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.