(This is the fourth of a series of articles that first appeared in 1950 in Truth magazine, published by Milwaukee Bible Institute/Worldwide Grace Testimony, now the Grace Gospel Fellowship. These articles have never before appeared in the Searchlight.)
NIMROD AND HIS KINGDOM
In Genesis 10:10 we read concerning Nimrod, “The Rebel,”
“And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.”
Evidently he was the leader of the movement spoken of in Genesis 11:4:
“And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.”
That this was no effort on man’s part to carry out God’s instructions regarding human government is clear enough. These men were not seeking to “replenish the earth,” trusting God to care for them. They were establishing cities—though doubtless little more than small forts at the time—for their own protection and preservation. They were not seeking for one or more among their number to rule for God. They were determined to make a name for themselves; to have a kingdom of their own, entirely apart from God. Indeed, it is evident from what follows that they even established their own idolatrous religion, for Babel thenceforth became the fountain head of idolatry.
The result of this first attempt on the part of man to establish an earthly commonwealth is well known:
“Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth” (Gen. 11:9).
“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient [fitting]” (Rom. 1:28).
But Nimrod and his followers did not abandon Babel, nor did they refrain from further attempts at government without God. Soon Erech and Accad and Calneh were added to form the first “empire.” And even this was but a beginning. Indeed, Nimrod’s followers to this day have not given up the idea of establishing a strong world government of their own. But they have planned and labored in vain.
Nimrod’s movement will have its culmination in the rise of “Babylon the Great,” the seat of a world empire before which the original “kingdom” of Nimrod will seem as nothing. But this future Babylon will be brought to desolation both total and final, and with it the world’s government, business, society, and religion will be overthrown (See Rev. 18). It is then that Nimrod’s anti-type, the coming “lawless one,” will also be destroyed (See II Thes. 2:8).
THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT
Meanwhile God has been working out His own unalterable plan. It was shortly after man’s original attempt to establish his own government and make himself a name, that God called Abram out of heathenism, saying,
“…Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee:
“And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing.”
“And…unto thy seed will I give this land…” (Gen. 12:1,2,7).
THE DAVIDIC COVENANT
This great nation was, of course, to be a theocracy, for this was God’s chosen people. However, even they apostatized after a time and demanded a king “like all the nations” (I Sam. 8:5). God granted this request but it was His loving purpose ultimately to reign over them Himself in the person of Messiah. Thus after bringing them through many sad experiences and teaching them many lessons under Saul, their first king, God chose David, “a man after His own heart” and during His reign made a covenant with him, part of which specified:
“And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established forever before thee: thy throne shall be established forever” (II Sam. 7:16).
The uninterrupted, unchallenged establishment of David’s kingdom, of course, still awaited a future day. This is clear from the language of the covenant itself and is borne out by such passages as Acts 1:6 and Acts 15:15,16. But there was one thing which the covenant rendered essential from the outset and that was the preservation of the royal line. That line could not die out. This implication is clearly expressed in I Kings 8:25, for example, where Solomon says:
“Therefore now, Lord God of Israel, keep with thy servant David my father that thou promisedst him, saying, There shall not fail thee a man in My sight to sit on the throne of Israel….”
How wonderfully God kept this promise to David in the face of unrelenting opposition and intrigue on the part of Satan. Again and again it seemed that the last of the royal seed had been stamped out but always God intervened in time, so that Israel was never left without a direct descendant of David to occupy the throne until finally Christ, the eternal Son of David, had arrived.
THE SPHERE AND CHARACTER OF THE KINGDOM
Were it not for the perversion of a plain truth by religious leaders, no one would question that the Messianic kingdom was to be—and is to be—established on earth. Since this fact has been questioned, however, we quote several passages to substantiate it:
“Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the EARTH for Thy possession” (Psa. 2:8).
“…for the EARTH shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9).
“He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till He have set judgment in the EARTH…” (Isa. 42:4).
“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” (Jer. 23:5).
These are but a few of the many passages that emphasize this fact.
And these passages are supported in turn by the elaborate descriptions of the kingdom which we find in the prophetic Scriptures. The following are some of the great changes to take place in this world when Messiah’s reign is established:
All Israel will be saved (Rom. 11:26); Israel will be exalted above the nations and become a blessing to them (Isa. 60:1-3); the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord (Isa. 11:9); government will be purified (Isa. 11:1-5; Jer. 23:5); war will be abolished (Isa. 2:4); sickness and death (except in judgment, Isa. 66:24) will be abolished and longevity restored (Isa. 35:5,6; 65:20); the animal creation will be tamed (Isa. 11:6-8; 65:25); the desert will blossom as a rose (Isa. 35:1,6).
THE KINGDOM PROCLAIMED AT HAND
Finally the long-promised King arrived. That He was of “the house and lineage of David” could easily be verified, for the genealogical records had been carefully preserved down through the centuries, and these indicated He was heir to the throne, legally through Joseph and physically through Mary. Furthermore, the manner of His birth (Isa. 7:14), the place of His birth (Mic. 5:2) and the time of His birth (Dan. 9:25), in addition to the miracles which He wrought as His credentials, all went to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that He was the Son of David; Messiah, the Anointed One; Immanuel, God with us.
Hence in the gospel records we find the kingdom proclaimed “at hand” by John the Baptist (Matt. 3:1,2), Christ (Matt. 4:17) and the twelve (Matt. 10:5-7). Note, they only proclaimed it “at hand.” This phrase is consistently used in the gospels, for not until after the crucifixion and resurrection could it be offered.
THE KINGDOM OFFERED AND REJECTED
We find the first offers of the kingdom at Pentecost and after.
In his Pentecostal address, Peter declares that God raised Christ from the dead to sit on David’s throne (Acts 2:30,31) and pleads with his nation to repent, saying, “The promise is unto you.”
The clearest offer, perhaps, is found in Acts 3:19-21, where the apostle says to the “men of Israel”:
“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
“And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:
“Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”
This is not to say, of course, that if that one audience had repented Christ would immediately have returned. Their rejection of Christ was a national matter which called for national repentance. We know also that according to prophecy and certain predictions of Christ Himself much had to transpire before Christ could actually return. Indeed, we now know that the Mystery had to be revealed before the prophecy concerning Messiah’s reign could be fulfilled.
The point is that here at Pentecost Israel was presented with a proposition and made responsible to accept or reject the Messianic kingdom. God’s foreknowledge in the matter did not diminish their responsibility or guilt.
The crucifixion too had been predicted, yet John the Baptist, Christ and the twelve were sent to call the people to repentance and their guilt in the crucifixion, while not one whit diminished by the fact that it was prophesied, was increased by the fact that they rejected the appeal to repent.
Thus Israel rejected both Christ and His kingdom and, as a nation, awaits “the day of His power” when He shall make them willing.
THE PRESENT DISPENSATION
Because the present state of affairs does not seem to be a continuation of the fulfillment of the prophecies concerning Christ and the nation Israel some have altered the prophecies to make them fit. The Church of this age, they say, is the Israel referred to in the prophecies concerning the kingdom, and the throne of David is supposed to be the throne on which He now sits as “King of the Church,” while the Canaan of prophecy is heaven itself.
All these alterations are made on the premise that these prophecies should be understood in a “spiritual” sense. But we protest that this failure to take God at His word is carnal, not spiritual and, furthermore, that this whole system of interpretation—(1) leaves us at the mercy of theologians who may tell us what the Scriptures mean, (2) affects the veracity of God and (3) endorses apostasy.
If our brethren who “spiritualize” these promises understood the Mystery they would find no need to alter Prophecy.
The fact is that the present dispensation was a mystery, hid from ages and from generations, until revealed to and through the Apostle Paul, and it is a mystery of which no believer should be ignorant.
“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in” (Rom. 11:25).
“For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all” (Rom. 11:32).
“And that He might reconcile both unto God in one Body by the Cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (Eph. 2:16).
The same Christ who was raised from the dead to sit on David’s throne, according to Peter’s Pentecostal address, was also raised up for another purpose, according to the later revelation given through Paul:
“Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.
“Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel” (II Tim. 2:7,8).
According to this gospel Christ was raised, not only to be King over Israel, but to be the Head of the Body (Eph. 1:18-23).
The kingdom, for the time being, is vested in the Person of Christ, seated at God’s right hand far above all heavens.
When God presented His “beloved Son,” they cried “Away with Him,” so now believers are “translated into the kingdom of His dear [beloved] Son” (Col. 1:13). “Our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20) and we are sent forth as ambassadors of Christ to offer to His enemies reconciliation by grace through faith (II Cor. 5:14-21), until He calls us to be with Himself (I Thes. 4:16-18).
THE FINAL ESTABLISHMENT OF THE KINGDOM
According to Romans 11:25 Israel’s blindness will not be removed until “the fullness of the Gentiles” shall have come in. Indeed, the removal of that blindness is associated with the return of Christ Himself, as the next verse indicates:
“And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Rom. 11:26).
The kingdom, then, will not be brought in by the preaching of the gospel of the grace of God. It will be brought in by the return of Christ.
Little wonder that John, who writes particularly for a future generation, calls himself their “companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1:9), for it will be when the outlook seems most hopeless that our Lord’s return to earth and the establishment of His kingdom will take place.
Nimrod’s successor, “the beast,” aided by Satan, will do all in his power to set up a world empire and will apparently make great progress in this direction, for in Revelation 17:12,13 we read:
“And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.
“These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.”
But “the beast” and his “ten kings” will go one step too far:
“These shall make war with the Lamb and the Lamb shall overcome them: for He is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful” (Rev. 17:14).
It is then that Daniel 2:44 will be fulfilled:
“And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.”
Thus the solemn judgments with which God will visit the nations will bring in the beneficent and glorious reign of Christ.
“And the seventh angel sounded: and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever.
“And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God,
“Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee great power, and hast reigned” (Rev. 11:15-17).
BUYING UP THE TIME
The kingdom, then, will be ushered in by judgment, not by grace. Christ will descend from heaven to “judge and make war,” treading “the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Rev. 19:11,15). He will “rebuke strong nations” (Mic. 4:3); He will “speak unto them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure” (Psa. 2:5).
Much as we long that our despised Savior shall come into His glory here on earth and much as we long to see this poor world come into the joy and peace of His reign, we thank God that “the day of vengeance” has not yet come.
Though there are no specific signs to indicate the close of the day of grace and of our Lord’s coming to catch us, His ambassadors, out of this sinful scene, we feel the day must be very near that these judgments will take place. We, even more than those of Paul’s day, should take to heart his exhortation:
“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
“Redeeming [buying up] the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15,16).