Study 5: The Kingdom of God
Defining The Kingdom | The Kingdom Is Not Now Established | The Kingdom Of God In The Past | The Kingdom Of God In The Future | The Millennium | Digressions (The Literality of the Kingdom, Summary of the History of Israel) | Questions
5.4 The Kingdom Of God In The Future
Sections 1 and 3 of this Study have yielded a fair amount of information concerning what this Kingdom will be like. We have seen that Abraham was promised that through his Seed people from all parts of the world will be blessed; Rom. 4:13 extends this to mean that the whole earth will be inherited by those people who are 'in' Abraham's Seed, i.e. Christ. The image prophecy of Dan. 2 explains how Christ will return as the little stone, and then the kingdom will gradually spread world-wide (cp. Ps. 72:8). This means that the Kingdom of God will not just be located in Jerusalem or the land of Israel, as some maintain, although these areas will certainly be its heartland.
Those who follow Christ in this life will be "kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth" (Rev. 5:10). We will rule over settlements of various sizes and number; one will rule over ten cities, another over five (Luke 19:17). Christ will share his rulership over the earth with us (Rev. 2:27; 2 Tim. 2:12). "A king (Jesus) shall reign in righteousness, and princes (the believers) shall rule in judgment" (Isa. 32:1; Ps. 45:16).
Christ is to reign for ever on David's re-established throne (Luke 1:32,33), i.e. he will have David's place and position of rulership, which was in Jerusalem. As Christ will reign from Jerusalem, this will be the capital of the future Kingdom. It is in this area that a temple will be built (Eze. 40-48). Whilst people will be praising God at various places world-wide (Mal. 1:11), this temple will be the focal point of the world's worship. Nations "will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles" around the temple in Jerusalem (Zech. 14:16).
This annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem is also prophesied in Isa. 2:2,3: "In the last days, the mountain (kingdom - Dan. 2:35,44) of the Lord's house (temple) shall be established in the top of the mountains (i.e. God's Kingdom and temple will be exalted above the kingdoms of men)...and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways...for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem". This appears to be a picture of the early days of the Kingdom, as people spread the knowledge of Christ's reign to others, and they go up to the "mountain" of God's Kingdom, which will be slowly spreading world-wide. Here we have a picture of real enthusiasm in religious worship.
One of the greatest human tragedies of our day is that most people 'worship' God for political, social, cultural or emotional reasons, rather than upon the basis of a true understanding of Him as their Father and Creator. In the Kingdom there will be world-wide enthusiasm to learn the ways of God; people will be so motivated by this desire that they will travel from all ends of the earth to Jerusalem in order to gain more knowledge of God.
Instead of the confusion and unfairness created by man's legal systems and administration of justice, there will be one universal legal code - "the law, and the word of the Lord", which will be pronounced by Christ from Jerusalem. "All nations shall flow unto" these teaching sessions, implying that this common desire to find the true knowledge of God will lessen the natural friction between nations, as it does between individuals who dedicate themselves to gaining such knowledge in this life.
This description of all the nations flowing unto Jerusalem is similar to the picture presented in Isa. 60:5, where the Jews "flow together" along with the Gentiles (non-Jews) to worship God in Jerusalem. This connects perfectly with the Kingdom prophecy of Zech. 8:20-23:-
This creates the picture of the Jewish people being made "the head, and not the tail" of the nations, due to their repentance and obedience (Deut. 28:13); the Jewish basis of God's plan of salvation will then be appreciated by everyone. The ignorance of this amongst contemporary Christianity will then be abruptly ended. People will then enthusiastically discuss these things, so that they can tell the Jews, "we have heard that God is with you". Conversation will then revolve around spiritual things, rather than the vain phantoms which fill the world's present thinking.
Given this greater commitment to godliness, it is not surprising that Christ "shall judge among the nations...they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Isa. 2:4). The absolute authority of Christ and total justice of his arbitration in disputes will result in the nations willingly changing their military hardware into agricultural machinery, and abandoning all military training. "In his days shall the righteous flourish" (Ps. 72:7) - spirituality will then be exalted, and respect will be paid to those who reflect God's characteristics of love, mercy, justice etc. Contrast this with the present exaltation of the proud, self-assertive and selfishly ambitious.
The willing beating of "swords into plowshares" will be part of a much greater agricultural change which will come upon the earth. As a result of Adam's sin, the ground was cursed for his sake (Gen. 3:17-19), with the result that great effort is presently needed to get food from it. In the Kingdom "there shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the (once barren) mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like (the crops of) Lebanon" (Ps. 72:16). "The plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine" (Amos 9:13), such will be the improved fertility of the earth, and the reduction of the curse on the ground pronounced in Eden.
Such immense agricultural enterprise will involve many people. The Kingdom prophecies give the impression that people will return to a self-sufficient, agricultural lifestyle:-
This self-sufficiency will overcome the abuses which are inherent in any system of employment of labour for cash. Spending a lifetime working to make others rich will then be a thing of the past.
Isaiah 35:1-7 contains a matchless prophecy of how infertile land will be changed, resulting in an aura of joy and happiness almost oozing from the land, due to the easier and more spiritual way of life of those who work it: "The wilderness...shall be glad...the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall...rejoice even with joy and singing...for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool". Even the natural aggression between the animals will be removed: "the wolf and the lamb shall feed together", and children will be able to play with snakes (Is. 65:25; 11:6-8).
In the same way as the curse which was placed upon the natural creation will be greatly reduced, so that which was placed on mankind will also be lessened. Thus Rev. 20:2,3 speaks in symbolic language of the devil (sin and its effects) being "bound", or restrained, during the Millennium.Life-spans will be increased, so that if someone dies at 100 years old, they will be considered but a child (Isa. 65:20). Women will experience less sorrow in childbirth (Isa. 65:23). "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing" (Isa. 35:5,6). This will be due to the miraculous Spirit gifts again being possessed (cp. Heb. 6:5).
It cannot be too strongly emphasized that the Kingdom of God should not be seen as a tropical island paradise, which the righteous will enjoy in a similar way to which men enjoy sunbathing amidst the glories of nature. The fundamental purpose of the Kingdom of God is to give glory to God, until the earth is full of glory to Him "as the waters cover the sea" (Hab. 2:14). This is God's ultimate aim: "As truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord" (Num. 14:21). Glory to God means that the inhabitants of the earth will appreciate, praise and copy His righteous attributes; because the world will be in this state, God will allow the physical earth to reflect this, too. Thus "the meek shall inherit the earth (in the Kingdom), and shall delight themselves in the abundance of (spiritual) peace" (Ps. 37:11), rather than in enjoying the easy life. Those "which do hunger and thirst after righteousness...shall be filled" with it in the Kingdom (Matt. 5:6).
Just the thought of possessing eternal life in the Kingdom is often used as a 'carrot' to induce people to an interest in Christianity. However, our possession of it then, will almost be incidental to the real reason for our being in the Kingdom - which is to glorify God. In what time may remain to us after our baptism, our appreciation of this should continually develop.
To the writer, just ten years of living in the joy of absolute perfection and good conscience with God would be worth all the trauma of this life. That this glorious state will last for ever simply blows the mind, taking us beyond the limits of human comprehension.
Even when viewed in slightly more physical terms, being in the Kingdom of God should be our supreme motivation to despise worldly advantages and materialism. Instead of taking excessive thought for the immediate future, Jesus advised, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:30-34). Everything which we can now imagine and strive for is incomparable to the ultimate fulfilment of being in God's Kingdom.
We need to seek "(God's) righteousness", i.e. to try to develop a love of God's character, which means that we want to be in God's Kingdom because righteousness will be glorified there, because we want to be completely morally perfect rather than just because we, personally, want to escape death and live an easy life for eternity.
All too often the hope of the Gospel is presented in ways which appeal to human selfishness. Obviously our motivation for being in the Kingdom varies tremendously from day to day. What we are suggesting here is an ideal; our first priority is to learn the Gospel and show our submission to it in baptism from a motive of loving obedience to God. Our appreciation of the hope God is offering, and our exact reasons for wanting to be in the Kingdom, will grow and mature after our baptism.