by J. C. Philpot
The FUTURE extent of this Mediatorial reign.
Now, at the very outset, we express our firm belief that this will be beyond all that has been ever witnessed, or seen, or known. To assert, as some are now asserting, that this present is the millennial dispensation, and that we are to have no other, is one of those wild, heady, unscriptural declarations which may be well expected from men who deny the true and proper Sonship of our adorable Lord. Can nothing content them but to strip Jesus of his "many crowns?" (Rev. 19:12.) First, they rob him of his dearest and eternal crown—that he is "the Son of the Father in truth and love," and now they will strike another from his head, and will not allow that all nations shall call him blessed, or the whole earth be filled with his glory.
That Christ shall reign to an extent hitherto unknown is so clearly revealed in the word of truth that, to our mind, nothing but the most obstinate unbelief or inveterate prejudice can deny it. Whether this reign is to be a personal or a spiritual reign we shall not discuss. It has been the subject of much controversy, and our object is not to discuss vexed questions, but to bring forth out of a believing heart that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to our readers. But we cannot pass the subject by without expressing two convictions, founded, we trust, on the word of truth, as far as it has been opened up to our spiritual understanding:
1. That the reign of Jesus will be from sea to sea and from shore to shore; and 2, that this reign, whether personal or spiritual, will be in full accordance with every gospel doctrine, every heavenly truth, and every part of living experience. We have no idea of a carnal kingdom, or any sympathy with those who by their sensual views of Christ's future reign have done so much to prejudice the minds of God's family against it. Man must ever be what he now is, a poor, fallen, sinful creature, whom the blood of Christ alone can save and the Spirit of Christ alone regenerate. What the blessed Spirit can do, when poured abundantly out, was seen on the day of Pentecost. No carnal paradise, no earthly delights, no worldly thrones or scepters, no rivers of literal milk and honey, no amount of wheat, or wine, or oil, no abundance of the young of the flock and of the herd can satisfy the souls of those, whether few or many, now or hereafter, who come and sing in the height of Zion and flow together to the goodness of the Lord. Unless their soul be as a watered garden, watered with the blood and love of the Lamb, God's people would not, could not be satisfied with his goodness. (Jer. 31:12, 13, 14.) There will be an abundance of earthly peace and temporal prosperity in those happy days when men shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks; when "nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more;" but if all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord it can be no other glory than that seen by the saints now—"For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Cor. 4:6.) This must be a spiritual glory, according to the Apostle's testimony—"But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Cor. 3:18.)
But while we believe that there will be a display of the future glory of Christ's Mediatorial kingdom such as earth has never yet witnessed, but which all the prophets have foretold in their highest strains, and as with one harmonious voice, yet would we guard ourselves strictly against forecasting either the time or the manner of its accomplishment. When the disciples asked their risen Master, "Lord, will you at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" what was his answer? "And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in his own power." (Acts 1:7.) He did not say that the kingdom should never be restored to Israel, but he checked their inquisitive spirit into God's sovereign disposal of the times and seasons, and bade them, by implication, not indulge in vain dreams of an earthly kingdom in which they should hold power and authority; but directed their faith to the promised gift of the Holy Spirit and their own personal witness of him—a witness in faith and suffering, unto the uttermost part of the earth. No one thing has cast more contempt on the prophecies of the Scriptures, than the innumerable rash attempts to settle dates and times for their fulfillment; for when these anticipated dates have been falsified by the events not then taking place, occasion has been taken from these mistakes to throw discredit on the prophecies themselves. We dare not, therefore, fix any date or time for the fulfillment of any one unfulfilled prediction.
Nor, again, do we venture to entertain in our own mind any idea of the manner in which the Lord will accomplish what he has promised. But this we will say, that we have no faith in missionary exertions, at least as at present exercised; or any hope that by huge mixed Societies of believer and unbeliever, or any cumbrous, worldly apparatus of subscriptions and donations, patrons, presidents, secretaries, and deputations, or by what are called revivals, or united prayer-meetings, or any similar means, the glory of the Son of God will be made to shine upon earth. No. The Lord will take his own way as well as his own time. No arm of flesh shall put the crown on his head, as no arm of flesh can take it off. Whatever attempts man may make, until "the Spirit be poured upon us from on high," the wilderness will not be a fruitful field. But when he sets his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, then his own way will be at once the mightiest, wisest, and best; and when accomplished, the whole fulfillment of his eternal promises to glorify his dear Son will be not only in the strictest accordance with the word of grace, but in harmony with every glorious perfection of a triune God.
We know by painful experience how unbelief and infidelity fight against this testimony of God to the manifest glory of his dear Son on earth. When, then, we feel so much unbelief within, can we wonder that in these last days there should be "scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." (2 Pet. 3:3, 4.) Fixing the eye of sense on visible objects, and seeing "all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation," men naturally resist the declarations of God in his word, that there shall be "new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness;" and where they cannot and do not openly deny "the testimony of Jesus" which is the very "spirit of prophecy," they so qualify and explain away the express language of the Holy Spirit, as to amount to a virtual denial of his kingdom and glory beyond its present manifestation.
No heart is naturally more unbelieving than that which beats in our bosom; but we cannot and dare not resist the testimony of God, which forces itself, as it were, upon us more and more as we examine the sacred page. When, for instance, we read such a testimony as this—"The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea," (Isa. 11:9,) we ask ourselves, "Are these the words of him that cannot lie?" Surely they are; for they are in the book of God. But are they fulfilled? Is the earth, at the present moment, as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea? How do the waters cover the sea—partially or fully? Who can say that the knowledge of the Lord, that knowledge of which Jesus says it is "eternal life," (John 17:3,) fully covers England, or one town, or one house, or one whole family in it? We must either, then, believe in the future fulfillment of such a promise, or deny that God means what he says. See, then, how the case stands, a case that has often tried us to the very quick. The submission of faith, or the denial of unbelief. There is no other alternative. Which of them, reader, is yours?
But take another testimony. "In his days shall the righteous flourish, and abundance of peace so long as the moon endures. He shall have dominion, also, from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth." (Psalm 72:7, 8.) And again, "Yes, all kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall serve him." "His name shall endure forever; his name shall be continued as long as the sun; and men shall be blessed in him; all nations shall call him blessed." (Verses 11, 17.) Are these predictions fulfilled? Do the righteous now flourish? Is there "abundance of peace so long as the moon endures?" Let America testify. Let the fields of Maryland, covered with 30,000 wounded or dying men, proclaim aloud, "Yes, this is the millennium. There is no other. This is the fulfillment of all the prophecies which proclaim, 'All kings shall fall down before him, all nations shall serve him.' Is not the whole American nation serving the Prince of Peace, when brother meets brother on the battlefield? Is not the knowledge of the Lord covering Maryland as the waters cover the sea, when heaps of dying men strew her plains, and putrid corpses choke up her rivers?" But the booming cannon, the bursting shell, the volleys of musketry, the shrieks of the wounded, the groans of the dying, the wail of mothers and widows, and the very blood of the battlefield all cry, "No, no! This is not the domain of the Prince of Peace. This is rather hell broken loose upon earth than the binding of Satan; rather the pouring out of the vials of God's wrath than the pouring out of the Spirit from on high."
Wearied, then, and sick at the sight of such scenes of human sin and woe, our mind has sometimes felt a sweet relief in the belief that even this sin-worn world shall not always be what it now is, a very Aceldama, a field of blood and crime; that a day will come when "the Lord shall be king over all the earth; in that day there shall be one Lord and his name one." (Zech. 14:9.) Is this beyond the power or beyond the promises of God? "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven," the Lord bade his disciples pray. Is that prayer yet accomplished? Is it ever to be? If not, why were the disciples taught to pray for what God never meant to grant? We might fill our pages with similar testimonies and with similar arguments, but we will content ourselves with one already referred to—"I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed." (Dan. 7:13, 14.)
Is this testimony fulfilled? Do all people, nations, and languages serve the Son of man? Does China serve him, or Turkey? Or, not to mention heathen lands, does France, does Italy, does England serve him? We need not pursue the argument. It is such passages as these, the force of which we cannot evade or resist, which, after many years of thought and examination, as well as temptation, have made us come to the conclusion that if there be no future development and manifestation of the kingdom and dominion of Christ more than what is now seen, the testimony of God in the Scripture cannot be true. But "let God be true and every man a liar." Here faith rests; and here for the present we lay down our pen.
The end of the year admonishes us that it is time for us also to bring to a close our Meditations on the Office Characters of the Lord Jesus. Without further preface, then, we proceed to the consideration of the two remaining points which we proposed to examine in reference to the royal authority and power now exercised by the risen Son of God as Zion's anointed and enthroned King. These two points were,
1. The duration of his Mediatorial Kingdom;
2. The experimental influence and practical bearing which a knowledge of his royal sway has, or should have, upon believing hearts.
We shall now, then, with God's help and blessing, attempt to consider both these points in their order.
The DURATION of the Mediatorial reign of the blessed Lord we find most plainly and clearly intimated by the Apostle in that noble chapter which has so stirred and comforted the hearts of thousands of the saints of God. (1 Cor. 15:24.) We there read, "Then comes the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, until he has put all enemies under his feet." These words clearly and definitely fix the period of the Lord's present reign as now seated on the right hand of the Majesty on high. "Then comes the end." An end therefore is to come. But what end? An end to the present state of things—to the existing Mediatorial dispensation; an end to that peculiar form of government which Jesus now exercises. He is now on his throne of grace; but he has to sit on his throne of glory, according to his own words—"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." He is now "an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." (1 John 2:1.) But he is "ordained of God to be the Judge of the living and the dead." When, then, he shall leave his Mediatorial throne "to judge the living and dead at his appearing and kingdom;" (2 Tim. 4:1,) then his regal government, under its present form of administration, will cease.
But we must not suppose from this that he will cease to be King. Such a supposition would violate a thousand promises made by the Father to and on behalf of the Son of his love. We will content ourselves with adducing one from the Old Testament and another from the New—"My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before me." Agreeing with this is the promise made by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary—"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." The kingdom then will remain--but the mode of administration be changed.
It is now a kingdom of grace, but will then be a kingdom of glory. Christ now reigns in his people, but he will then reign with his people. "If we suffer, we shall also reign with him." (2 Tim. 2:12.) He now sits as a priest on his throne;" (Zech. 6:13;) but when he appears a second time, without sin unto salvation, intercession will be no longer needed, for he will come and all his saints with him, and raising up their sleeping dust will present them to his Father conformed in body and soul to his own glorified image. The Apostle therefore tells us—"For he must reign, until he has put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." When, then, he has destroyed this last enemy by the resurrection, his Mediatorial reign will cease, and a reign of glory commence, which shall endure forever and ever.