A promise of world unity and peace is something that can easily be scoffed at in our times. All over the world, conflict, civil unrest and corruption of society and morals, dirty the earth and pollute mankind’s’ way of life. But it is nothing new to the 21st century. Throughout history every form of government has been tried, every conceivable ideology has been implemented. But none of these examples of human endeavour has provided lasting benefit for mankind. All have failed and brought their own measure of misery. Every system of philosophy has been tested; every imaginable political scheme has been attempted. But to what end?
There is no doubt that throughout the ages there have been many men of goodwill who have entered the arena of politics or who have provided rulership either autocratic or democratic; men who have had at heart the best interests of their people and of humanity at large. But they have not achieved their intentions, and they have been relatively few in number. If this were not so, the world would be in a far better state than it is.
The problem always seems to be, despite the good intentions of a minute few, human greed, the ultimate selfishness of man, disregard for others, all of which could be labelled as the moral badness of human nature. The solution of this planet’s problems, therefore, is to nourish goodness and make that the influencing factor in the world. But what is “goodness” and how can we turn the tables on man’s deterioration and fashion a world full of “goodness”. As you are all very well aware, this afternoon’s talk is a Bible lecture, so let us now turn to God’s scriptures and see if we can find help in solving our problem. Surely in God’s word, if nowhere else, there is advise on how man can be full of goodness? Matthew 19:17 - here we read that even Jesus Christ, the Son of God, said: “Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God”. So apart from Almighty God, no one is good. We now could look at further passages (but we will later GW) that illustrate that mankind continues to flounder in a sea of problems of their own making, and is unable to achieve the happiness it so desperately needs, because it has turned its back on God, who is the only source of goodness!
Man has continued to ignore divine ways and strived to preside over himself by human laws and judgements. The history of humanity, therefore, is a record of man’s inability to govern himself and his fellow-man in a way that could lead to lasting peace and well-being for the human race. Man has failed to correctly and wisely govern; he has failed to adequately provide for the needs of the destitute; he has failed to relieve the distressed and the impoverished; he has failed to feed the hungry, clothe the needy and house the homeless; he has failed to bring peace to the nations, to establish justice and mercy in the place of tyranny and ruthless temporal power. In all areas of authority and dominion, on social, moral, political and religious issues, the history of mankind is one of abject failure and division among fellow man. Such ineffective leadership and lack of sound direction have resulted from one simple cause: Mankind’s consistent rebellion against the supremacy and sovereignty of the Supreme Being, Almighty God, who created all things “for His glory” (Psalm 72:19). The cause of world disunity is man’s own natural ways.
The prophet Jeremiah declared: “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. O LORD, correct me…” (Jeremiah 10:23). These are the words of a man dedicated to the service of his Creator. He confesses his awareness of the weakness and limitations of human nature. Men and women, he says, are not capable of directing their lives or those of their fellows, in ways of wisdom and prudence for the well-being of the race. With a similar understanding the Psalmist wrote: “The entrance of Thy Word giveth light; it giveth understanding to the simple… Order my steps in Thy Word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me… All Thy commandments are truth” (Psalm 119:130, 133, 151). True wisdom and proper direction in life can only come from a reading and understanding of God’s inspired Word, the Bible. It is only when the principles of the Scriptures are allowed to direct the heart and mind, that men and women will find real pleasure and satisfaction. But, unfortunately, very few are prepared to follow this principle. God has always understood mankind’s inability to rule themselves. The tragedy of human history is that men have not understood these things. The results have been predictable and inevitable. Individuals, families, communities, nations, lurch from one crisis to another. We live in a civilization plagued with doubts, fears, heartache, violence and lack of wise direction. World leaders are faced with an explosive and paradoxical situation. Whilst in modern times there have been unparalleled advances in science, medicine, technology and in other fields, there have also been extraordinary increases in the many forms of evil which are undermining and destroying society. What is the answer? Is there an answer?
Our world is being swept towards a holocaust of unprecedented magnitude, with corruption and depravity adding their blight to the scene. It is afflicted with so many destructive problems that rulers and politicians do not know where to begin in trying to solve the issues facing humanity. Virtually every country is touched by an ever spreading malaise. Forty thousand children die daily from preventable diseases. Famine and drought destroy millions. Diseases, in many terminal forms, are spreading among the nations. Poverty and degradation are seen on every hand. Population is out of control. The environment is continually destroyed as species after species are annihilated. And what of the moral pollution? In almost every city there is a breakdown of law and order, with citizens fearing for their well-being whilst vicious criminals receive greater consideration than their victims. Young and old destroy themselves in unprecedented numbers through drug and alcohol abuse. Every form of vice flourishes and the grossest forms of immorality are openly accepted, and even encouraged. The breakdown of family life is escalating on a scale never before witnessed. Violence stalks the streets like a hideous monster, everywhere spreading fear and terror. Many of these situations are the result of man’s inability to agree with his neighbour and live in unity. Is this the kind of world in which you wish to live? Is this the sort of society you wish to see your children and grandchildren inherit? Do not the facts show beyond doubt that mankind is in desperate need of a New World Order? In recent times politicians have spoken of such a concept, without the slightest evidence that such a utopian state will be produced for the benefit of all nations. World leaders are powerless to halt the decline of civilization or to offer any real hope for the future. Can world leaders prevent warfare and the ceaseless blood shedding that continues unabated? Or feed, house, and clothe the poor and needy of the world? Ordinary intelligent men and women know that world leaders are powerless to stop the disintegration of society.
The source of world unity is not man! Is a New World Order and a unity of all people an impossible dream then? The peoples of the world desperately need a Saviour, a Deliverer; someone to appear on the world scene who has the power, the dedication, the wisdom and the means, to right the wrongs which are inexorably forcing the nations to the brink of devastation. Because everyone who has tried to date has failed abysmally. Is there a man, or group of men, anywhere on the face of the earth with the necessary means of accomplishing all these things? To ask is to answer. There is no one. What, then, is the destiny of humanity - and, for that matter, of all life upon earth? Are things to simply continue as at present, until life becomes impossible and everything ends in a series of unavoidable catastrophes?
The answer to these questions can only be found in the wonderful book we referred to earlier, and have been referring to over the last couple of weeks - The Bible. The answer to these questions can only be found upon acceptance of the fact that there is a God - a Supreme Being who created all things in the beginning.
In the days of Moses (about 1600 B.C.) God revealed that He would establish a political kingdom upon the earth. After the Israelites had been brought out of Egypt and had come to Mount Sinai in the wilderness of Arabia, God told them: “Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people: for all the earth is Mine: And ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6). Hence, the nation of Israel became known as “God’s chosen people” (Deuteronomy 14:1-2). However, they were called to be a “holy” (meaning, to separate, be cleansed, be sanctified) people; that they were to “obey” God’s voice, and to honour their covenant with Him. These were the terms upon which they would continue to be His “kingdom.” After forty years’ wandering in the wilderness because of disobedience, they were led into the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua.
Some 600 years after their entrance into the Land, a shepherd-boy David became the second king over the nation. Almost at the time of his death, he spoke concerning his son, Solomon, who was divinely ordained to replace him as king: “Of all my sons, (for the LORD hath given me many sons), he hath chosen Solomon my son to sit upon the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel” - after which pronouncement the record states: “Then Solomon sat on the throne of the LORD as king instead of David” (I Chronicles 28:5; 29:23)
The kingdom of Israel was a theocratic kingdom; that is, a kingdom over which it was God’s intention to preside as the true king, but with a throne on which mortal men would reign upon the earth in His name. This divine intention was doomed when the people of Israel decided that they wanted all power and authority vested in a mortal ruler whom they could see, thereby rejecting God’s reign over them (I Samuel 8).
Thus the “kingdom of God” on earth failed, with disastrous results. Certainly, God was not to blame. Although defined as “the kingdom of the LORD,” it was administered by men who possessed all the weaknesses and proneness to sin which are inherent elements of human nature. This has been mankind’s state since sin entered the world through Adam and Eve. As these tendencies asserted themselves, so the influence of God and His Word waned. The people had been given every opportunity to please God and walk in His ways. Hence God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah: “As the girdle cleaveth to the loins of a man, so have I caused to cleave unto me the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah, saith the LORD; that they might be unto Me for a people, and for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory: but they would not hear… Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, we will not walk therein” (Jeremiah 13:11; 6:16)
Eventually the longsuffering of God came to an end. Understandably so. Generation after generation, Israel had rebelled against His authority. Engrossed in self-indulgence and self-gratification, they followed their own goals and ambitions, refusing to remain submissive to the wise guidance of their God. Under such circumstances, the ultimate consequences were inevitable. Having been warned consistently throughout their generations by Moses and the prophets God had raised up for that purpose, judgment eventually fell upon the kingdom of Israel. In the days when the kingdom was crumbling into ruin, the prophet Ezekiel conveyed God’s judgment to that generation: “Ye have not walked in My statutes, neither executed My judgments, but have done after the manner of the heathen that are around you.” Therefore, at that time, the glory of the LORD which had dwelt within the temple at Jerusalem “went up from the midst of the city” and departed (Ezekiel 11:12, 23). The glory, which was a sign of God’s presence (though not His person) dwelling amongst His people, has not returned. And it will not return until the second coming of the Messiah, who will restore the divine glory to Jerusalem again (Ezekiel 43:1-2). The break-away kingdom in the northern section of the Promised Land comprising ten tribes was taken away captive by the Assyrians, and their dominion destroyed (II Kings 17:5-23). The remaining two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, continued in the south for approximately another 134 years, with Jerusalem, the “city of David,” as their capital. But as their wickedness was little different from that of their brethren in the north, their kingdom was ultimately overturned and destroyed by the Babylonians (II Kings 25:1-11) - about 590 B.C. At this significant point in history, a most illuminating and critical key to Bible understanding was revealed. Speaking through the prophet Ezekiel, God told Zedekiah, the last king ever to sit upon the throne of David in Jerusalem: “Remove the diadem, and take off the crown: this [the kingdom] shall not be the same: exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high. I will overturn, overturn, overturn it [the throne of David]: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him” (Ezekiel 21:26-27). Who is this “one” who was to “come,” and “whose right” it would be to restore both the throne and the kingdom? This is a question of critical importance. And the answer to the question is vital to a correct understanding of Bible truth.
The beginning of the answer will be found in God’s words spoken in the Garden of Eden as recorded in Genesis 3:15. He promised that One would come who would be the “seed of the woman” - that is, descended from Eve the first woman - who would overcome the power of sin, thus making eternal redemption possible for humankind. The answer is further augmented in God’s promise to Abraham that his “seed” - a singular descendant - would reign supreme over all his enemies (Genesis 22:15-18; Galatians 3:16). Further, God made a third promise, this time to David. He promised David “a seed,” descended through the line of Eve and Abraham, who would also be the Son of God. This descendant would re-establish the “throne” and the “kingdom” of Israel (II Samuel 7:12-14).
The identity of this One, whose coming with power and authority has been promised by God, is obviously the key to understanding God’s grand purpose. Who is this personage who will provide redemption for humanity, and restore the kingdom of God and the throne of Israel? Who is this one who will bring blessings to “all families of the earth” (Genesis 12:1-3)? Upon examining the passages of biblical evidence which we have set before the reader, there should be little difficulty in recognising that the one who is to accomplish all this, and reign as supreme monarch over all the world, is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. An abundance of evidence supports this claim. The opening words of the New Testament direct immediate attention to this very question: “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). When tracing the Lord’s birthline back to Adam and Eve (Luke 3:23-38), the question may be asked: why, out of all the Lord’s natural forebears, should the New Testament Bible begin with direct references to David and Abraham? There can be only one answer: because of the paramount significance of God’s promises made to them, concerning the coming of the promised “seed.” True sons and daughters of God are described in the Bible as the “children of Abraham” (Galatians 3:26). Why? Because they believe the same promises as did Abraham, and manifest the same faith (Galatians 3:6-7). Thus it is stated that, in these promises, God “preached the gospel [the good news, the glad tidings of the coming kingdom and the hope of salvation] to Abraham… So then, they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham” (Galatians 3:8-9). It is then explicitly stated that the “seed” through whom all God’s promises would be fulfilled was a singular personage, none other than the Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:16). The apostle Paul refers directly to God’s promise to David (II Samuel 7:10-16) in his letter to the Romans: “His [God’s] Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh…” (Romans 1:3). Peter leaves no room for doubt on this matter. On the Day of Pentecost, after Christ’s resurrection from the grave and ascension into heaven, thus fulfilling Psalm 110:1, Peter preached the gospel to the Jews: “Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He, seeing this before, spake of the resurrection of Christ…” (Acts 2:29-31). We have already referred to the prophecy of Ezekiel concerning the “overturning” of the kingdom of Israel - also termed “the kingdom of God” - in which it is foretold that it would remain in a state of ruin, “until” the coming of the “one” whose “right” it would be to re-establish the kingdom and to reign over mankind (Ezekiel 21:25-27). The Gospel of Luke identifies this personage beyond doubt. In announcing to Mary that she would give birth to the Son of God, the angel said: “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 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 for ever: and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:30-33).
The apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ who had followed him faithfully during the course of his ministry, understood that they would be rewarded for their faithfulness. But in what way? Peter was the one who put their question into words: “Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee. What shall we have therefore?” The Lord gave a clear and unequivocal answer: “Ye which have followed me, 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 19:27-28). The word rendered “regeneration” is most interesting. The Greek, palingenesia, is derived from palin, meaning “again,” and genesis, which means “birth” or “beginning.” The word therefore speaks of the re-birth or reconstitution of the kingdom of Israel, which is the kingdom of God, with Christ reigning upon the throne of his father David (Luke 1:32-33). A word with a similar meaning occurs in the book of Acts. Peter speaks of “the times of refreshing” that “shall come from the presence of the Lord; and He shall send Jesus Christ… whom the heavens must receive (Psalm 110:1, Acts 2:32-33) until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets” (Acts 3:19-21). The word “restitution” is from the Greek apokatastasis, derived from apo, “back, again,” and kathistemi “to set in order;” therefore, literally, “to set in order again,” and thus to completely restore. Obviously, Peter was referring to “the kingdom” which is to be re-established, with the throne in “Jerusalem… as in the days of old” (Malachi 3:4).
This concept of the restoration of the kingdom of Israel, together with the re-establishment of David’s throne, was a vital element of the gospel preached by Christ. The early verses of Acts of the Apostles contain a brief account of the Lord’s appearance among his disciples after his resurrection. He “showed himself alive” as he walked in their midst for “forty days” before his ascension to the right hand of his Father (Psalm 110:1). During this time, the Lord Jesus spoke to his disciples regarding “things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). It may well be argued that if, after these discussions - to say nothing of the three and one half years he had spent teaching them before his crucifixion - they did not now fully understand what the Lord meant by “the kingdom of God,” surely they never would! Hence, in their final conversation, the question they posed to him is very plain: “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6-7). In replying, the Lord did not tell them they had failed to understand his teaching on the subject of “the kingdom,” and that “the kingdom of Israel” was long gone, never to be restored. On the contrary, he said: “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power” (Acts 1:6-7). This is another way of saying: “You are not in error in speaking of the restoration of the kingdom to Israel, but only God knows when that time will come.”
On numerous occasions in the gospel narratives, Jesus spoke of his return to earth and of his ascension to power, and the Bible contains more than two hundred references to the second coming of Christ. Most are plain, simple to understand and certainly unambiguous: “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Could anything be clearer?
When instructing his disciples in the principles of prayer, the Lord Jesus taught them to pray to their heavenly Father: “Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). The Lord Jesus did not believe that a kingdom of God existed in his own times; he looked for a kingdom to “come” at some time in the future. Christ’s hope may be summarised in words God addressed to Moses: “Truly, I live! All the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD” (Numbers 14:21). It should be noted that, as with the “Lord’s prayer,” the full emphasis of this declaration is that God will be glorified in the earth, at a time in the future when His Word will be respected and obeyed by mankind - the world will live in unity!
This is God’s purpose with the earth. He will surely bring it to pass. Evil men, pursuing their own goals and ambitions, driven by greed and a lust for power, will not be permitted to frustrate God’s Great Master Plan for the earth.
Christ will confront the nations at his return. They will acknowledge his presence, his power, and his authority.
At the same time he will “destroy them which destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:18), thereby removing all human authority and opposing power worldwide. The prophet Jeremiah foretold this coming conflict. “The LORD shall roar from on high, and utter His voice from His holy habitation… He shall give a shout as they that tread the grapes, against all the inhabitants of the earth. A noise shall come even to the ends of the earth, for the LORD hath a controversy with the nations, He will plead with all flesh; He will give them that are wicked to the sword, saith the LORD…A great whirlwind shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth. And the slain of the LORD shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth” (Jeremiah 25:30-33). This prophecy has never been fulfilled. Yet, prophetic signs in the Word of God warn that the second coming of Christ is near, and therefore the time for the fulfilment of these prophecies is imminent.
One of the most beautiful and dramatic accounts of Christ’s future reign on earth is to be found in Psalm 72. Look at the wonderful message of this Psalm. Each verse reveals a marvellous aspect of Christ’s coming reign on the earth. Notice the sequence of events:
- v. 1. God’s royal king to receive his throne.
- v. 2. The wise judgments of the king.
- v. 3. His just and righteous government.
- v. 4. His concern for the needy; the destruction of tyrants.
- v. 5. The king to be held in reverence by all.
- v. 6. His reign will bring refreshment, fertility and fruitfulness.
- v. 7. Righteousness will prevail, and lasting peace established.
- v. 8. He will have worldwide dominion.
- v. 9. His enemies will repent and respond to him.
- v. 10. Other rulers will bow to his authority and power.
- v. 11. All rulers will resign their offices in favour of his government.
- v. 12. He will make provision for all the needy.
- v. 13. He will care for the underprivileged and dis-advantaged.
- v. 14. He will protect the weak.
- v. 15. He will be a King-priest and a Mediator.
- v. 16. The earth shall prosper; none will suffer hunger.
- v. 17. All nations will acknowledge him and praise him.
- v. 18. Praise will resound to God throughout the world.
- v. 19. God’s name and glory will be recognised and He will be worshipped.
This remarkable, prophetic Psalm demonstrates quite clearly what is to occur at the return of the Lord Jesus Christ - a kingdom of blessing, peace & unity. Daniel 7:27; Luke 13:28-29; 1 Cor. 15:50; Zech.14:16, 8:20-23; Micah 4:1-5.
Although the Lord Jesus Christ will reign as Supreme Monarch over all the earth, he will not reign alone. Matthew 19:28 records that the Lord promised his twelve apostles that they would sit upon thrones, each of them ruling over one of the reunited tribes of a restored and rejuvenated Israel. The prophet Isaiah foretold: “A king shall reign in righteousness and princes shall rule in judgment” (Isaiah 32:1). The Lord Jesus addressed words of comfort and hope to all who would serve him “in spirit and in truth”; for in quoting from Psalm 2 (referred to earlier), he told his faithful servants: “He that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron” (Revelation 2:26-27).
All who have learned the true message of God’s Word, and who rejoice in the coming fulfilment of all He has promised, understand that they have been offered positions of great honour in the coming kingdom of God upon this earth, together with the priceless gift of divine nature - the same deathless nature which God possesses! At Christ’s return they will unite their voices in praise and thanksgiving: “Thou hast made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth!” (Revelation 5:10).
God constantly told the people of Israel what they should do to receive His eternal blessing, a direction which they constantly ignored: “This is the way, walk ye in it… Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein” (Isaiah 30:21; Jeremiah 6:16). The human constitution is naturally rebellious towards the will of God: “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 16:25).
Where is the logic in rejecting the Word of God? Men have done so for centuries and observe the resulting corrupt world in which we live. The Bible has been imparted for our well-being, so to repudiate or exclude God from our lives is to manifest a disposition that will lead to eternal oblivion in the grave.
What do we desire? Short-term fascicle pleasure by running along with the rest of mankind and its sinful ways, ending only in unhappiness, death and oblivion? Or, world unity and a life in the glorious kingdom of God, where goodness, happiness and peace will abound?