3. What the Lord Says About the Condition of His Church on Earth
The churches of Christ Greet You (Romans )
Since the millenarians teach a thousand year period of peace and joy for the church under the reign of Christ on earth before the great Judgment Day, we ask: What does the Lord tell us about the condition of His Church on earth?
first place the Lord denies that His church on earth is a worldly, or
earthly, kingdom; for He says: "My kingdom is not of this world," and
describes it as a kingdom of truth, saying: "Every one
that is of the truth heareth my voice" (John -37).
He declares His kingdom
to be of a spiritual nature.
He told Nicodemus; "Except a man be born of water and the
Spirit, he cannot enter into the
The Members of This Kingdom Are Cross-Bearers
Not only to the apostles but to all Christians our Lord said: "In the world ye shall have tribulation" (John 16:33) and: "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me" (Matt. 16:24; Luke 9:23); and by the mouth of Paul: "...We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). Christians will not enter the realm of eternal glory unless in this life they have "suffered with Christ" (Rom. ). "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Tim. ). Read also Romans 8:29‑39 and Matthew 10:34‑36. From these passages it is clear that Christians must abandon all hope for earthly glory and peace.
No Better Conditions Promised towards End of World
The nearer the end of the world approaches the worse it will be. The Lord asked: "When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8; cf. 2 Tim. 3:1‑7). Of “the days of the Son of Man,” that is, of the entire New Testament era, the whole time of the Messianic kingdom on earth up to His coming to Judgment, the Lord says: "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation" (marginal note: not with outward show, Luke 17:20). "Ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it. And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after them nor follow them. For as the lightning that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven, so shall also the Son of man be in His day," that is, when He comes to judge the world (Luke 17:22‑24). In vv, 26‑37 and in Matthew 24:23‑29 Jesus tells us in very plain words what awful conditions will obtain in the world in the last days. Not even a trace of a glorious millennium for His Church on earth can be found in all the sayings of the Lord regarding the fate and condition of His kingdom on earth.
These are but a few of the great number of
describing the state, or condition, of the
But does not God say that the kingdom of the Messiah shall be a kingdom of peace and bring peace to the world? He does indeed. But let us inquire and investigate what kind of peace God has promised and when this era of peace is to begin. Our Savior Jesus Christ is called "the Prince of Peace; of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end" (Isa. 9:6-7). Under the scepter of this Son of David ("the King's Son"), "the mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness" (Psa. 72:1‑3). He Himself is therefore called "our Peace, who hath made both [Jews and Gentiles, John 10:16] one and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances, for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace, and that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby, and came and preached peace" (Eph. 2:14‑17; cf. Acts 10:36; Col. 1:20‑22).
According to these plain words of Scripture the peace which our Lord has earned for us is of a spiritual nature. When He as the Lamb of God sacrificed Himself, He broke down the partition wall not only between Jews and Gentiles but also between God and man; yes, "He made peace through the blood of His cross" between God and man and established the everlasting "covenant of peace." God is no longer our enemy; peace has been established “by righteousness,” the righteousness which Christ has merited for the whole world (Psa. 72:3; Isa. 53:4-5). This "peace on earth" was proclaimed already by the angels at the birth of the Peacemaker (Luke -14).
Of this peace the Lord says to His church: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I
give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you"; that is,
peace is not a worldly peace. But if you do not meet with peace but
hatred on the part of the world, He adds: "Let
not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27;
John 15:18-20). The sinner partakes of and enjoys this peace when he
justified by faith in his Savior (
No Kingdom of Glory This Side of Heaven
Regarding the glorification of the believers God tells us by the apostle Paul: "Your life is hid with Christ in God; [but] when Christ, our Life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory" (Col. 3:3). "For our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body" (Phil. 3:20-21). But this shall be brought to pass, not before but at, the visible advent of Christ, on Judgment Day; for "we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [precede] them which are asleep" (1 Thess. 4:15‑17). Later, Lord willing, we shall show that Paul in this passage refers to Judgment Day (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:23, 26, 54‑57; Matthew 25:31‑46).
In accordance with these plain and simple statements we are bound to interpret and understand those highly poetic and picturesque descriptions of the Messianic kingdom which we find with the holy prophets of old. "No Prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation" (2 Pet. 1:20), but the Holy Spirit is His own Interpreter; and what He says in poetic and figurative expressions He Himself explains at other places by using plain and simple language.
Thus, for example, in Isaiah 11 we have a picturesque description of the Messiah and His kingdom. The Messiah is presented as the “Rod out of the stem of Jesse and a Branch... out of his roots. . . . With [His] righteousness shall He judge the poor [the poor in spirit, the penitent] and reprove [argue] with equity for the meek of the earth; and He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked” (vv. 1, 4). Every reader must admit that this is figurative language. Therefore certainly also the following: "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb . . . . and the lion shall eat straw like the ox . . . . They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord. . . . And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek. . . . And it shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people, which shall be left, from Assyria and from Egypt," etc. (vv. 6‑11).
Since we have here a description of Christ's kingdom which is not composed of beasts, wolves, serpents, lions, etc., but of men, we must understand that "in all My [God's] holy mountain," that is, in the church of Christ ("Zion"), the peace that is to reign is of such a nature that those people who formerly were like ravenous wolves, bloodthirsty lions, and insidious adders will by the grace of God put off their old nature, cease to harm one another, and peacefully dwell together as the lambs of Christ and feed on the green pasture of the Gospel.
Of this change of nature Paul speaks in plain words (2 Cor. ), "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." Not only the furious persecutor Saul who became the Gospel‑preaching, soul‑seeking Paul is an example (1 Tim. ), but the entire history of Christian missions abounds with such examples.
The remaining part of this prophetic description (Isaiah 11:11-16) is a promise that the Lord will gather His sheep from the Gentiles and that also the remnant of Israel will by the help of the Gentiles be brought to His flock. This brings us to the next question: “What does the Lord Say about the Conversion of All Israel?”