Prof. Johan Malan, Middelburg, South Africa
The disciples who recognised Jesus as Messiah and King during His first coming were not aware of the dispensation of world evangelism that would follow after His rejection by Israel. During the proclaiming of the gospel among all nations, the kingdom of heaven would function in a hidden form on earth while Israel would be dispersed among the Gentiles and the throne of David still fallen down. The disciples expected Jesus to restore the throne of David during His first coming and to rule in the re-established kingdom of Israel: “Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom of Israel? And He said to them, It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:6-8; cf. Luke 24:46-49).
The Lord Jesus did not deny that He would restore the kingdom of Israel but indicated that the time for that had not yet come. First, a world that is spiritually dark due to unbelief and the practising of heathen religions should be evangelised. The proclaiming of the saving grace of Jesus as Messiah among all nations is in accordance with a prophecy in Isaiah: “And now the Lord says, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel is gathered to Him (for I shall be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength), indeed He says, It is too small a thing that You should be my Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be my salvation to the ends of the earth” (Isa. 49:5-6). In Acts 13:46-48, Paul refers to the same prophecy as the biblical mandate for his mission to the Gentiles.
After proclaiming the New Testament message that Jesus is the only Messiah and Saviour of Israel and the nations, thereby building up His spiritual kingdom on earth, He will return as King to publicly reveal His kingdom. Jerusalem will be the seat of His government and His rule will extend to the ends of the earth. But that cannot happen before the world has been evangelised, the enemies of His kingdom destroyed, Satan bound in a bottomless pit, and the King of kings has returned to the world.
Jesus also refuted the expectation of His immediate enthronement in Israel’s kingdom in a parable by explaining that He would only return as King after a time of absence, during which His servants were to act as the stewards of His kingdom on earth:
“Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately. Therefore He said: A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, Do business till I come. But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us. And so it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. Then came the first, saying, Master, your mina has earned ten minas. And he said to him, Well done, good servant, because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities... But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me” (Luke 19:11-17,27).
The sequence of events is very clear: first, the man of royal descent appoints his servants to look after his interests during his absence. He also supplies to them the means to do this work. Thereafter, he leaves for a far country where he assumes his royal status as King. When he returns, his first appointment is with his servants, who are appointed as co-rulers in his kingdom. After they have received their rewards he turns to his enemies to judge and destroy them.
This parable, in the first place, alluded to Herod Archelaus who succeeded his father, Herod the Great, as king of Judea and ruled there for ten years after his father’s death. After the birth of Jesus, Herod the Great ordered the killing of all the male children in Bethlehem and surrounding districts, from two years old and under (Matt. 2:16). He did this because the wise men from the East spoke about the birth of a King in Israel (Matt. 2:1-2), and Herod regarded it as a threat to his dynasty. He died shortly after the massacre of the children and his empire was divided among three of his sons – Herod Archelaus became king of Judea, Herod Antipas was appointed tetrarch in Galilee, and Herod Philip tetrarch of Iturea.
Caesar Augustus ratified the will of Herod the Great in Rome. He did that in spite of the pleas of a Jewish deputation that was sent to Rome to object against the appointment of Herod Archelaus as king because of his severe cruelty: “His citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14). After his return, Archelaus had all the men killed who rebelled against him by opposing his appointment as king of Judea.
Matthew 2:19-23 confirms the fact that Archelaus was a much feared man. That is the reason why Joseph and Mary did not settle in Judea with the Child, Jesus, after returning from Egypt, but went to Galilee: “When [Joseph] heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene” (Matt. 2:22-23).
In this parable, based upon well-known events in their recent history, Jesus explained to the Jews that Herod’s son, Archelaus, was not the true king of the Jews who was prophetically destined to rule over Jerusalem in the kingdom of God. The true King, who was also rejected by the Jews, is Jesus Himself. He is the Nobleman who was born in humble circumstances in Bethlehem and laid down in a manger: “But you, Bethlehem Ephratah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be ruler in Israel, whose going forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Mic. 5:2).
Jesus did not rule as king during His first coming. In the parable, He indicated that He was the Nobleman who would go to a far country to receive His kingship. Archelaus travelled to Italy where his status was reduced from king to governor. His reign was also short-lived. The journey of Jesus to a far country alluded to His Ascension. In heaven, after having finished His atoning work as the suffering Servant who died for the sins of lost humanity, Jesus was exalted to the position of King and given a name which is above every name (Phil. 2:8-11).
When He returns from that far country (heaven) He will appear as King in power and majesty. His coming will be announced by the sounding of a trumpet: “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever!” (Rev. 11:15). The Messiah will set foot on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem and restore the throne of David: “I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen down. I will rebuild its ruins and I will set it up, so that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the Lord who does all these things” (Acts 15:16-17).
During the physical absence of the Lord Jesus between His first coming as a humble Servant and His second coming as reigning King, His disciples are commissioned to expand His hidden kingdom to the ends of the earth. He gave them the power of the Holy Spirit for the execution of this great task (Acts 1:8).
In the parable, Christ says that before His Ascension He would call His disciples and give each of them a mina together with the instruction, “Do business till I come.”
The mina does not refer to salvation but to a divine capacity for work. The servants already belong to their Master – He bought them with His blood and now appoints them to active service in His kingdom. He would give them the power of the Holy Spirit without which they would not be able to do the very demanding work assigned to them.
All disciples should realise that they have a definite mission as witnesses of Christ. He said, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21; cf. Matt. 28:19-20). No disciple can fulfil his or her calling in a hostile world without being endued with power from on high (Luke 24:49).
When the King returns, His first appointment will be with His servants. They will appear before His Judgement Seat to give account of the work that has been assigned to them (2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:12). Rewards will be given to the faithful ones. Jesus said, “Behold, I come quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to everyone according to his work” (Rev. 22:12). Part of the reward to faithful disciples will be their appointment as co-rulers with Christ in His kingdom on earth.
After the King has rewarded His disciples He will judge those who rejected Him as King: “Bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me” (Luke 19:27). According to Revelation 19:21, the enemies of Christ will be killed with the sword that proceeds from His mouth. He will only utter a word that will cause their sudden destruction.
The faithful disciples of Christ can look forward to His sudden coming for them, when they will be caught up to heaven to appear before His judgement seat (1 Thess. 4:16-17; 2 Cor. 5:10). However, a different future awaits the Jewish people who still, as a nation, reject Jesus as King and Messiah. They will only accept the Messiah at the end of the tribulation period as they will have to pass through this time of severe distress to be tested and purified. Jeremiah says, “It is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it” (Jer. 30:7). The same fate awaits the unsaved Gentiles.
During His first coming, the Messiah warned Israel against the false messiah and his collaborators who will offer themselves to Israel in the end-time: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, saying, I am the Christ [Messiah] and will deceive many... For false christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. Therefore if they say to you, Look, he is in the desert! do not go out; or Look, he is in the inner rooms! do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matt. 24:4-5, 24-27).
“Every eye will see Him, and they also who pierced Him” (Rev. 1:7). Those who pierced Christ are the Jewish people who surrendered Him to be crucified. “In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east” (Zech. 14:4). The whole Israel will then be saved and gathered under the banner of the Messiah (Zech. 12:10). A remnant of the nations will also be saved at that time (Matt. 24:30).
However, before the Messiah comes, Israel and the unsaved nations will make the mistake of accepting a messiah that comes in another way and offers a deceptive peace to them. Jesus warned them against this fatal mistake: “I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive” (John 5:43). The Antichrist will unite Israel and all other nations in a false world religion under his personal leadership. Those who refuse to join in will be severely persecuted and killed (Rev. 13:15).
The false messiah will establish a kingdom on earth in an effort to prevent the revelation of God’s kingdom under the true Messiah. The Antichrist will wield great powers during his reign of seven years. John says, “He was given authority over every tribe, tongue and nation” (Rev. 13:7). He will enjoy a world-wide following of people who will also worship him: “And all the world marvelled and followed the beast... and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?” (Rev. 13:3-4).
It is well known in the kingdom of Satan that Jesus Christ will return to earth, accompanied by His saints and a heavenly army, and that He will set foot on the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:4-5; Rev. 19:19). That will be the major reason for a world-wide mobilisation of military forces, so the Antichrist can try to defend his satanic world empire against the coming of Christ and the establishment of His heavenly kingdom (Rev. 16:13,14,16).
John says, “And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshipped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh. Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished” (Rev. 19:19–20:3). Only then will the kingdom God be visibly revealed on earth.
At present, the world is put before a choice to either accept the new world order and emerging kingdom of the Antichrist or to resist the philosophy of this deceiver while expecting the coming of the true King from heaven, who will destroy the Antichrist and establish His own kingdom on earth. All of us have a choice between these two kingdoms. They are completely incompatible and the one can only be advanced at the expense of the other. Christians can never accept the Antichrist’s multireligious approach since no compromise is possible between Christianity and any of the other religions. Jesus is the only way to heaven. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
His kingdom is in no way associated with the present wicked world which lies in the sway of the devil, and is committed to calling people to pass from darkness into the marvellous light of Christ (cf. 1 Pet. 2:9). In this way, the Lord Jesus builds for Himself a kingdom which will soon be revealed in glory when He comes to destroy His enemies who reject His kingdom, and reward His servants who worked for the extension of His kingdom.
John says, “Your wrath has come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that You should reward your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear your name, small and great, and should destroy those who destroy the earth” (Rev. 11:18). Long ago, Isaiah has also prophesied about the coming of this great King: “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together... Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand, and his arm shall rule for Him; behold his reward is with Him” (Isa. 40:5,10).
All people on earth are divided into only two groups – the servants of the Lord who belong to Him, work for Him and will rule with Him, and the enemies of the Lord who are working against His kingdom and will be destroyed by Him. The enemies of God are usurping more and more power in their efforts to take over and rule the world. They will enjoy a short time of false peace under the rule of the universal messiah of all faiths, but will soon share his eternal fate with him. Their doom is described as follows in Revelation:
“If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. And he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends for ever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name” (Rev. 14:9-11).
All Christians should resist the emerging new world order because it is hostile towards Christianity. We should be prepared to suffer now if we wish to be glorified with Christ in His kingdom: “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us” (2 Tim. 2:12). Do not follow the example of the wicked servant who put away his mina and did not use it. Take a stand for the Lord Jesus and offer yourself to work for Him. Are you a faithful servant?
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. But if that evil servant says in his heart, My master is delaying his coming, and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites” (Matt. 24:45-51).
“Therefore... let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2). Don’t lose your focus on the things of His everlasting kingdom. Persevere to the end on the way of the Lord!