“Your Kingdom Come” – Reflections on the Fifth Kingdom

There have indeed been many more than five kingdoms on this earth, however, Daniel is only concerned with those kingdoms which directly impact his own people, the nation of Israel, beginning with his own time.  The “fifth kingdom” is the kingdom that the God of heaven will set up.  We live in a time of much confusion about this subject.  Many people believe that “the church” is the kingdom.  Is that what the Scripture teaches?  Others throw up their hands in confusion and say that the subject is too complicated, confusing and divisive and there are just too many contradictory viewpoints.  However, we hope our comments on the subject will be helpful.  We’ll frame these comments as answers to questions or other comments on the subject.

It might be argued that this post has nothing to do with the exposition of Daniel.  Perhaps that is true, however, we believe it is essential to the understanding of Daniel.  We cannot isolate the book from the rest of Scripture or from our own understanding of what it teaches.  Books and movies sensationalize ideas about the future, many of which have little if anything to do with a Biblical view of the future.  What does the Scripture say?

Before we go any further, the main point of controversy about “the kingdom” centers around whether or not there will be an earthly kingdom, i.e., a “millennium,” during which the Lord Jesus will sit on an actual throne in the city of Jerusalem for 1000 years before the destruction of this present world and the introduction of new heavens and a new earth.  It’s this thought of the presence of an “earthly kingdom” that this post addresses, and not so much its length, which is clearly shown in Revelation 20.  The 1000 years is simply the introductory phase, if you will, of Christ’s eternal kingdom.

Because “the kingdom” is such an important subject in Scripture, we will have several posts on different aspects of it.

Didn’t the Lord say that His kingdom is not of this world, John 18:36?

I don’t know how many times I’ve read or heard this verse used at proof that Christ’s kingdom is not “earthly,” which seems to be the worst thing that can be said about it.  Now there was a time when the Jews tried to take Him by force and make Him king, but that was simply because He fed them, John 6:15. It does appear that they did have some understanding that He was the “Prophet which is to come into the world,” Deuteronomy 18:15, cf. Acts 3:22, but they didn’t understand the spiritual realities He taught later in John 6, at which time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more, v. 66.  His kingdom is indeed “not of this world” in that it won’t be established according to the selfish desires or mistaken ideas of fallen man.  It also ignores the fact that it wasn’t time for the setting up of the kingdom.  In Luke 17:25, Jesus himself taught that there was something that had to happen first: “But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.”

This “rejection” isn’t simply the fact that they gave Him over to be crucified; they also rejected the message of His resurrection, which was the “sign” He Himself gave them to show that He was who He said He was, John 2:18-22.  Before the kingdom could be “set up,” He had to “suffer….”  Though many deny any such restoration or kingdom at all, referring it to a generic “people of God,” or to “the Church,” an entity unknown in the Old Testament, the kingdom is not going to be set up over a renegade Israel, as Israel was then and still is; it will be set up over a ransomed, redeemed and restored Israel, cf. Isaiah 1:24-27; 4:4, as well as many others.

Does John 18:36 really only mean, as many claim, that our Lord was teaching that His kingdom was “spiritual” and not “earthly”?  This is the entire verse:

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”

A simple reading of this verse shows that the Lord was not talking about the sphere or location of His kingdom, but of its source.  In the same verse, He said, “My kingdom is not from here, emphasis added.  It isn’t going to be established by the usual conquests and stratagems of earthly kingdoms, like Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece or Rome, just to name the ones Daniel knew.  It isn’t going to be set up, as one has suggested the disciples believed it would be, by the Lord sending out troops here and there to fight against and overthrow the Romans.  It isn’t going to have the same philosophy of rule or conduct as most earthly kingdoms, which pay no attention at all to, or at best give merely formal acknowledgement of, the things of God.

Furthermore, if the Lord meant what the Reformed people claim He did, then what do they make of His statements that He Himself is not of this world, John 17:4?  Unless you’re going to be like one of those who deny that Jesus ever really existed or that He had an actual physical body, you have to admit that He lived “in the world” for about 33 years.  He ate, slept, walked, talked, ministered, got tired, got hungry and finally died, in this world.  He did everything everyone else in the world did, except get married or sin.  He was even born into this world.  It was His conception – the source, the origin of His humanity – that was unlike any other conception, including that of His mother.  Though indeed “born of woman,” the Son of God came into the world through the agency of the Holy Spirit, who conceived for Him in the womb of a young Jewish virgin named Mary, Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:26-38.  After this conception, however, He developed in the womb, and was born, like any other human being in this world.  Furthermore, His physical body was identical to every other human body, except for the capacity to sin.  “Sin” is not a essential or necessary element of being “human”.  Adam and Eve were fully human before their tragic fall in the Garden of Eden.  Simply stated, though living “in the world” as to location, He was not of the world as regards the origin of His human existence.

In addition, He made the same statement about His disciples, John 17:14, where He said that they, too, “are not of this world, just as I am not of this world.”  Yet they were most certainly born into this world and lived for many years after Jesus left it.  Clearly, to be “not of this world” has nothing to do with function, but everything to do with origin.

Likewise, His kingdom will not originate from, nor according to, this world.  Indeed, when He returns, so far from rejoicing at His coming, Matthew 24:30 says, then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power.  This “mourning” will not be in repentance, as some have suggested, but in sorrow that their time is up, and they will no longer be able to live fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, Ephesians 2:3.  The inspired record tells us that all the tribes of the earth will see Him, not just what He does, as those who believe that the events listed in Matthew 24, 25 all happened at or before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD tell us.

The word translated “power” in Matthew 24:30 is the word we get the English words “dynamo,” “dynamite,” “dynamic.”  Loosely translated, it means power to get the job done.  Jesus will not come back as some nominal or ineffectual figurehead, a King in a realm nobody can see and to whom nobody pays any attention.  His “rule” will in no way be “invisible”!!  He will demonstrate the “exousia,” the jurisdiction, that He’s had all along, but which has generally been ignored or rejected.  However, there is coming a time when it will be impossible to deny that Jesus is indeed King of kings and Lord of lords.

There is a second question which goes along with this one:  Isn’t Jesus reigning right now at the right hand of the Father?  We’ll look at this question, Lord willing, in our next post.

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“…on earth…”

This is a follow-up to my last post, in which I asked the question, “In praying ‘thy kingdom come,’ what are we praying for?”  In that post, I connected the request for the coming of the kingdom to the request that God’s will be done on earth in the same way that it is done in heaven.  In other words, isn’t praying for the kingdom praying for something that happens or will happen on the earth?

I understand that there is a lot of discussion about “the kingdom.”  Some simply cannot accept the idea of what they consider to be “an earthly, carnal, political” kingdom.  According to these folks, it’s a “spiritual kingdom,” that is, the rule of Christ in the hearts of His people.  It’s already happening, because He’s ruling in Heaven.  But that in itself is nothing new.  “Relationship with God,” as it’s called today, has always been about God’s rule in the lives of people.  Even under the Law, obedience was the prime requisite, and disobedience was severely punished.

As far as the “earthly, carnal, political” part is concerned:  I’ve never been able to understand why it’s alright for the Lord Jesus to sit on a throne in Heaven, but not for Him to sit on a throne in Jerusalem.  What difference does it make WHERE the throne is?  It’s about the Occupant, not what He’s sitting on, or where!  For my own part, I’d much rather have Him, say, in the White House than its current occupant – or any of its previous occupants.

It seems to me to be a great insult to our Lord to say that an “earthly” kingdom of His would be “carnal” and/or “political.”  Scripture says that His scepter, His royal insignia, is a scepter of righteousness, Psalm 45:6; Hebrews 1:8.

We just recently completed elections here in the US.  But when the Lord sets up His kingdom, there won’t be any campaigning.  There won’t be any signs out in the front yard or any TV commercials.  There won’t be any of the back room deals or the wheeling and dealing associated with current politics.  There won’t be a Democrat or Republican or Libertarian or Green or Prohibition party.  [Yes, there used to be a Prohibition Party candidate on the ballot in Colorado, long after Prohibition itself was gone.]   There won’t be any voting about it.  Daniel 2:44 says, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom….  And there won’t be any focus groups or polls about how He should do it!

Yes, but didn’t our Lord say that His kingdom was not of this world, John 18:36?  I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that from the pulpit or read it as a “proof” that there will be no “earthly” kingdom.  But clearly, the Lord was talking about the source of the kingdom, not where it will be located or operate.  He said this Himself in a part of v. 36 that’s never quoted, “My kingdom is not from here.”  Otherwise, He said, His disciples would fight.  But the kingdom God will set up will not be set up in any manner remotely similar to other earthly kingdoms.

Furthermore, the Lord Jesus said that He Himself was not of this world, John 8:23.  He said that of His disciples, John 15:19.  Yet, clearly, He and they were located and functioned, physically and actually, in this world.

In the New Testament, there are a couple of clear references to the reign of our Lord as over more than just some ephemeral something that has no relationship to this world.  In Revelation 19:15, after a brief description of our Lord’s return to this earth in vs. 11-14, we read, Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations.  And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron.  If the kingdom is only related to believers, why then is “a rod of iron” necessary?  And who are the nations whom He will “strike” as well as “rule”?  Certainly not believers.  The word translated “rule” means “to shepherd,” i.e., John is saying that Jesus will shepherd the nations.  This seems to me to be a far cry from the idea that He will return, officiate at the final judgment and then usher in eternity.  For an idea of what His return and rule entails, read Zechariah 14.  We’ve done a couple of posts on that chapter.

Revelation 20, which continues ch. 19, indicates this “shepherding” will last for 1000 years.  And, yes, I’m aware of the uproar over that figure.  As one Reformed writer put it, the thousand years simply refer to the present Gospel age of 2000 years (!)  However, it seems to me that the Holy Spirit had a reason for inspiring John to write 1000 years six times in six verses.  Perhaps it was  to impress on us that He meant 1000 years, not just some indeterminate period of time.

He shall rule them with a rod of iron.

Psalm 110:2 says that Messiah will rule in the midst of His enemies.  Where is this happening today?  What kind of a king is it who rules “in the midst of His enemies,” and they don’t know it, but continue to reject, ridicule and rebel against Him? When our Lord sits on the throne of His glory, Matthew 19:28, that will not be possible.

There is so much more that we could say on this subject, but have decided to save it for other posts.  Also, we recognize that there are many good, earnest Christians who differ with us on these subjects.  Further, we recognize that the subject of “prophecy” is not considered “a fundamental of the faith” by many, not worth “fighting over” or causing controversy.  While we do believe that one’s view of prophecy doesn’t determine or deny their salvation, we also believe that it is important and not to be neglected or ignored.  After all, assuming we believe in divine inspiration and not that the Bible is just a miscellaneous collection of ancient writings, written long after the events they describe, the Holy Spirit saw fit to give it to us.  We should try to know as much about it as possible.