Copyright © Tim Warner
The Ancient Hope of the Saints
The coming of the physical Kingdom of God to earth was the universal hope of the saints since the beginning, even before Israel was a nation. Even the oldest book in the Bible speaks of this hope. Job, who even predated Abraham, expected to be raised from the dead to witness the reign of Christ on earth.
25 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
27 Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me. (KJV)
Long before the prophets wrote of the coming of God’s Kingdom, King David showed that the Jewish people were already well acquainted with this hope. He wrote plainly, in Psalm two, of Christ’s overthrowing the kingdoms of this world and establishing His Kingdom, with the “Son” ruling the nations “with a rod of iron” from Jerusalem. Other Psalms speak with equal clarity of the coming Kingdom, and its role as the inheritance of the saints.
9 For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth….
18 The Lord knoweth the ways of the upright: and their inheritance shall be forever….
22 For such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth; and they that be cursed of him shall be cut off….
28 For the Lord loveth judgement, and forsaketh not his saints, they are preserved forever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.
29 The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein forever….
34 Wait on the Lord, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land, when the wicked are cut off thou shalt see it.
David was not speaking here of the Jews inheriting the promised land. They were already occupying the land of Israel. He said the righteous will inherit “the earth.”
How can we account for this familiarity with the Kingdom hope by Job and David? Apparently it was passed down through oral tradition from generation to generation. Later it was more fully developed by the Prophets.
The Davidic Covenant
David was not Israel’s first king. But he was the only King of Israel of which it was said that he was “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22). David was chosen by God Himself, through the prophet Samuel, and anointed King of Israel. The term “anointed” refers to a ceremony whereby the King was consecrated to the Lord. It symbolized that this was the one chosen by God. David’s anointing is described in 1 Samuel 16:13. From that time on, David was referred to as the Lord’s “Anointed.”
The term “anointed” in Hebrew is “Messiah.” In Aramaic, it is “Messias.” In Greek it is “Christos.” When translated into English it is “Christ.” This is important to understand because the promises in the Gospels that are claimed for Jesus are the promises from the Old Testament of the “Anointed,” or the “Christ.” Christ in the New Testament refers to the promised King of Israel, the one God promised to David in a covenant. God made a covenant with David that one from his seed would sit upon the Throne of Israel, and rule forever (2 Samuel 23:1-5, Psalm 89:1-4, Psalm 89:27-37). “His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah.” (Psalm 89:36-37).
The promised “Anointed one” of the seed of David, who would sit upon the “Throne of David” is further revealed in Isaiah. “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:6-7). This is clearly a prophesy of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Yet, He is clearly identified as the one to fulfill the promise to David, that one of his descendants would sit upon his throne and rule the nation of Israel forever. This is why the Jews anticipated the coming of “the Christ” (the Anointed King of Israel) who would sit upon the Throne of David, and rule forever.
Some have supposed that the “Throne of David” is some kind of cosmic kingship of Jesus, based solely on a few New Testament passages taken out of context. Yet, the term is used exclusively of Israel’s kings, from the line of David, as a quick survey of its old Testament usage demonstrates, (cf. 2 Samuel 3:10, 1 Kings 2:12,24,45, Jeremiah 17:25, Jeremiah 22:2,4,30, Jeremiah 29:16, Jeremiah 36:30). Therefore, when Isaiah prophesied that the child born to Israel would “sit upon the Throne of His father David, and of His Kingdom there will be no end,” he referred to the political Kingdom of Israel. That is, the promised “Anointed” One would literally be the Everlasting King of the nation of Israel. The coming Kingdom, then, is inherently linked to the coming of the “Anointed,” the “Christ.” In fact, the term “Christ” as used of Jesus is used exclusively in reference to His being the anointed King of Israel destined to sit upon the Throne of David, and rule in His Kingdom forever. (More on this in the next article).
The Destiny of the Redeemed According to the Prophets
The central theme of most of Israel’s prophets was the coming Kingdom. Isaiah contains several prophecies of the Kingdom. Chapter 2 begins with the following words:
2 Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.
3 Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; he will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4 He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; 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 anymore. (NKJ)
Other chapters in Isaiah deal with this as well, such as Isaiah 25-26, Isaiah 34, and Isaiah 65-66. Notable passages in the other Prophets dealing with the coming Kingdom are Ezekiel 40-48, Joel 3, Zechariah 14, and Malachi 4.
Most of these passages have been allegorized by those who deny a future literal Kingdom of God on earth after the second coming. However, we believe that denying the plain sense of the text without any obvious indication in the context that God was speaking in a non-literal sense, is to deny the Word of God.
What makes some of these passages impossible to explain away with allegory are the clear references to known geography and landmarks in the coming Kingdom. A case in point is Ezekiel’s prophecy of the future healing of the Dead Sea, with great fishing coming from what is today a lifeless body. According to Ezekiel, a spring of healing water will flow down from the Temple mount, creating a river that will empty into the Dead Sea. These waters will “heal” the Dead Sea.
8 Then he said to me: “This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed.
9 “And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes.
10 “It shall be that fishermen will stand by it from En Gedi to En Eglaim; they will be places for spreading their nets. Their fish will be of the same kinds as the fish of the Great Sea, exceedingly many. (NKJ)
One cannot allegorize this passage and remain faithful to sound rules of biblical interpretation. Specific future fishing spots at known locations are mentioned. The fish to be caught in the Dead Sea are just like what was at that time being caught in the “Great Sea” (Mediterranean Sea). There are other similar passages that prophesy physical changes to the landscape, including the splitting of the Mount of Olives with a great valley created from this catastrophic event (Zechariah 14:1-9). The physical changes to the geography make it impossible to apply such passages to so called “spiritual” truths at the expense of the literal meaning of the words.
Probably the clearest prophecies of the coming Kingdom are found in Daniel. The terms, “Kingdom of God” and “Kingdom of Heaven” found in the Gospels originated with Daniel’s prophecy of the coming Kingdom.
44 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 for ever. (KJV)
The redeemed (saints) will inherit this Kingdom on earth as an everlasting possession.
13 “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.
14 Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.
18 ‘But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.’
27 Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.’
Another passage that proves this view beyond doubt is Zechariah 14. This passage begins by announcing “The Day of the Lord.” It describes the second coming of Christ and His saints to earth, to the Mount of Olives, destroying the armies gathered against Him (vs. 2-3). After this, “the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be–” The LORD is one,” and His name one.” (v. 9). This passage is crystal clear that the physical Kingdom comes to earth at the second coming of Christ to earth. What’s more, it continues by describing physical changes that will occur at that time to the known landscape. “All the land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be raised up and inhabited in her place from Benjamin’s Gate to the place of the First Gate and the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananeel to the king’s winepresses. The people shall dwell in it; and no longer shall there be utter destruction, but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited” (vss. 10-11). There is no way for amillennialists to explain away the fact that the earth continues under the direct rule of Christ after the second coming.
The Old Testament ends with the following prophecy to the saints of Israel:
16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who meditate on His name.
17 “They shall be Mine,” says the LORD of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.”
18 Then you shall again discern between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.
4:1 “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” says the LORD of hosts, “That will leave them neither root nor branch.
2 But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves.
3 You shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this,” says the LORD of hosts. (NKJ)
The Hope of the Resurrection
The idea of the resurrection of the body at the time the Kingdom of God is established on earth is clearly taught in the Old Testament. Job was the first to mention it. The passage we cited at the beginning of this article included the hope of the resurrection, and that Job would see God stand upon the earth with his own eyes even after his flesh is consumed (Job 19:25-27). The resurrection is further described in graphic detail in another Kingdom passage, Isaiah 26:19. Daniel also described the resurrection of the body in order to inherit their possession in the Kingdom on the earth (Dan. 12:1-2). The whole point of a “resurrection” of the flesh of believers is to partake in a physical inheritance, the Kingdom of God. If the future inheritance is something apart from God’s physical creation, then there is no point to resurrecting the flesh bodies of believers that have come from God’s physical creation. For this reason, those who opposed the biblical idea of a future literal Kingdom on earth, and the restoration of the Creation, also denied the resurrection of the body. The mere fact of the promised resurrection of the body argues strongly for the physical Kingdom of God within this restored creation after the resurrection.
The “blessed hope” of the righteous throughout the entire Old Testament was the coming of the Kingdom of God to earth, and the restoration of all things, and the resurrection of the righteous dead. It was the promised coming of “the Christ” (Anointed King of Israel from the seed of David) who would rule the nations from Jerusalem, seated upon the Throne of David. The Old Testament consistently presents this hope to the people of God. As we will see in the next article, this promise is the central theme of the Gospel accounts of the nativity of Jesus Christ.