship would still continue, but such was not the case. Man in his folly and sin has preferred to give ear to the fallen Lucifer, and has followed him in rebellion against Jehovah.

God, of course, could have prevented this, for it was entirely within his power to do so. He chose, rather, to permit man to take this evil course, that by experience he might learn the terrible results of sin. Man was created a free moral agent, and God will not force him to obey. He wants man to learn that it is best for him to obey his Creator. It is for this reason that God, in his wisdom, has permitted evil, and has allowed the human race to continue in rebellion against him, resulting in suffering and death.

Now, after six thousand years of such an experience, man has about reached his extremity. There is a great hue and cry going up from many sources that the only hope of salvation for the world is to return to God. Most of those who are saying this do not seem to realize that the world in general has never truly served the Lord, and therefore is not in a position to return to him. Nevertheless, it is significant, we think, that so much prominence is now given to this thought, for it indicates that in the present time of the world’s dire need, men and women are slowly awakening to the fact that the basic cause of the present distress of nations with perplexity is that the world has ignored God in its thoughts, and for the most part has been in open rebellion against him.

For the human race to return to God calls for the restoration of that condition of purity and obedience of heart and mind which our first parents enjoyed before they partook of the forbidden fruit. In the divine plan of salvation, provision has been made for just such a restoration. This is to be accomplished during the thousand years of Christ’s reign. Jesus described the work of that age as being one of judgment, or of trial, and pictured all mankind as being gathered before him, and upon the basis of obedience or disobedience, classified either as sheep or goats. To those at the dose of that thousand-year period who qualify as sheep, the statement is made, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matt. 25:34) This is the dominion over the earth which God gave to our first parents, the one which they lost when they disobeyed him. We are glad that ultimately it will be restored to all who, learning well the terrible results of rebellion against God, finally choose to acknowledge the divine will as the sole guide of their lives.

Meanwhile, so far as the human race as a whole has been concerned, God has seldom been in their hearts. One exception to this, however, was the little nation of Israel, for a few hundred years just prior to its overthrow. This nation, made up of the natural descendants of Abraham, was set apart by God to represent him in the earth. At Sinai the Israelites entered into a covenant with God, in which they agreed to obey his Law, and he promised, conditional upon their obedience, to bless and honor them as his special or chosen people.

To the extent that they lived up to the terms of their covenant with God, he was their Ruler, their King. To begin with, Moses represented God in the nation. He was succeeded by Joshua. Then for several hundred years they were ruled by judges, each of which they recognized as a representative of God.

Samuel was the last of these judges. He was also a prophet. Representatives of the nation went to Samuel and demanded that he appoint a king to reign over them. Samuel was deeply saddened by this, although it was explained that the people were not rejecting him, but the Lord. (I Sam. 8:1-9) Samuel was instructed to appoint a king over Israel, but the Lord still maintained his position as their sovereign Ruler, and the successive kings of the nation were his representatives.

Of King Solomon it is written that he “sat on the throne of the Lord as king instead of David his father.” (I Chron. 29:23) In a wonderful prayer, near the close of his own reign, David said, “Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all.”—I Chron. 29:11

But this theocratic kingdom did not continue indefinitely. Some of Israel’s kings endeavored to rule the nation upon the basis of God’s righteous laws, but most of them did not. Finally, and because of unrighteousness, God brought his rulership over Israel to an end. Zedekiah was the last of those kings who “sat upon the throne of the Lord,” and to him the Prophet Ezekiel was commissioned to say, “Thou, profane wicked prince of Israel, whose day is come, when iniquity shall have an end. Thus saith the Lord God; remove the diadem, and take off the crown: this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high. I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it; and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him.”—Ezek. 21:25-27

Ezekiel’s declaration to Zedekiah not only brought the time of Israel’s kings officially to an end, but it served also as a reminder and further promise of the coming Messiah, that great one who, as the representative of Jehovah, was to establish a worldwide kingdom, or government: that one who, in the coming time of his kingdom glory, was to reign “from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.” (Ps. 72:8) This is the one “whose right it is” to set up the worldwide kingdom of God and thereby put down human rebellion against God’s laws and extend to the people all those wonderful blessings of life which the prophets had foretold.

Jesus was, and is, that promised king. When he came at his First Advent, the announcement was made by John the Baptist, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 3:2) In Daniel 2:44 the promise is made that the “God of heaven” shall set up a kingdom, and now the one who was to be the king in this kingdom had come, even Jesus. During the brief period of his earthly ministry Jesus said much about the kingdom. Indeed, nearly all of his teachings, through his parables and otherwise, were related to this theme of the kingdom.

The scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day were acquainted with many of the Old Testament kingdom promises, and professed to believe that the God of Israel would send a great king to fulfill them; but they refused to accept Jesus as that one. Because Jesus presented himself to the nation as the promised king, his enemies used this claim as one of the charges to secure a death sentence against him from the Roman government. When questioned by Pilate on this point, Jesus replied, “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world.”—John 18:37

Jesus said something else to Pilate which must be taken into consideration if the many kingdom promises of God are to be brought into proper focus. He said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36) Explaining further, Jesus said that if his kingdom were of this world, then his servants would fight for him and he would not be delivered to his enemies and be killed. He did not mean by this that his rulership would be in heaven, and not in the earth, but simply that his kingdom would not be set up by human methods, that its authority would not stem from military might, nor be maintained by armed force.

Because of human selfishness, hatred, and jealousy, the one whom God sent into the earth to be the promised king of glory was killed. If his kingdom was to have been of this world, his death would have destroyed all hope of its ever becoming a reality; but it did not, for he was raised from the dead. Jesus had taught that he would give his flesh for the life of the world; that is, that he would die as the Redeemer and Savior of the world. (John 6:51) But in his parable of the wheat and tares he indicated that an entire age would elapse before his kingdom would become a reality. (Matt. 13:24-30,36-43) In another parable he revealed that he would go into a far country, and would return later to establish his kingdom.—Matt. 21:33-41

However, while the divine government of earth was not established among men at the time of Christ’s First Advent, its preparation began at that time. In many of the promises pertaining to the kingdom it is revealed that Jesus would have representatives from mankind associated with him as co-rulers. These are described by the Apostle Paul as “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.” (Rom. 8:17) The work of God in the earth between the First and Second Advents of Christ (more than nineteen centuries) has been the calling and preparation of this kingdom class, the ones referred to in the parable of the wheat and tares as the children of the kingdom. Concerning these, the parable shows that their ultimate place in the Lord’s plan is to shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. These, like Jesus, have all suffered and died for righteousness’ sake. But, as it was with him, these also are raised from the dead in order that they might be kings and priests unto God and reign on the earth.—Rev. 5:10

The apostles and the Early Church clearly understood that the Lord Jesus’ kingdom would not begin to function as a governing power in the earth until he returned, so the hope of his coming was very powerful incentive to their faithfulness in laying down their lives in his service. While they were assured that their Master would abundantly care for their immediate and daily spiritual needs, they knew that the great consummation of their hope would not be realized until the end of the age when the king returned and would take them unto himself, to reign with him.

In the prophecies of the Old Testament pertaining to the First Advent of Jesus, many details of experiences and events in his brief sojourn in the flesh are foretold. Most of these had a literal fulfillment—his birth in Bethlehem; his flight into Egypt; his speaking in parables and dark sayings; his riding into Jerusalem on an ass; casting lots for his beautiful robe; his suffering and death on the cross; and his resurrection. Since these events occurred in the life of a human being they are easily understood, and there is no difficulty in discerning them as fulfillments of prophecy.

The entire period of Jesus’ first presence on earth was only thirty-three and a half years in length. The Scriptures reveal that his second was to include a thousand-year kingdom. It is not surprising, then, that the prophecies outlining the events which were to occur during that thousand-year age are many, and that they describe a wide variety of circumstances—much more so than did the prophecies pertaining to those few years of his first visit.

The Scriptures, for example, describe the risen Christ at his Second Advent as a great king; one who conquers all the enemies of God and of righteousness, finally destroying even death. He comes in answer to the Christian’s prayer to establish God’s will in the earth, putting down the rebellion of the human race against divine law. But this work requires a thousand years for its full accomplishment; and when it begins the whole world of mankind is in a state of hopelessness as a result of their own efforts at world preservation having failed.

It is apparent, then, that the prophecies pertaining to the work of earth’s new king, and the conditions in the earth during the time of his presence, must be looked upon as describing a sequence of events from the beginning of his kingdom reign to its final and glorious ending, when all enemies are put down, and war, sickness, pain, and death are destroyed. If we fail to take this into consideration, these various prophecies will seem confusing and contradictory.

When Jesus announced to his disciples that he would be arrested by his enemies and put to death, they sensed that the kingdom which they expected him to establish was not to become a reality at that time. Recalling his teachings that he would go away and return later to set up his kingdom, they went to him on the mount of Olives and asked, “When shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming [Greek, parousia, meaning ‘presence’], and of the end of the world [Greek, aion, meaning ‘age’]?”—Matt. 24:3

Jesus gave the disciples a marvelous answer to these questions, and in doing so, explained also the manner of his return. With respect to the time of his return, he simply said that no man knoweth the day nor the hour. He added, in fact, that at that time he did not know himself when he would return. Because no date for his return would be revealed prior to his coming, he admonished his disciples to watch, that is, to be on the alert, carefully studying the prophecies in relationship to world events, that they might discern the fact of his return by the things taking place in the world.

When admonishing his disciples to watch, Jesus explained that he would return as a thief in the night, and that only those who were watching would know about it. But, to safeguard them against any misunderstanding as to where and how they should look for him, he warned that if any should say he was hiding in a secret chamber, or in a desert place, they were not to believe it.

This, of course, might well be the manner in which a human being could be secretly present or nearby, but Jesus knew he would not return to earth as a human being. He knew that when resurrected he would be exalted to the right hand of God, and like his Heavenly Father, would be dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto, whom “no man hath seen, nor can see.” (Ps. 110:1; Heb. 1:3; I Tim. 6:16) This being true, Jesus knew that when he returned he could not be seen literally by human eyes, that the fact of his presence would have to be discovered by the manner in which he would manifest himself through the work he would then be doing.

So the Master explained, “As the lightning [Greek, astrape, meaning ‘brightshining’] cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming [Greek, parousia, meaning ‘presence’] of the Son of man be.” (Matt. 24:27) The Greek word astrape, while properly translated ‘lightning,’ in other places, is also used in the New Testament to describe brightness, or brightshining of other sorts. In this statement, Jesus used it to describe a brightshining which would originate in the east, and shine even unto the west. Manifestly this is not characteristic of lightning. The only brightshining which fits this description is the light of the sun. We mention this to emphasize the fact that Jesus is not telling us how quickly he will come, but rather what the effect of his presence will be.

The illustration clearly indicates that associated with the second presence of Christ would be a worldwide diffusion of light, or knowledge, which would gradually increase in brilliancy until the whole earth would be filled with its brightness. Many of the wonderful teachings and prophecies of Jesus were based upon the prophetic testimony of the Old Testament, which seems to be true of this illustration, indicating that his second presence would be as a great light which would ultimately manifest itself all the way from the east to the west—the world over, in other words.

One of the Old Testament prophecies telling of Messiah’s Millennial Age work as king describes him as the “Sun of righteousness” who would arise “with healing in his wings.” (Mal. 4:2) The day of his kingdom reign is prophetically depicted by Zechariah, who wrote, “It shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: but it shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light. … And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one.”—Zech. 14:6,7,9

The day referred to here is not one of twenty-four hours. This is shown by the 9th verse, which declares that in that day the Lord shall be king over all the earth. Certainly the Lord will be king for more than twenty-four hours. Indeed, the kingdom day referred to here lasts for a thousand years, and it will not be until the close of that thousand-year day that it will be fully light.

Darkness is used in the Scriptures as a symbol of ignorance concerning God, and also of the sin that is associated therewith. Jesus is the true light, which according to the Apostle John, is yet to enlighten “every man that cometh into the world.” (John 1:9; 8:12) This will be accomplished during the thousand years of his reign; but not until the close of that “day” will this glorious work be completed. Only then will the brightshining of his presence have penetrated all the dark corners of the earth. Only then will it have shined into the darkened minds and hearts of “every man that cometh into the world.”

We have already noted that the Lord was once the ruler of the nation of Israel, that the various kings of that nation sat upon his throne representing him. But, as we have seen, that kingdom came to an end with the overthrow of their last king, Zedekiah. But this did not mean that never again would the Lord rule over his people Israel, for in Ezekiel’s dethroning decree to Zedekiah it is plainly stated that it would be “until he come whose right it is.” (Ezek. 21:27) If he, that is, the Messiah, has now come and his work is beginning to be manifested in the crumbling and melting kingdoms of this world, there would also be some evidence of his interest in the experiences of God’s ancient people Israel.

Most students of prophecy are familiar with the many passages which speak of the scattering of the Jewish people throughout the various nations of earth, and of their later regathering to the Promised Land. All are likewise acquainted with the, we might almost say miraculous, manner in which Israel has been opened up to this people, the coming into being of the state of Israel, and the continuous flow of immigrants now entering the Holy Land from the countries of Europe and the Middle East.

The persecutions which did so much to accelerate this movement of Jews to the Promised Land, is also well known to all. The prophecies credit this severe trouble through which the Jews have passed, and which has made so many of them long for Israel, as being one of the results of the Lord’s hand over them. This is clearly brought to our attention in Ezekiel 20:33-35, which we quote:

“As I live, saith the Lord God, surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule [Hebrew, malak, meaning ‘reign’] over you: and I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm,, and with fury poured out. And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face.”

The fulfillment of this prophecy is dearly discernible. The Jews are being regathered to Israel from many nations, and their return was precipitously forced upon them by circumstances which were very distressing. The Lord explained that this would be a manifestation of his fury against them, and of the fact that he was again reigning over them—“with fury poured out, will I rule over you.”

In ancient times God reigned over Israel through his representatives Saul, David, Solomon, and others. But with the overthrow of King Zedekiah that regime was ‘no more until he come whose right it is’. There is every reason to believe that the ‘until’ interim has expired, and that now the Lord is again ruling over his people, not through human representatives, but through the returned Christ.

The renewed divine rulership has meant little else but trouble for the Israelites thus far, except that it has brought two million or more of them back to their Promised Land, and has blessed them in a great work of rehabilitation. But it has not yet given them peace and security; nor have the messianic kingdom blessings of health and life yet appeared. However, what the Lord said would be the first result of his restored rule over them has occurred; for he said not only that he would bring them out of the lands where they were scattered, but that he would bring them into the ‘wilderness of the people’.

All nations today are in a wilderness of chaos and confusion. In this situation sixty percent of the human race is underfed, underhoused, and underclothed, dying prematurely because of the hardships which no one is able to alleviate. On the diplomatic level there is also a dearth, a famine, a wilderness. With the partial, or perhaps only hoped-for solution of one problem, there arise several others even more vexing. Surely ancient Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness of Sinai after they left Egypt were no more distressing than the experiences through which all nations are now passing.

The state of Israel is in the same wilderness, and indeed, has become a part of it. With his fury the Lord has brought them out of the countries where they were domiciled. He has opened up Israel for them, but he is not as yet showing them to be out of the wilderness of confusion in which the people of all nations are lost. This is just the way he said it would be when he began to rule over them.

The Lord said concerning Israel in this wilderness, “There will I plead with you face to face.” The purpose of this pleading is that eventually they might be brought “into the bond of the covenant.” (vs. 37) In Jeremiah 31:31-34 we are informed that God will make a “new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah.” The promise is that he will write his law in their inward parts, and that ultimately all shall know the Lord, from the least even unto the greatest. But the covenant is not made at the inception of their national restoration. This comes later.

First he guides their affairs with fury to get them back into the Promised Land. They return, largely in unbelief, and he permits them to suffer the confusion and chaos which is afflicting all mankind during this time of trouble. He pleads with them, through the distresses and afflictions which he permits to come upon them. Finally, and in an effort of aggressor Gentiles from the north to destroy his ancient people, God delivers them. Then they recognize his hand in their affairs and turn to him in faith and obedience. Thus they will be brought into the bond of the covenant.—Ezek. 38:15-23

The Brightshining of His Presence

Among the signs of the times which today are the most outstanding in giving evidence of the Lord’s control are those which reveal that his inscrutable power is gradually destroying the selfish institutions of earth, and also the unusual circumstances under which the people of Israel are being restored to the Promised Land. However, there are many evidences of a happier nature which likewise clearly indicate that we are living in a time of preparation for the Lord’s new day. We have noted Jesus’ prophecy that his presence would be as a brightshining which ultimately would illuminate the whole earth; and already the light of his presence is discernible along many lines.

Another prophecy conveying a similar thought is the one in which Daniel foretold that at this time of the end of the present evil world there would be a great increase of knowledge. (Gal. 1:4; Dan. 12:4) Light is a symbol of knowledge. How wonderfully this prophecy is being fulfilled! Knowledge is on the increase everywhere. To a large extent it is thus far being used very selfishly. Were it not for this fact, the knowledge which the Lord has already allowed man to secure during the time of the end would do away with many of the hardships of the original curse which came upon our first parents because of sin.

This increase of knowledge has raised the average length of life in many parts of the world from thirty-five to sixty-nine years. We do not imply by this that man will ever discover the secret of life and be able to live forever without God’s direction and help. The real restitution of life yet remains, and will be a further manifestation of the fact that ‘the Lord reigneth’. However, in connection with many of the promised blessings of the Lord’s kingdom, man will be granted the knowledge to secure them for himself. This, of course, will actually be by the help of earth’s new kingdom, for it will be one of the results of the brightshining of his presence.

In the divine economy, man is permitted now to use the increase of knowledge to a large extent in developing instruments of destruction by which he wrecks the world in which he lives. But even so, many blessings are also being” made available to the people.

These are small indeed compared with the accomplishments to come in the millennial kingdom. The light from the throne of earth’s new king will continue to shine, and with increasing brilliancy, until all the unhealthy vapors of ignorance, superstition, and sin are destroyed. Ultimately the increasing knowledge resulting from his presence will include a true understanding of the Lord, and of his will. And it will be only through obedience to this knowledge that anyone will receive the full blessings of the new kingdom; that is, the blessings of peace with God, health, joy, and everlasting life. This will be the ultimate result of the reign of earth’s new king.

Yes, today the message of the future kingdom is one of rejoicing as it never was before. In this time when human life is so frail and transitory we can tell the people that the new king of earth will restore life, and that his rulership will, before it is finished, destroy death. Thus that great tragedy resulting from our first parents’ rebellion against divine law will be set aside. With all the enemies of God and of righteousness put down, Jesus, who reigns for a thousand years to accomplish this glorious objective, will turn over the kingdom to the Father, that he may be “all in all.”—I Cor. 15:24-28

Dawn Bible Students Association
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