All prophecy, as we have abundantly seen, pointed forward to the universal Kingdom of Jehovah, administered by the promised Son of David. For this the world is to wait, in it all nations will be blessed: it is the consummation of prophetic hope. All His prior actings in redemption are to prepare the way for this, its last stage.
In considering the nature and purpose of this Kingdom, we are to note the two elements — revelation and redemption — that meet us in every stage in the execution of the Divine purpose, and go hand in hand till its end is reached. The more God manifests Himself to faithful men, the higher and purer is their conception of His character, and the more intimate the communion with Him into which they are admitted. In His light they see light, and this more and more as His purpose goes on. Jehovah manifested Himself to the patriarchs
under visible symbols, and thus taught them of His will; and to the Jews in higher degree through His dwelling among them, and by the laws He gave them. But these forms of revelation were necessarily very imperfect; and were but preparatory to that to be made in the person of the Incarnate Son, and in His teachings and works. The glory of God now shines in the face of Jesus Christ, "in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." Yet in Him while on earth, there was not a full and complete manifestation of His glory, since His first work was one of humiliation. He emptied Himself, and took upon Him the form of a servant. "He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, that He might condemn sin in the flesh." It was not till He rose from the dead that He entered into that condition of humanity in which He could be glorified, and become, in the fullest sense, the "Image of the invisible God." And in this glory He now abides in heaven, and is seen only by the eye of faith. It is not till He comes forth that men can know what glorified humanity is, and behold how God is revealed in Him.
The highest degree of Divine revelation that can be made till redemption is completed, is, therefore, when the Risen Lord appears in glory to establish His Kingdom. This is the coming of Jehovah of which the OldTestament prophets so often speak, but of which the Jewish people could have had only the most inadequate conceptions; and the majesty of which even the Church, illumined by His Spirit, can but dimly discern. The Kingdom period, therefore, is pre-eminently the period of Divine revelation, because the Incarnate King comes from Heaven in the glory of the Father, and of the holy angels, to seat Himself on the throne of His glory.
As the revelation of God reaches its highest stage at the coming of the glorified Lord from heaven, and in the kingdom that follows, so also does redemption. Full redemption is not attained in the Church in this dispensation. The life of the Risen One has been given to His members, but is not yet perfected in them ; death is not yet swallowed up in victory. The dead in Christ are still waiting for their bodies to be given them at the resurrection ; and the living for the change to be wrought in them at the translation, when the mortal and corruptible will give place to the immortal and incorruptible. None of His members have yet attained to the perfect likeness of the Head; they have not entered into His glory, and are not yet " manifested as the sons of God." "We which have the first-fruits of the Spirit groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." (Rom. viii. 23.) This perfected redemption cannot be till God enter on a new stage of revelation. "When Christ our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory." When made like Him, in spirit and in body, redemption is perfected in His members. They now enter into the glory of the heavenly condition.
But this perfected redemption at the Lord's coming is only attained by the members of the body of Christ, and by those of the earlier dispensations whom He shall account worthy to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Of the living upon the earth other than the baptized, there remain the two classes, the Jews and the nations. To the Jews He is then revealed as their Messiah, the Son of David. "They will look upon Me whom they have pierced, and mourn for Him as one mourneth for his only son." (Zech. xii. 10.) The veil will be taken from their hearts, and they will understand the purpose of God in Him, as declared by their prophets. They will submit themselves to Him, and He will pour out upon them His Spirit, and make them His holy people. They are not, indeed, lifted up into the condition of immortality and incorruptibility to which the Church has attained, but are so cleansed, sanctified, and illumined, that they can be the fitting instrument to fulfill the purpose of God in their election; and through them Jehovah will be revealed to all the world. The nations will now see in them such manifestation of the righteousness and goodness of God under the holy rule of Christ, that they will seek to join themselves to them, and to have part in the blessings of His Kingdom. (Isa. ii. 3, lv. 5; Zech. viii. 20-23.)
It is thus, as the last and highest stage of the redemptive work, that the Kingdom is brought before us in the Scriptures. Of the judgments that precede it, and the successive steps of its establishment, there is occasion to speak in another place. Its great characteristics are these: first, it is the period when He, the glorified Lord, who is now invisible, fulfilling His ministry as the great High Priest in the most Holy Place, will come forth, and be manifested in the earth as the Judge and King, the Power and the Righteousness of God. Second, with this manifestation of God in Him, redemption is perfected in the members of His Body, to whom He is the Resurrection and the Life. They see Him, and are made like Him, and so prepared to co-work with Him. Third, He is manifested to the Jews. The children of Abraham so long rejecting Him, are convinced, like St. Paul, through His appearing to them, that He is indeed their Messiah, and become submissive and obedient. Finally, through them regathered and set in their place, will He be made known to all lands. The unbaptized nations, who are the great majority of all the inhabitants of the earth, and still under the power of false religions, will be brought to know Jehovah, and gladly receive instruction at the hands of His servants.
It would be presumptuous to speak in detail of the constitution of the Messianic Kingdom, and of its administration; but certain points are clearly indicated in the prophets.
It has already been said that the two elections — the Jewish nation and the Christian Church — cannot fulfill their purpose, each in its respective sphere, till they have been completed and perfected. The Church must be brought through the resurrection or translation of its members, into the same state of glorified humanity into which its Head has entered; and thus be fitted to do His work in the time of the Kingdom, and to be partaker of His authority. And the Jews restored and sanctified, and brought under the rule of the Son of David, and obediently serving Him, are then fitted to be His instruments to teach and guide and govern the nations.
Thus in the Kingdom, when fully established, we find three distinct elements: first, the Church as the Body of Christ, no more under the law of sin and death, but made like Him, and in perfect unity with Him; second, the Jewish nation, God's holy and righteous people, in their own land and under the immediate rule of His Son; third, the nations at peace, obeying and worshipping God. We have in this threefold division the counterpart of the threefold divisions of the tabernacle and the temple, — the most Holy Place, the Holy, and the Outer Court. Into the first, where God dwelt, the high priest alone entered; it was shut to all beside: into the second, only the priests: in the outer court the people worshipped. And so in the Kingdom, Christ the High Priest, and those with Him, His priests made like Him, holy and immortal, stand in the immediate Presence of God, to which none beside can approach. The Jewish people, with their rites of worship at Jerusalem, then fulfill before the world their calling as a kingdom of priests; the holy city becomes the place of Divine manifestation to the nations, — the great ecclesiastical centre of the earth; and to the temple all the nations come up, doubtless in their representatives, at appointed times to worship before the Lord of hosts. (Jer. iii. 17; Zech. xiv. 16.)
It is through the two elections, each perfected and acting in its own sphere, that Christ fulfills His twofold functions as Priest and King. To His brethren, as made like Him in resurrection, belongs the first place; not only as priests ever worshipping the Father in the Most Holy, and making intercession for all, but also as kings. "I appoint unto you a kingdom as my Father hath appointed unto me." This is not simply to share in the blessings of the kingdom as one of righteousness and peace,—for this both the Jews and the nations do, each in its degree,—but to be the rulers in it. This is the prerogative of those only who have entered into the power and glory of the resurrection. (Rev. xx. 6.) In what way their functions of rule are to be exercised, it is not possible to say; but it is clearly intimated that some special administration over the Jews is to be intrusted to the apostles. (Matt. xix. 28; Luke xxii. 29, 30.) That the Jews will have rule over the nations, and that this rule will be exercised, not arbitrarily or oppressively, but under the direction of Christ with righteousness and gentleness, is also clearly declared by the Old-Testament prophets. (Deut. xxvi. 19; Isa. lx. 12.)
Thus there is during the Kingdom period a wellordered system of government, embracing the whole earth, administered by Christ through those whom He appoints; a system adapted to meet the needs of all its inhabitants in all their varied conditions and degrees of intellectual and spiritual development. Now is first seen the full power of the Divine institutions of the
THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, family and the state, when filled by His Spirit, to produce the purest and noblest fruits in individual life. Now is, also, seen the full development of national life, the solution of all social and political questions, and the true unity of nations. All that men have ever imagined of human progress in science and art, will fall far short of the attainments of those who will study God's works, not from personal ambition or vanity, but out of love of Him, delighting in every new discovery of His wisdom and goodness, and using all knowledge for the 'blessing of their fellow-men. And now will all the earth worship the Father through the Son; Christ Himself leading the worship in the heavenlies with His Church; the Jews under material forms and rites adapted to their end, commemorating His redemptive work; and the nations in their own lands, and in solemn processions to the Holy City, acknowledging Jehovah as the One Supreme God, and offering to Him their homage.
The Kingdom period will be the true golden age of the world, for which the lofty-minded and pure-hearted of all generations have longed; a time in which all that is noblest and holiest in man will be called forth, and all that is evil will be repressed. Now is brought into strongest contrast the two conditions of humanity, the natural (psychical) and the spiritual, the mortal and the immortal, the life of the first Adam and the life of the Second. Between the disembodied and those in the body God has set a gulf that we may not pass over, and a natural repulsion; but between those in the immortal body and those in the mortal, there is no gulf and no repulsion. Both co-exist in the Kingdom period; and those still in mortal bodies, seeing in Christ and the Church what the perfected condition of humanity is, are lifted up with the hope of attaining to the same condition of immortality.