October 24, 1895
THIS is a truth plainly stated by Christ when he stood before Pontius Pilate to answer the accusations made by the Jews. John 18:36. Yet, strangely enough, we see to-day multitudes among the most prominent and influential of those who profess to be the servants of Christ, zealously engaging in movements which aim to make Christ the king of this world.
The language of the Saviour on this occasion was not ambiguous. It leaves no chance to suppose, as some Christians of this day affirm, that Christ’s kingdom is not of this world merely in the sense that its elements are not worldly in their nature. “If my kingdom were of this world,” said the Saviour, “then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews.” A kingdom of his world, or which ruled in earthly affairs, and yet would not fight or exercise force in any way to save its king from death, would be an anomaly indeed. Christ’s kingdom is clearly not of this kind. It is not “of this world” in any sense in which the expression is capable of application.
Christ refused to be made a king by the people of Judea. We read, “When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.” John 6:15. This was just after he had miraculously fed the multitude with bread and fishes. Then, as now, people were entirely willing to live without working, and a king who could supply their wants without cost or trouble to themselves, was just such a one as they desire to have over them. But Christ refused to be placed in any seat of earthly power. They could have a part in his kingdom not by making him their king, but by making themselves subjects of his kingdom of grace, through acceptance of the gospel which he preached.
Upon another, and still more memorable occasion, Christ was offered the kingdoms of this world, and refused the offer. And that offer was one of the three recorded temptations of the devil. We read, “The devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” Matthew 4:8-10.
It may be said that such an offer was not one that could be considered, coming as it did from the devil, and involving the hideous act of worship paid to him. But the truth is, that had Christ accepted the offer upon any conditions, it would have been an acknowledgment of Satan’s supremacy. The acceptance of a gift is an acknowledgment of the authority of the giver to make the gift. And to accept the kingdoms of this world to-day,—all or any one of them,—would be to acknowledge the same thing; for they have not changed ownership since the day of Christ’s temptation. The devil told the truth when he said that the power and glory of the kingdoms of this earth were delivered unto him. Luke 4:6. By overcoming Adam in Eden, he brought Adam and all his race into subjection to himself, and gained possession of Adam’s domain,—the earth. Satan thus became “the prince of this world.” John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11. He became such not by right, but by fraud and usurpation, permitted as the inevitable outcome of Adam’s sin. Like the existence of sin, Satan’s dominion is without right, but is nevertheless a fact. Every sinner is a servant of Satan; and wherever sin reigns, there Satan reigns. The two are inseparable; they must stand and fall together. And as sin has not yet reached its end, but still reigns everywhere, so Satan still continues to be “the prince of this world,” having the power and glory of earthly kingdoms in his hands.
And therefore, any and every effort to make Christ the king of this world, whether by the sword or by the ballot, or by any means through which governmental power is obtained and exercised in human affairs, is in reality nothing else than an effort to have Christ take what the devil offered him in the mount of temptation, before his sufferings and death. In other words, it is but an effort to make a friendly compact between Christ and the devil, which can only be consummated by an acknowledgment of the latter’s superiority. Doubtless the devil is as willing now to hand over the kingdoms of this world to Christ upon such terms, as he was before Christ endured the agony and shame of the cross. But no more futile attempt could be imagined.
In the kingdom of Christ, sin can have no place; and therefore the only possible kingdom of Christ upon this earth as it is to-day, is a kingdom of grace, entrance into which is secured alone by faith. Satan and sin can (and necessarily must) reign together; but never Christ and sin.
Bt Christ will one day receive the kingdoms of this world and reign over the earth as its King. It was for this that he came to earth, walked and talked in Judea, suffered in Gethsemane, and bowed his head in death upon the cross. He will take them not by the will of Satan, but against his will; not as a gift from him, but as his conqueror. “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” 1 John 3:8. And we also read that he was made a partaker of flesh and blood, “that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death; that is, the devil.” Hebrews 2:14. God’s purpose is not to remodel that which is of this world, but to destroy it, even the very earth itself. Christ can make no compromise with sin; he cannot reign with sin, even to accomplish—as some might think—its destruction. He will destroy sin, and all that is tainted therewith, in strict accordance with the provisions of that plan which he manifested on earth by his ministry, his sufferings and death, and which is manifested as yet only in the work of the kingdom of grace.
Through the work of grace, he will gather out of the kingdoms of the world, from every nation, and tongue, and people, those who will have him to reign over them. “This gospel of the kingdom,” said he, “shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Matthew 24:14.
The transfer of the kingdoms of this world from their present ruler to the hands of Christ, is a momentous and solemn event, plainly foretold in Scripture. Thus we read in Revelation: “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.” Revelation 11:15.
But what will Christ do with the kingdoms of this world when they are thus delivered up to him? Read the answer in the second Psalm: “I will declare the decree; the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Psalm 2:7-9.
The same thing is declared in the nineteenth chapter of Revelation. The attitude of Christ toward the kingdoms of this world, and their attitude toward him, at the time he takes possession of them, are there described in language which no one can mistake. We read: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war…. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” Revelation 19:11-15.
Again, in verse 19, we read: “And I saw the beast [the papacy] and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army.” No picture this of a coming temporal millennium. Not much else does current history record but the doings of the papacy, “and the kings of the earth, and their armies.” All the fashion, the wealth, the honor, and power of this world are to be found with them. And the prophetic eye saw them not converted to Christ, but gathered together to make war against him. The two closing verses of the chapter describe their utter destruction.
Again, in the second chapter of Daniel’s prophecy, the same thing is set before us. The prophet, in the interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, foretold the rise and fall of the great universal empires that should succeed the kingdom of Babylon, with the division of Rome, the last one, into smaller kingdoms, as represented by the iron and clay of the feet of the “great image,” and said: “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.” Daniel 2:44. This kingdom was seen in the dream as “a stone cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them in pieces;” and they “became like the chaff of the summer threshing-floors, and the wind carried them away, and no place was found for them; and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.” Verses 34, 35.
This is God’s plan for making Christ the King of this earth. It is the gospel plan. And any attempt to make Christ the King of this world, by any of those means through which earthly power is gained and exercised, is only the wildest folly. The motive may be worthy enough, but the effort is absolutely without knowledge.
When Christ’s kingdom comes, then, as he has taught us, God’s will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. This means that the earth will then be perfect, without sin or sinner. And that will be the new earth; for the present one is “reserved unto fire, against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” 2 Peter 3:7. It is the preaching of the gospel, and that alone, which can hasten the kingdom of Christ.