“True and False Theocracy” American Sentinel 10, 8, pp. 58, 59.

THEOCRACY is the highest, the most perfect form of government known to man; for it is government by the direction or administration of God himself. Had man never fallen, there never would have been any other kind of government; and in the earth redeemed from the curse, God will be King; for it is written: “the tabernacle of God” shall be “with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” This can mean nothing less than a perfect divine government of willing subjects.

Primarily, theocracy means government by the immediate direction or administration of God, as in Eden before the fall; it is also applied to the exercise of political authority by priests representing the Deity. It is not enough to constitute a true theocracy that rulers profess to represent God; it must be even so, as it was in the case of Samuel. But in its highest and most perfect sense a theocracy has never existed in this world since the fall; for man in his fallen condition has never yielded true and undivided allegiance to God. And only for brief periods has political authority been exercised by men truly representing God. It is declared that “Moses verily was faithful in all his house.” The Lord was also with Joshua even as he was with Moses; but after the death of Joshua the intervals were indeed brief in which the children of Israel walked in the counsel of the Most High; and with the crowning of Saul the theocracy proper ended; for one of the essential elements to a true theocracy was lacking, namely, the consent of the governed; for while the Lord designated Saul to be king, he declared to Samuel, “They have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” 1 Samuel 8:7.

Two things are absolutely necessary to the existence of a true theocracy: (1) God himself must be the governor; and (2) the subjects of the government must consent to be governed by him, or by those directly chosen and directed by him. God himself having made man a free moral agent,—a being endowed with power of choice,—recognizes the great truth that in all things civil, governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. The Creator himself exercised civil power only so long as it was the choice of the people that he should exercise it. When God became the recognized governor of the children of Israel, it was by their unanimous consent. “And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do.” Exodus 19:8. And when God abdicated the throne, so to speak, and gave the government into the hands of Saul, it was likewise in deference to the practically unanimous demand of the governed, i.e., of the people.

But though the children of Israel rejected God as their ruler, “and would none of his counsel,” his merciful providence was still over them. They were to be preserved a separate people for a special object, and even their rebellion could not defeat the purpose of God concerning them. The divine mould was still upon their laws, and a divine providence still protected them from utter extinction as a nation.

God’s promise to David was “that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne” (Acts 2:30), and it was necessary that the nation should continue until the Promised One should be revealed. Nevertheless when the people [59] rebelled against God, he permitted them to reap the fruit of their doings. When they repented and sought him, he delivered them, and they were still called by his name. But while he permitted them to retain in a measure their religio-civil laws, and to administer them by a semi-ecclesiastical court, he never restored the theocracy which they had rejected. And with the overthrow of Zedekiah the descendants of Abraham ceased to be an independent nation and became a dependency of another power. “Ichabod” had long been written on the Jewish escutcheons, but they did not fully realize the fact, and most persistently did they from time to time endeavor to restore the ancient polity and rehabilitate themselves with divine power. But it was not to be. They preserved their ecclesiastical organization, but their political power was limited by the will of a foreign ruler. God still cared for them, but foreigners ruled over them restrained only by his providence. The word of the Lord was:—

And thou, profane wicked prince of Israel, whose day is come, when iniquity shall have an end, Thus saith the Lord God; Remove the diadem, and take off the crown: this shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high. I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him. Ezekiel 21:25-27.

The divine fiat had gone forth canceling forever any special right of any man or of any set of men to rule in civil things in God’s name. It is true that the Jewish rulers never ceased to claim divine right to rule, and that in fact they represented Deity. Down until the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, the Sanhedrim clung to the delusion that they were God’s representatives in both civil and religious affairs, but the Lord did not so recognize them; and our Saviour utterly repudiated the claim of the people to civil authority by refusing to accept a throne at their hands, declaring that his kingdom was not of this world,—that is, it was not of a temporal nature, neither was his authority to be conferred by the powers of this world, but by his Father only. And again did the Saviour humble the pride of the Jews and rebuke their assumption by reminding them, in the incident of the tribute money (Matthew 22:15-21), that Cesar was their ruler, and that they themselves recognized his authority by using coins bearing his image and superscription. The Apostle Paul likewise disdained the civil authority of the Jews when he appealed unto Cesar. And even the Jews themselves in their made frenzy declared, “We have no king but Cesar.” And in this they spoke truly, for God had declared that civil power should no more be exercised in his name, till he should come whose right it is—come, till he should come whose right it is—come, not to die for sinners, but as “King of kings and Lord of lords.”

At the date of the prophecy of Ezekiel 21:25-27, already quoted, the Jewish people were subject to Babylon. The first overturning left the kingdom subject to Medo-Persia; the second placed it under the dominion of Grecia, while the third and last gave it to Rome. “And it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is.” Who he was to whom the promise was made we learn from Luke 1:31-33:—

And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. 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 forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

But it is plain that this promise does not refer to an earthly, temporal kingdom. To Pilate, Jesus declared, “My kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:36. While to his disciples he said: “I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Luke 22:29, 30. And he did not leave them in doubt as to the enduring nature of that kingdom, or when they should enter upon it; he said: “In the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Matthew 19:28. When it is that Christ shall “sit in the throne of his glory” is told in another text. It is “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his cheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say to them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Matthew 25:31-34.

These texts make it positive that a theocracy can exist no more in this world until the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, with power and great glory, and that anything which professes to be a theocracy, or to partake of the nature of a theocracy, is simply a usurpation of the divine prerogatives and in defiance of the will of God as plainly expressed in his Word. [59]

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