One of the most glorious themes of scripture is that our Lord Jesus Christ, once rejected and disowned, will reign on earth in power and glory in a kingdom which has no end, in which He will be vindicated and enthroned.
At the start Adam, crowned with glory and honour, was given dominion over the whole earth, and he exercised it in association with his bride. At the end Christ, who is crowned with glory and honour far greater than Adam ever knew, will have dominion over the whole universe, and He will exercise it in union with His bride, the church. Truly, God’s first thoughts are also His last thoughts.
Israel’s greatest king was David. He was given a covenant by God. ‘I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom’, 2 Sam. 7. 13-14. This is confirmed in Psalm 132 verse 11, which says, ‘The Lord hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne’. The particular importance of this verse is highlighted by the apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost. David, he says, was a prophet ‘knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ’, Acts 2. 30-31. Not only would there be a king in David’s line but that king must necessarily rise from the dead before His reign begins.
There is, therefore, no thought that Christ’s death and resurrection meant that in some way the covenant given to David was now fulfilled by our Lord’s present session in heaven. The promise of a literal kingdom on earth still stands, and with it there remains a glorious future for the nation of Israel. Christ shall exercise universal rule, but it must be remembered that governmental glories are connected with that nation. He shall reign as the Son of Man, with all that the title signifies of universal dominion, but He shall also reign as Son of David, and, as such, shall have rule in relation to Israel. This truth is being denied at the present time by many who think that there is no future for Israel nationally and that the covenants given to that nation are somehow now inherited by believers in this church age.
It is significant that before our Saviour ascended to heaven the disciples asked Him whether He would at that time restore again the kingdom to Israel, Acts 1. 6. This gave the Lord a straightforward opportunity to explain that this would no longer happen; in fact, His reply indicates that the kingdom will indeed still be established. This will be after the present interim period, which is characterized by a risen man seated on the throne of God and a divine person, the Holy Spirit, resident on earth.
Glorious Old Testament promises will yet be fulfilled. ‘A king shall reign in righteousness’, Isa. 31. 1. ‘Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS’, Jer. 23. 5-6. The New Testament also extends this hope. ‘He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end’, Luke 1. 32-33. It is self-evident that this kingdom has not yet been established and that the coming of the king to reign is still future.
It will surely be good news, especially in the dark days of Daniel’s seventieth week, that Messiah is coming to establish His kingdom. That message is, in essence, the same as that which was preached by John the Baptist, the forerunner of the coming king and the herald of the coming kingdom. The message demands individual preparation for His coming, involving repentance and the bringing forth of appropriate fruit as evidence of it. Only those who respond will have a place in the millennial kingdom.
It is also the same message that the disciples were sent to preach by the Lord Jesus. Matthew chapter 10 demonstrates this in a remarkable way. It is important to see that in this chapter there is a ‘prophetic gap’ between verses 15 and 16. (This same prophetic gap comes between Daniel’s sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks; between the ‘acceptable day of the Lord’ and the ‘day of vengeance of our God’ in Isaiah chapter 61 and Luke chapter 4; between the nineteenth and twentieth verses of Daniel chapter 7.) The commission given by our Lord in Matthew chapter 10 was fulfilled by the twelve when He was on earth, in verses 1 to 15; but verses 16 to 42 clearly await a future fulfilment. Note carefully the difference in language of verse 14 on the one hand and verses 16, 17, 18 and 22 on the other. The only way in which the apparent failure in the predictions in verses 16 to 42 may be understood is by the recognition of the prophetic gap. The testimony given as to the nearness of the kingdom has been suspended in this present age of the preaching of the gospel of the grace of God; but it will be resumed at the time of the end.
Accordingly, the twelve are, in this chapter, seen as being representative of those who will, in the future, preach that same message of the coming king. What applied to the twelve will apply also to them. The kingdom as it was presented at that time, namely in Christ personally among them, was rejected; and, as a result, testimony to them was withdrawn. In this connection Matthew indicates that Jesus charged His disciples that ‘they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ’, 16. 20. That testimony will be resumed, however, once the calling out of the church is complete and it will reach its conclusion when the Son of man is revealed in order to receive His kingdom.
The preachers of the gospel of the kingdom in the tribulation period are in for a torrid time as the dark influence of the devil and the two beasts of Revelation chapter 13 rises against them. Verses 16 to 39 promise them opposition, outright rejection and persecution; martyrdom will be the lot of some of them. For those not martyred, endurance to the end will mean salvation, which will be enjoyed in that coming kingdom.
The preaching will be hugely blessed by God. In Revelation chapter 7 two companies are brought to our attention in what is an interlude recording divine activity and its fruits, before the more serious judgements connected to the trumpets and vials begin. Firstly, there are Israelites who are sealed for the purposes of preservation through those judgements, and then there are Gentiles who are arrayed in white. These will be carried through the great tribulation in victory, in relationship with Himself. That Gentile company, the fruit of the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom, are described as being ‘a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues’, Rev. 7. 9. The vision that John had of this great multitude anticipates what will be after the tribulation has finished.
It should be clearly noted that this company will not include those who in this present era ‘received not the love of the truth’ and ‘believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness’, 2 Thess. 2. 10, 11. No thought of a ‘second chance’ is entertained in scripture; those who are alive at the rapture and who have rejected gospel light will suffer judicial darkening. How important it is, then, in this present day to believe the truth.
The everlasting gospel is mentioned in Revelation chapter 14. Its character is ‘Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the foundations of waters’, v. 7. The message of the everlasting gospel concerns the rights of God as creator to receive worship, the claims of God on men. In addition, it contains warning of coming judgement, and is preached before Christ comes, before the destruction of the beast and, in all likelihood, before the destruction of Babylon. It is the last testimony before the great and notable day of the Lord and the great judgements of that time.
Accordingly, it will be universally preached at a time when unbelief and great delusion will be widespread in the earth and at a time when God will be denied. Man will have set himself up above all that is called God or worshipped and, in the midst of all the wicked depravity of that day, this testimony to the living God is made known. This has, in fact, gone forth in every age from the beginning of time and may be traced in the preaching of such servants of God as Enoch (see Jude 14) and Noah, a preacher of righteousness, Gen. 6. 13; 2 Pet. 2. 5. Profitable reference might also be made to the tenor of Psalm 96.
The preaching of the everlasting gospel suggests that there will be blessing to all who acknowledge it and respond affirmatively to it by refusing to bow to the beast and by doing homage to the living God. At all times, blessing on the earth is linked to the acknowledgement of the Creator. It is not clear what degree of overlap there may be between the gospel of the kingdom and the everlasting gospel, but together they constitute God’s final testimony to man before the establishment of the manifest kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.