Listen Part 1
THE KINGDOMS OF THIS WORLD
The First Dominion--Its Forfeiture--Its Redemption and Restoration-- The Typical Kingdom of God--The Usurper--Two Phases of the Present Dominion--The Powers that be, Ordained of God--Nebuchadnezzar's View of Them--Daniel's View and Interpretation--The Kingdoms of this World viewed from another Standpoint--The Proper Relationship of the Church to Present Governments--The Divine Right of Kings Briefly Examined--Claims of Christendom False--A Better Hope in the Fifth Universal Empire.
IN THE first chapter of the Divine Revelation, God declares his purpose concerning his earthly creation and its government: "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image; in the image of God created he him: male and female created he them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill 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."
Thus the dominion of earth was placed in the hands of the human race as represented in the first man Adam, who was perfect, and therefore fully qualified to be the lord, ruler or king of earth. This commission to multiply, and fill, and subdue, and have dominion over the earth was not to Adam alone, but to all mankind: "Let them have dominion," [A246] etc. Had the human race remained perfect and sinless, this dominion would never have passed out of its hands.
It will be noticed that in this commission no man is given dominion or authority over fellowmen, but the whole race is given dominion over the earth, to cultivate and to make use of its products for the common good. Not only its vegetable and mineral wealth is thus placed at man's command, but also all its varieties of animal life are at his disposal and for his service. Had the race remained perfect and carried out this original design of the Creator, as it grew in numbers it would have been necessary for men to consult together, and to systematize their efforts, and to devise ways and means for the just and wise distribution of the common blessings. And as, in the course of time, it would have been impossible, because of their vast numbers, to meet and consult together, it would have been necessary for various classes of men to elect certain of their number to represent them, to voice their common sentiments, and to act for them. And if all men were perfect, mentally, physically and morally; if every man loved God and his regulations supremely, and his neighbor as himself, there would have been no friction in such an arrangement.
Thus seen, the original design of the Creator for earth's government was a Republic in form, a government in which each individual would share; in which every man would be a sovereign, amply qualified in every particular to exercise the duties of his office for both his own and the general good.
This dominion of earth conferred upon man had but one contingency upon which its everlasting continuance depended; and that was that this divinely-conferred rulership be always exercised in harmony with the Supreme Ruler of the universe, whose one law, briefly stated, is Love. "Love is the fulfilling of the law." "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all [A247] thy mind;...and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Rom. 13:10; Matt. 22:37-40
Concerning this great favor conferred upon man, David, praising God, says: "Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honor; thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands." (Psa. 8:5,6) This dominion given to mankind in the person of Adam was the first establishment of the Kingdom of God on the earth. Man thus exercised dominion as God's representative. But man's disobedience to the Supreme Ruler forfeited not only his life, but also all his rights and privileges as God's representative ruler of earth. He was thenceforth a rebel, dethroned and condemned to death. Then speedily the kingdom of God on earth ceased, and has not since been established, except for a short time, in a typical manner, in Israel. Although in Eden man lost his right to life and dominion, neither was taken from him suddenly; and while the condemned life lasts man is permitted to exercise the dominion of earth according to his own ideas and ability, until God's due time for him whose right it is to take the dominion which he purchased.
Our Lord's death redeemed or purchased not only man, but also all his original inheritance, including the dominion of earth. Having purchased it, the title is now in him: he is now the rightful heir, and in due time, and shortly, he will take possession of his purchase. (Eph. 1:14) But as he bought man not for the sake of holding him as his slave, but that he might restore him to his former estate, so with the dominion of earth: he purchased it and all of man's original blessings for the purpose of restoring them when man is again made capable of exercising them in harmony with the will of God. Hence the reign of Messiah on earth will not be everlasting. It will continue only until, by his strong iron rule, he will have put down all rebellion and insubordination, and restored the fallen race to the original [A248] perfection, when they will be fully capable of rightly exercising the dominion of earth as originally designed. When thus restored, it will again be the Kingdom of God on earth, under man, God's appointed representative.
During the Jewish age God organized the people of Israel as his kingdom, under Moses and the Judges--a sort of Republic --but it was typical only. And the more despotic rule afterward established, especially under David and Solomon, was in some respects typical of the kingdom promised, when Messiah should reign. Unlike the surrounding nations, Israel had Jehovah for their King, and their rulers nominally served under him, as we learn from Psa. 78:70,71. This is quite definitely stated in 2 Chron. 13:8and 1 Chron. 29:23, where Israel is called "the Kingdom of the Lord," and where it is said that Solomon "sat on the THRONE OF THE LORD, instead of David his father," who sat upon or exercised the rule of the same throne for the forty years previous, following Saul, the first king.
When the people of Israel transgressed against the Lord, he chastised them repeatedly, until finally he took away their kingdom entirely. In the days of Zedekiah, the last who reigned of the line of David, the scepter of royal power was removed. There the typical kingdom of God was overthrown.
God's decision relative to the matter is expressed in the words, "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....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) In fulfilment of this prophecy the king of Babylon came against Israel, took the people captive and removed their king. Though afterward restored to national existence by Cyrus the Persian, they [A249] were subjects and tribute payers to the successive empires of Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome, down to the final destruction of their nationality, A.D. 70, since which time they have been scattered among all nations.
The kingdom of Israel is the only one, since the fall, which God ever recognized as in any way representing his government, laws, etc. There had been many nations before theirs, but no other could rightfully claim God as its founder, or that its rulers were God's representatives. When the diadem was taken from Zedekiah and the kingdom of Israel was overturned, it was decreed that it should remain overturned until Christ, the rightful heir of the world, should come to claim it. Thus, inferentially, all other kingdoms in power until the re-establishment of God's kingdom are branded "kingdoms of this world," under the "prince of this world"; and hence any claims put forth by any of them to being kingdoms of God are spurious. Nor was this Kingdom of God "SET UP" at the first advent of Christ. (Luke 19:12) Then and since then God has been selecting from the world those who shall be accounted worthy to reign with Christ as joint-heirs of that throne. Not until his second advent will Christ take the kingdom, the power and the glory, and reign Lord of all.
All other kingdoms than that of Israel are Scripturally called heathen or Gentile kingdoms--"the kingdoms of this world," under the "prince of this world"--Satan. The removal of God's kingdom in the days of Zedekiah left the world without any government of which God could approve, or whose laws or affairs he specially supervised. The Gentile governments God recognized indirectly, in that he publicly declares his decree (Luke 21:24) that during the interregnum the control of Jerusalem and the world should be exercised by Gentile governments.
This interregnum, or intervening period of time between [A250] the removal of God's scepter and government and the restoration of the same in greater power and glory in Christ, is Scripturally termed "The Times of the Gentiles." And these "times" or years, during which the "kingdoms of this world" are permitted to rule, are fixed and limited, and the time for the re-establishment of God's Kingdom under Messiah is equally fixed and marked in Scripture.
Evil as these Gentile governments have been, they were permitted or "ordained of God" for a wise purpose. (Rom. 13:1) Their imperfection and misrule form a part of the general lesson on the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and prove the inability of fallen man to govern himself, even to his own satisfaction. God permits them, in the main, to carry out their own purposes as they may be able, overruling them only when they would interfere with his plans. He designs that eventually all shall work for good, and that finally even the "wrath of man shall praise him." The remainder, that would work no good, serve no purpose or teach no lesson, he restrains. Psa. 76:10
Man's inability to establish a perfect government is attributable to his own weaknesses in his fallen, depraved condition. These weaknesses, which of themselves would thwart human efforts to produce a perfect government, have also been taken advantage of by Satan, who first tempted man to disloyalty to the Supreme Ruler. Satan has continually taken advantage of man's weaknesses, made good to appear evil, and evil to appear good; and he has misrepresented God's character and plans and blinded men to the truth. Thus working in the hearts of the children of disobedience (Eph. 2:2), he has led them captive at his will and made himself what our Lord and the apostles call him--the prince or ruler of this world. (John 14:30; 12:31) He is not the prince of this world by right, but by usurpation; through fraud and deception and control of fallen [A251] men. It is because he is a usurper that he will be summarily deposed. Had he a real title as prince of this world, he would not thus be dealt with.
Thus it will be seen that the dominion of earth, as at present exercised, has both an invisible and a visible phase. The former is the spiritual, the latter the human phase--the visible earthly kingdoms measurably under the control of a spiritual prince, Satan. It was because Satan possessed such control that he could offer to make our Lord the supreme visible sovereign of the earth under his direction. (Matt. 4:9) When the Times of the Gentiles expire, both phases of the present dominion will terminate: Satan will be bound and the kingdoms of this world will be overthrown.
The fallen, blinded, groaning creation has for centuries plodded along its weary way, defeated at every step, even its best endeavors proving fruitless, yet ever hoping that the golden age dreamed of by its philosophers was at hand. It knows not that a still greater deliverance than that for which it hopes and groans is to come through the despised Nazarene and his followers, who as the Sons of God will shortly be manifested in kingdom power for its deliverance. Rom. 8:22,19
In order that his children should not be in darkness relative to his permission of present evil governments and concerning his ultimate design to bring in a better government when these kingdoms, under his overruling providence, shall have served the purpose for which they were permitted, God has given us, through his prophets, several grand panoramic views of the "kingdoms of this world," each time showing, for our encouragement, their overthrow by the establishment of his own righteous and everlasting kingdom under the Messiah, the Prince of Peace.
That man's present effort to exercise dominion is not in successful defiance of Jehovah's will and power, but by his [A252] permission, is shown by God's message to Nebuchadnezzar, wherein God gives permission to rule, until the time for the setting up of Christ's kingdom, to the four great empires, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. (Dan. 2:37-43) This shows where this lease of the dominion will end.
As we now glance at these prophetic views, let us remember that they begin with Babylon at the time of the overthrow of the kingdom of Israel, the typical kingdom of the Lord.
Nebuchadnezzar's Vision of Earth's Governments
Among those things "written aforetime for our edification," that we, who are commanded to be subject to the powers that be, might through patience and comfort of the Scriptures have hope (Rom. 15:4; 13:1), is the dream of Nebuchadnezzar and its divine interpretation through the Prophet. Dan. 2:31-45
Daniel explained the dream, saying: "Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image's head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, his legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces.
"Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver and the gold broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing-floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them; and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
"This is the dream, and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king. Thou, O king, art a king of kings: [A253] for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. [There the Gentile kingdoms, or powers that be, were ordained of God.] And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold.
"And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee [silver], and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things; and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise. And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potter's clay and part of iron, the kingdom shall be mixed; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron: forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with the miry clay. And as the toes of the feet were part of iron and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle."
The student of history can readily trace, among the many smaller empires of earth which have arisen, the four above described by Daniel. These are termed UNIVERSAL EMPIRES--Babylon, first, the head of gold (verse 38); Medo-Persia, conqueror of Babylon, second, the breast of silver; Greece, conqueror of Medo-Persia, third, the belly of brass; and Rome, fourth, the strong kingdom, the iron legs and clay-mixed feet. Three of these empires had passed away, and the fourth, the Roman, held universal sway, at the time of our Lord's birth, as we read, "There went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed." Luke 2:1
The iron empire, Rome, was by far the strongest, and endured longer than its predecessors. In fact, the Roman Empire still continues, as represented in the nations of Europe. This division is represented in the ten toes of the image. The [A254] clay element blended with the iron in the feet represents the mixture of church and state. This mixture is in the Scriptures termed "Babylon"--confusion. As we shall presently see, stone is the symbol of the true Kingdom of God, and Babylon substituted an imitation of stone--clay-- which it has united with the fragmentary remains of the [iron] Roman Empire. And this mixed system--church and state--the Church nominal wedded to the kingdoms of this world, which the Lord calls Babylon, confusion, presumes to call itself Christendom--Christ's Kingdom. Daniel explains: "Whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men [church and world blend--Babylon], but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay." They cannot thoroughly amalgamate. "And in the days of these kings [the kingdoms represented by the toes, the so-called "Christian kingdoms" or "Christendom"] 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." Dan. 2:43,44
Daniel does not here state the time for the end of these Gentile governments: that we find elsewhere; but every foretold circumstance indicates that today the end is nigh, even at the doors. The Papal system has long claimed that it is the kingdom which the God of heaven here promised to set up, and that, in fulfilment of this prophecy, it did break in pieces and consume all other kingdoms. The truth, however, is that the nominal Church merely united with earthly empires as the clay with the iron, and that Papacy never was the true Kingdom of God, but merely a counterfeit of it. One of the best evidences that Papacy did not destroy and consume these earthly kingdoms is that they still exist. And now that the miry clay has become dry and [A255] "brittle," it is losing its adhesive power, and the iron and clay show signs of dissolution, and will quickly crumble when smitten by the "stone," the true Kingdom.
Continuing his interpretation, Daniel states: "Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver and the gold, the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter; and the dream is certain and the interpretation thereof sure." Verse 45
The stone cut out of the mountain without hands, which smites and scatters the Gentile powers, represents the true Church, the Kingdom of God. During the Gospel age this "stone" kingdom is being formed, "cut out," carved and shaped for its future position and greatness--not by human hands, but by the power or spirit of the truth, the invisible power of Jehovah. When complete, when entirely cut out, it will smite and destroy the kingdoms of this world. Not the people, but the governments, are symbolized by the image, and these are to be destroyed that the people may be delivered. Our Lord Jesus came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them. John 3:17
The stone, during its preparation, while being cut out, might be called an embryo mountain, in view of its future destiny; so, too, the Church could be, and sometimes is, called the Kingdom of God. In fact, however, the stone does not become the mountain until it has smitten the image; and so the Church, in the full sense, will become the Kingdom to fill the whole earth when "the day of the Lord," the "day of wrath upon the nations" or "time of trouble," will be over, and when it will be established and all other dominions have become subservient to it.
Call to mind now the promise made by our Lord to the overcomers of the Christian Church: "To him that overcometh [A256] will I grant to sit with me in my throne"--"and he that overcometh and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers, even as I received of my Father." (Rev. 3:21; 2:26,27; Psa. 2:8-12) When the iron rod has accomplished the work of destruction, then will the hand that smote be turned to heal, and the people will return to the Lord, and he shall heal them (Isa. 19:22; Jer. 3:22,23; Hos. 6:1; 14:4; Isa. 2:3), giving them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.