THE REIGN OF KING MESSIAH (Earth's Golden Age)
"The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh come; And unto him shall the obedience of the peoples be" (Gen. 49:10). When man was banished from the Garden of Eden, the Lord gave promise of Messiah's advent and conquest. This promise is seen in the announcement made by the Lord to Satan regarding the seed of the woman, which passage we have already had occasion to investigate. When Jacob was on his deathbed, he was granted a vision of the future and the part which each of his sons would play in the great drama of life. In the oracle spoken to Judah appears the quotation given at the beginning of this chapter. According to this promise the ruling authority would remain in the tribe of Judah until Messiah made His personal appearance. That this passage refers to King Messiah is acknowledged by many Jewish commentators and by most Christian interpreters. In his vision of the future Jacob saw the time when all the nations will render filial obedience to this great descendant of his, who comes through the royal tribe of Judah. In the early portions of the Oracles of God there are a number of references to Him, but we shall in this short survey pass by all of these and begin by examining one of the fundamental passages dealing with the subject.
I. THE DAVIDIC COVENANT
When David had become established in his kingdom and was housed in his royal palace while the Ark of God was resting in a tent, he saw the incongruousness of the situation; hence he planned to build a temple to his God and divulged his ideas to the Prophet Nathan. This man of God instantly approved his master's plan without first consulting the Lord regarding it. The following night, however, the Lord appeared to Nathan, showing him the mistake which he had made and giving him a message for the king.
God appreciated David's purposing to honor Him with a permanent structure as the national shrine. Since, however, he had been a man of war and of blood, the Lord would not permit him to build the house. Nevertheless, He said that He would build a house for David. The house which the king desired to build was to be a literal, material structure; but the house which the Lord promised to build for him was to be a dynasty or a line of kings, descending from him. In addition to this promise He assured David that He would appoint a place for His people Israel from which they would nevermore be removed. When they would thus be established in their own home, the children of wickedness would afflict them no more. At that future time they would have judges as at the first. Moreover, the Lord promised that David's son, who would proceed out of his own bowels, would build a house for Him and that He would establish his kingdom forever. Solomon, as the record shows, was the one concerning whom this last statement was spoken. The Lord promised to be a father to Solomon and asserted that the same would be His son. But He warned that, if Solomon or anyone of his descendants should commit iniquity, he himself would punish him. He would not, however, take His loving-kindness from the Davidic house as He had taken it from Saul. Moreover, He assured him that his house and kingdom should remain before him and that his throne should be established forever.*
According to our passage the Lord promised David that there would descend from him a dynasty, that his immediate son would build the Temple which he himself had desired to construct, that He would punish any delinquencies or sins in any of his descendants, that He would not withdraw His favor from his posterity as He had taken it from Saul, and that his throne and kingdom would continue, as we see in the footnote, until the sun, moon, and stars would be no more.
A second version of the Davidic Covenant appears in I Chronicles, chapter 17. An element is added here which throws great light upon the original promise. This information comes in the form of verse 11 of this chapter. "And it shall come to pass when thy days are fulfilled that thou must go to be with thy fathers, that I will set up thy seed after thee, who shall be of thy sons; and I will establish his kingdom." According to this promise, God would "set up thy [David's] seed after thee, who shall be of thy sons …" This one concerning whom the Lord was speaking was to descend from David's sons. Since only one person can be the actual father of a child, and since, according to Hebrew usage, a man's descendants are called his sons, it becomes quite obvious that the Lord was speaking of one definite person who descends from David through the royal line. This one, according to promise, would build the house of the Lord, and God would establish his throne forever. Nothing is said here by way of a threat concerning any sin or transgression of which he might be guilty. The absence of such a warning is indeed suggestive that there was no likelihood or possibility of his committing sin. This inference is confirmed by other predictions which speak of the sinless character of King Messiah. From these facts we can draw but one conclusion: Messiah is the one who is in plain view in the Chronicles version of the Davidic Covenant.
In one of his last utterances David described his "Greater Son" in all His majesty, glory, and power. Being enwrapt by the glories of the vision, the king did not speak in well rounded sentences as he ordinarily did. On the contrary, he spoke with strong feelings and emotion in ejaculatory speech.
One that ruleth over men righteously,
That ruleth in the fear of God,
He shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth,
A morning without clouds,
Whenthe tender grass springeth out of the earth,
Through clear shining after rain.
Verily my house is not so with God;
Yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant,
Ordered in all things, and sure:
For it is all my salvation, and all mydesire,
Although he maketh it not to grow.(II Sam. 23:3-5)
In vision David saw this one who rules over men--the entire human family--righteously. He is one who reigns in the fear of God. Everything connected with His kingdom is performed in the full consciousness of His Deity and of His right to be worshipped. This day of His glorious reign is compared to a mourning without clouds after the atmosphere has been washed by gentle rains, and the grass and vegetation are springing up everywhere. David saw himself in the pure, white light of Messiah's immaculate sinlessness and righteous rule and exclaimed; "Verily my house is not so with God." His conscience smote him for his sins and wickedness; nevertheless, he believed the promises of God and rested upon the assurances concerning the everlasting covenant which the Lord had made with him, and which he considered was ordered in all things and absolutely certain. Being carried away with the vision of the future glorious reign of Messiah, the king asserted that his salvation and his desire were all centered in Him. At the same time he, according to the last statement of verse 5, said that the promise was not at that time being fulfilled; but concerning its ultimate fulfillment he had no doubt.
From this passage we see some of the glorious splendor of Messiah's righteous reign upon the earth which will, when it is once established, endure as long as the sun and moon remain (Ps. 89:34-37).
II. THE MESSAGES OF THE PSALMISTS
Israel's poets sang of Messiah and of His glorious reign upon the earth. On account of the limited space I can only call attention to a few of these magnificent hymns, the first of which is Psalm 2.
The psalmist was projected by the Spirit of God into the future and saw a time when there would be held and international, atheistic, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, politico-religious convention. This is seen in the first three verses. This definite prediction had a partial fulfillment in the action which was taken by King Herod, Pontius Pilate, and the rulers of the Jews against Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 4:23-28). An examination of the facts regarding those participating in the rejection of Jesus by the Jews and His execution by the Roman officials shows that that tragedy was only a partial incomplete, imperfect fulfillment of the original prediction. This statement being true, we may expect the complete fulfillment in the future. When this passage is viewed in the light of related predictions, it will be seen that our psalmist saw the action of an international assembly consisting of the kings and rulers of the earth who vote to put a ban on the Jewish religion and on Christianity. This will probably be held in the middle of the Tribulation.
In verses 4-6 of this psalm appears the Almighty's reaction to such blasphemous conduct and attitude. Notwithstanding this official action on the part of the world rulers, God's eternal decree relative to Messiah's reign on Mount Zion will come to pass.
In verses 7-9 the psalmist, quoting Messiah, gives the decree spoken by the Almighty to Him in the secret councils of eternity, which speaks about the establishment of Messiah's reign upon the earth. According to this plan all that Messiah has to do is to ask for His inheritance, which will consist of the nations of earth. When He makes this request, the Father will turn over everything to Him. Then He, the Messiah, will destroy all governments upon the earth; and, in the place of the wrecked godless world empire, which will be in existence in the end-time, He will erect a kingdom of righteousness and peace.
In view of the seriousness of the situation into which the nations will plunge themselves, God warns the future rulers not to be rash but rather to make their peace with His Son, King Messiah, before it is too late. Thus ends this marvelous prediction regarding Messiah's reign upon the earth as found in Psalm 2.
Another picture of His righteous rule upon the earth is found in Psalm 72, which was written by Solomon. This ode should be studied in the light of Solomon's prayer recorded in I Kings 3:4-9 and II Chronicles 1:7-13. The spirit of this petition is the same as that which animates Psalm 72.
When he mounted the throne, Solomon realized the responsibility resting upon his shoulders. At the same time he was thoroughly aware of his limitations. He therefore with a childlike faith called upon God to supply that which was lacking in order that he might administer the type of rule with which God would be well pleased. Thus he said in the sincerity of his heart to the Lord that, if the Almighty would give him wisdom and understanding, he would administer a righteous, just government in the interests of the people. He was hoping that such a reign of righteousness as he contemplated would continue through the centuries--as long as the sun and moon should endure. The sentiments of the first five verses of Psalm 72 are most commendable. These lines indicate the spiritual outlook of a man whose heart is influenced by the Spirit of God and through whose soul God speaks.
Beginning with verse 6 the picture which is presented in the first five verses has disappeared, figuratively speaking, from the screen; and another, other than Solomon, appears in plain view. It is He whose coming down to earth is like that of the showers upon the mown grass. When He appears, the righteous shall flourish, and there shall be an abundance of peace as long as the sun, moon, and stars endure. Who is this one? King Messiah. The world-wide extent of His reign is set forth in verses 8-11. All kings, rulers, and governors at that time will come and worship Him, acknowledging their utter dependence upon Him.
In verses 12-14 the writer shows how this reign of righteousness will be ushered in. According to verse 12 He will come and deliver needy Israel (and all humanity living at that time) "when he [the needy in Israel] crieth, And the poor, that hath no helper." The establishment of this reign of righteousness then is conditioned upon Israel's realizing her helpless situation and calling upon God for the needed deliverance. When she does this, Messiah will come. A prediction similar to this one is found in Isaiah 30:18: "And therefore will Jehovah wait, that he may be gracious unto you; and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: For Jehovah is a God of justice; blessed are all they that wait for him." The reader should note that Jehovah must wait in order that He might be gracious to Israel and that He must be exalted by her before He can have mercy upon her. He would now like to have mercy upon the Jews and deliver them from all their troubles but cannot do so consistently and righteously--in accordance with the laws of His moral government and the principles obtaining in the spiritual realm--until the Hebrew people themselves see their sin and condition and call upon Him for deliverance.
Returning to the psalm under consideration, we see a marvelous prediction in verses 15-17. We are told that "They shall live." The marginal reading is "he shall live." If the latter rendering is correct, this pronoun refers to Messiah. He is the God-man who entered the world by miraculous conception and virgin birth, who laid down his life again, arising from the dead. Death can never touch Him. He will therefore live forevermore. People upon the earth will come and pray for Him or unto Him. The word rendered "pray" here in the original does not necessarily mean imploring in behalf of Him. This is rather a broad term and includes praise and worship. At times it also refers to making predictions as in Habakkuk, chapter 3. In this last passage the noun form appears, whereas in our prediction the verbal form occurs, but the same fundamental idea is inherent, in both the root and the noun forms.
The curse being lifted from the earth, there shall be an abundance of good things for man and beast (vss. 16,17). All food will have the necessary elements and vitamins to sustain life and give the body a balanced ration to keep it in health.
The psalm ends with a benediction and praise to God who alone will perform such wonderful work and whose glory will yet fill the earth.
In this brief survey I have space to notice one more psalm--Psalm 110. In this hymn the writer recounts the language spoken by Jehovah to Messiah: "Sit thou at my right hand, Until I make thine enemies thy footstool." The psalmist looked to the time when Jehovah will invite Messiah to sit at His right hand. Where will he be when this passage is fulfilled? When does it come to pass? It is quite evident that Messiah is not at the right hand of God when Jehovah speaks thus to Him. From verse 2 which reads, "Jehovah will send forth the rod of thy strength out of Zion: Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies," we learn that He will be in Zion--in the midst of His enemies. This prediction therefore presupposes that He comes to Zion; that He is rejected by the leaders of the people; and that, after He is thus treated, God invites Him to leave the earth and to sit at His right hand for a definite period of time--until Jehovah makes Messiah's enemies His footstool.
We must remember that this language was spoken by David approximately one thousand years before the time of Jesus of Nazareth. When one studies this prediction in the light of the special events connected with the close of His earthly life and His subsequent resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the throne of God, one sees that this prediction was literally and completely fulfilled in His tragic death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. He is at the present time, and has been ever since His ascension, seated at the right hand of the throne of God in heaven. He will remain there until the time comes for God to put His enemies under his feet.
64 Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you Henceforth ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven (Matt. 26:64).
Who are these enemies? According to verse 2 they are the people of Zion who are living when He makes His first appearance upon earth--at His first coming. The great masses of Israel of the first century welcomed him and His teaching. The leaders of the nation rejected Him and His claims and influenced the unstable masses to accept their position and likewise to reject Him. They then turned Him over to the Roman authorities who accomplished the actual execution. Unfortunately, Israel as a nation from then to the present time has accepted without question the decision that was rendered against Him by the leaders of His day and time. By taking this adverse attitude toward Him, they have identified themselves with those who actually did reject Him and the light which he brought to them. Thus they are logically placed in the group designated in this psalm as Messiah's enemies.
The time will come, however, according to verse 3, when Israel at a certain definite time in the future will see the mistake that the fathers made, will repudiate that national sin, and will accept Him as her long-awaited Messiah. When she does this wholeheartedly, he will come to her assistance. But this is exactly what the prophets said would come to pass. For instance, Hosea (5:15) speaking for the Messiah, declared, "I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offense, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me earnestly." An examination of the preceding verses shows that the prophet was speaking of the evils of his own time and those in the days immediately ahead of him. Moreover, he spoke of the punishment that would come to the people because of their sins. He then blended those events, that are now long past, with the rejection of Messiah, which occurred nineteen hundred years ago. Ephraim and Judah--the northern and the southern kingdoms--committed the offense against Messiah when he made His first appearance. He then became as a lion and as a young lion to the nation, tearing and going away. As He left, He declared that He would never return until His people acknowledge their sin against Him--rejecting Him--and seek Him earnestly. Following this prediction is one that foretells the time when Israel as a nation will seek Him--in her affliction, the time of Jacob's trouble.
Returning to Psalm 110, we see the entire nation enthusiastically offering themselves to Him as free willingnesses in the day of His power. Thus, according to this prediction, the nation as a people will accept Him and will do it enthusiastically. At that time they will become like the dew of the morning; they will be restored to their youthful vigor, strength, and power.
Then King Messiah will mount His throne--the throne of David--and reign in the literal city of Jerusalem. This future kingdom was typified by that over which Melchizedek, King of Salem and priest of God Most High, ruled.
When the Messiah returns, He will strike through the kings in the day of His wrath and will judge the nations, destroying all the wicked. He will march triumphantly to victory. Such is the marvelous picture of Messiah, his triumph, and His reign at the time of His return to earth.
III. THE ORACLES OF THE PROPHETS
The prophets, like the psalmists, constantly called the people's attention to Messiah's glorious reign. For instance, one of those majestic predictions is found in Isaiah 2:1-4 and in a parallel passage, Micah 4:1-8.
2 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
2 And it shall come to pass in the latter days, that the mountain of Jehovah's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. 3 And many peoples shall go and say, come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem. 4 And he will judge between the nations, and will decide concerning many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more (Isa. 2:1-4).
This passage describes a vision which was granted to Isaiah by the Lord. It pertained to Judah and Jerusalem. Judah was the name of the territory in the southern part of Palestine and Jerusalem was the name of the city of David. These words are to be taken at their face value since there is nothing in the context that indicates a contrary meaning and since such a literal interpretation accords with all the teachings of both Testaments.
The time when this prediction is to be fulfilled is designated "the latter days." This expression occurs about fourteen times in the Old Testament, the first mention of which is in Genesis 49:1. An examination of this passage shows that the latter days began with the first appearance of King Messiah (Gen. 49:10) and will continue as long as the sun and moon remain in the heavens. From all the facts we are warranted in concluding that the latter days, as used by the prophets, began at the first coming of Messiah and will continue until the present heavens and earth pass away. The vision here referred to is, according to the prediction, to come to pass within this period of time designated as "the latter days." The prophet did not say that the vision would materialize at the beginning of this period, but simply stated that it would come to pass within this period.
The first item of the prophecy is "that the mountain of Jehovah's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it." What is meant by "Jehovah's house"? If one will look at the historical portion of the Old Testament, one will see that this expression on the lips of the Hebrews was the regular term for the temple, built by Solomon, destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, and rebuilt by Zerubbabel. When Isaiah used this expression, his auditors understood that he was speaking of the Temple. Confirmation of this interpretation is seen by an examination of the parallel passage in Micah. In 3:9-12 of this prophet's message, he addressed the leaders of the nation as those who abhorred justice and perverted all equity. Moreover he charged them with building the royal city with unjust gains. Because of this fact he uttered the following prediction: "Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest." Zion was the name of the hill in the southwestern portion of the city. It is often, in the poetical books, the name for Jerusalem itself. Jerusalem here undoubtedly refers to the whole city, but the last term, the mountain of the house, can indicate nothing but the temple area of Mount Moriah. According to his words it would become as the high places of the forest, would cease to be the sanctuary of the Lord, and would lie in ruins with shrubbery and trees growing upon it. Such was the prediction of disaster which we know was fulfilled in the depredations committed by Nebuchadnezzar at the time he overthrew the nation and carried the exiles to Babylon.
In the following sentence, however, Micah gave a different picture of this mountain of the house, the temple area. Here he says: "But in the latter days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of Jehovah's house shall be established on the top of the mountains … (Micah 4:1). From the sequence of ideas we see that the mountain of Jehovah's house is none other than the temple area.
Returning now to Isaiah's prophecy, we see that he too foretold the establishing of the mountain of Jehovah's house upon the top of the mountains in the latter days. At that time it will be exalted above all the hills and will be the center of attraction for the entire earth, for "all nations shall flow unto it." Here is a definite prediction that this hill, the lowest of the four upon which Jerusalem is built, shall be lifted up, become the highest and also be the center of world attraction. This forecast simply tells us that there will be certain topographical changes at Jerusalem in the latter days--at the time of which he was here speaking.
At that time many nations will make pilgrimages to Jerusalem. They will be so very great in number that they are compared to flowing streams. Thus there will be groups of people from all parts of the globe continually going on religious pilgrimages to Jerusalem. They will return to their homes enthusiastic over what they have seen and heard.
Then they will say to their neighbors: "Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3). These enthusiastic pilgrims will insist that their neighbors go with them on a second visit to Jerusalem in order that they might be taught of Jehovah, the God of Jacob. Of course where they live, they can read the Holy Scriptures. But they will want to see Jehovah with their own eyes and hear with their own ears His teaching the Word of God. This prediction shows beyond the shade of a doubt that Jehovah will be present in Zion and will proclaim the Word of God to those who visit His capital.
At that time Jerusalem will be the center of all religious activity, for the Word of God will go forth from that place, and the law from Jerusalem. The Word here refers to the full revelation of the Lord, and the law is a definite reference to civil regulations that will govern the peoples of earth. Here is a prediction that at some time in the future--in the latter days--God's Word will go forth from Jerusalem, and the law will likewise be enacted in Jerusalem and enforced among all peoples.
From that time onward there will be no more war! The reason is that, when Messiah returns, he will destroy all weapons of war (Ps. 46:9; Isa. 9:5); There will be no more gallant ships, warships (Isa. 33:21); no more training camps; no more armies; no more air force (Isa. 2:4) "For Jehovah is our judge, Jehovah is our lawgiver, Jehovah is our king; He will save us" (Isa. 33:22). When Messiah is received by Israel and is implored to return, He will do so and will cause wars to cease, will mount the throne of David, and will reign over a peaceful earth where every man will dwell under his own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make him afraid.
Another graphic picture of the reign of King Messiah is found in Isaiah, chapter 11. In verse 1 the prophet speaks of His first coming under the symbolism of a shoot that comes out of the stump of the tree of David. In the next he tells of the Spirit of Jehovah which rests upon Him, thinking of the Spirit in terms of that which He does through Messiah: "And the Spirit of Jehovah shall rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Jehovah" (Isa. 11:2). From speaking of events connected with His first coming, in these verses, the prophet (vss. 3-5) foretells His acting as judge of the earth and destroying all the wicked, while at the same time He allows the meek of the earth to remain and to enter His glorious kingdom. The picture which is presented in these verses is that which is found in Matthew 25:31-46.
On the sixth day of Jehovah's activity recorded in Genesis, chapter 1, God created the land animals. When man disobeyed the Lord, the curse fell, not only upon the ground, but also upon the animals. From that time onward they became vicious and bloodthirsty and remain in this condition to the present day. When Messiah returns in glory to establish His reign, He will lift the curse from the earth. The wolf and the lamb, together with the leopard, shall lie down in peace. The lion shall eat straw like the ox. Venomous serpents will no longer bite or injure anyone. See Isaiah 11:6-9 and Hosea 2:18.
These predictions are to be taken literally unless the facts of the context clearly indicate otherwise. When we realize that in the verses immediately preceding this prediction, the prophet was speaking of Christ's second coming and His judging the world, we know that Isaiah 11:6-9 refers to the millennial reign of our Lord and the lifting of the curse from the animal creation.
* The word in the original text translated forever in our English version has various shades of meaning. Its import must be gathered from each context. Sometimes, as we have already seen in chapter VI, the facts of a given context show that it means what our English words forever and everlasting connote; in other instances, it refers to a relatively short period of time, whereas in still other instances, it means a longer time. But the facts in each context must be consulted in order to determine the exact meaning. When this passage is studied in the light of related ones, it becomes evident that this term is limited by the duration of the sun and moon (Ps. 89:34-37).
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