The Ideal State
E. J. Strange, Bridgwater
AT certain periods of history books have been written expressing man's longing for an " Ideal State," and what is his idea of such a state. As an example, in 1516 Sir Thomas More described an island with a perfect social and political system, but, alas, it was named " Utopia " (Nowhere)—for man's systems of government have never been able to provide perfection. Every system of government has inherent weaknesses. In the early clays of man's government, men said, " Let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven " (Gen. 11. 4). Babel, the unfinished city and tower, was an example of the failure and folly of man. In the latter days Babylon the Great will be the product of man's efforts and genius, but of her it is said, " Her sins have reached unto heaven " (Rev. 18. 5). These examples, it is true, are the two extremes, but, lying between them in point of time, the varied forms of human states have all failed to provide what is ideal because of man's inability to deal with sin. Man, who in the first place had been given dominion by God, himself became subject to the authority of darkness. The " Ideal State " will, however, be realized—" the Golden Age, by Prophet-bards foretold," It will be realized when the Ideal King, described in our last paper, is on the throne.
Although history is very complex, for the sake of convenience it is often studied from different standpoints. We speak of political, social and economic, and religious history, and we will think of the " Millenium " in these terms.
Political. In our day democracy is much lauded, though people have different ideas as to what is meant by the term. Possibly, in an imperfect world it is the best and safest form of government. When, however, God's chosen King has His rightful place, " the government shall be upon His shoulder." There will be no voting! His rule will be absolute ; His word, law. He will have His ministers, the executors of His good pleasure. Who will they be ? It would seem that positions of dignity and responsibility will be the rewards for suffering with Christ and faithfulness to Him. " Fear not, little flock ; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom " (Luke 12.32). " Ye are the}' which have continued with Me in My temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as My Father hath appointed to Me ; that ye may eat and drink at My table in My Kingdom, and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel " (Luke 22. 28-30). " Well done, good and faithful servant: . . . 1 will make thee ruler over many things " (Matt. 25. 21).
Although the Lord shall be King over all the earth, distinction of nationality will be preserved. (It will be the nations farthest from Jerusalem who will be deceived by Satan when he is loosed at the end of the one thousand years (Rev. 20. 8). In an imperfect world, nationalism has been the cause of untold misery and bloodshed. In the " Ideal State," " nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more " (Isa. 2. 4 and Micah 4. 3).
Social and Economic. Perfect social justice will be known under the beneficent rule of Christ. " He shall judge the poor of the people, He shall save the children of the. needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor " (Psalm 72. 4). Such justice will lead to a sense of personal security. " They shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree ; and none, shall make them afraid " (Micah 4. 4)
It is tempting to exercise one's imagination as to the economic conditions of the world under Christ, but one must forbear! It may, however, be noted that a civilized economy is based on what the Lord referred to as " the mammon of unrighteousness " I How unrighteous it is one can adduce by a single modern example, the payment of money to American farmers not to cultivate their land ! We may be sure that nothing of that nature would be tolerated for one instant under the King who reigns in righteousness, even though the earth will bring forth more abundantly than ever before (Psalm 72. 16, and other references).
When John saw the vision of the destruction of Babylon the Great, he described the merchants standing afar off, mourning the loss of their trade. " In one hour so great riches is come to nought " (Rev. 18. 17). One may deduce from this striking vision that there will be a sweeping away of man's methods of commerce, at any rate in so far as they do not accord with Clod's standards of righteousness. It may not be out of place here to interject a reminder that we are in this age to be faithful " in the unrighteous mammon " (Luke 16. 10-12). At the same time let us remember we cannot serve God and mammon (v. 13)
Religious. At Sychar's well the woman said, " Ye say that Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." Jerusalem will be the city of the Great King and, therefore, will be the centre of attraction for all nations ; where all will go to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts (Zech. 14. 16). At the end of Ezekiel's prophecy a very full description is given of the temple in the city that is called " Jehovah Shammah" (—The Lord is there). Instructions are also given for priestly service and for offerings that are to be brought. There are two views regarding these chapters. One is that Ezekiel who " saw visions of God," in describing a worship that is spiritual, uses language that is figurative, and that one must not, therefore, expect a literal restoration of animal sacrifices. I hold this view myself, but dogmatism would be out of place. Erich Saner, on the other side, says, "It seems, scarcely possible to understand these as only figurative and spiritual ' (Triumphs of the Crucified, p. 155). I f the passage is taken literally, then the offerings must be regarded as commemorative, looking back to the Cross of Christ, as the former sacrifices looked forward.
In his description of the time when " the Lord shall be King over all the earth " Zechariah makes special reference to the keeping of the Feast of the Tabernacles. A very brief consideration of this feast will give a general picture of I he supreme blessedness of the Millenium. " The harvest-thanksgiving of the. Feast of the Tabernacles reminded Israel on the one hand of their dwelling in booths in the wilderness, while, on the other hand, it pointed to the final harvest when Israel's mission should be completed, and all nations gathered unto the Lord." (Edersheim— The Temple and Its Services).
The Feast was a time of Rest. The Lord will " rest in His love " (Zeph. 3. 17). The earth will be at complete rest from all the savagery of nature, " red in tooth and claw with ravin," and at rest from all the turmoil and the strife of man. " They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain : for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea . . . His rest shall be glorious " (Isa. 11. 9, 10).
The Feast was a time of Remembrance. Israel had to remember the way in which the Lord had led them and provided for them in the wilderness. The believer today sings of the future,
" Shall the memory be banished
Of His goodness, love, and care ?"
A ransomed earth will keep the Feast of the Tabernacles and will not forget the unfailing Goodness of God.
But above all, the Feast was one of Rejoicing. The Lord will rejoice! The scene of His lamentation and suffering will become the scene of His unspeakable joy. " He will rejoice over thee with joy ; . . .He will joy over thee with singing" (Zeph. 3. 17).
As for men in that day " with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation " (Isa. 12. 3).
" A ransomed earth breaks forth in song,
Her sin-stained ages over - past ;
Her yearning, ' Lord, how long, how long?
Exchanged for joy at last—at last!
Angels carry the royal commands ;
Peace beams forth throughout all the lands ;
The trees of the field shall clap their hands—
What will it be when the King comes ?"