The Messiah’s Kingdom Is Near

THE majestic theme of Bible prophecy is focused upon the coming of the Messiah, and the establishment of his kingdom of blessing. Prophecies foretold the first advent of the Messiah, pointing out many events which would occur in connection therewith. They foretold the time of Jesus’ birth, and even the town in which he would be born. Various aspects of his ministry were prophesied—his lack of acceptance among his national fellows to the point of persecution, and finally death. The prophecies mentioned in considerable detail what occurred at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. (Ps. 22:1,18) And they also foretold the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!—Ps. 16:10; 68:18; Eph. 4:8-11

The Apostle Peter speaks of the sure word of prophecy as “a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.” (II Pet. 1:19) The sure word of prophecy has indeed been a bright light which, throughout the centuries of the world’s dark night of sin, has continued to illuminate the earnest and dedicated servants of the Lord for their guidance and encouragement.

There was high hope on the part of Jesus’ disciples. They had accepted him as the foretold Messiah, and they believed that the kingdom was to be immediately established. (Luke 19:11) They did not then know that the particular work to be accomplished at his first advent was the redemption of Adam and his children from sin and death—that Jesus would lay the foundation for this by his own death on Calvary’s cross.

Nor did they realize that Jesus would be going away— that he would not return for many centuries,—that it would not be until big second visit to earth that his kingdom would be established. They rejoiced in the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead! When he appeared to them on the Mount of Olives they made bold to ask, “Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus replied, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father bath put in his own power.”—Acts 1:6,7

Our Lord did not imply by this statement that his disciples would never know anything about God’s times and seasons. He was simply emphasizing the fact that this information is controlled by God, who divulges it to his people only as they need more understanding, in due time, for encouragement. For Jesus to have explained to his inquiring disciples before his death that he was not about to establish his kingdom forthwith—and that, in fact, he would not do so for nearly two thousand years—would have been very discouraging.

Jesus’ Prophecies

During the three and one-half years of his ministry, Jesus uttered a number of prophecies; some of these were contained in parables. A very important one on the point of giving his disciples some idea of the length of time which must transpire before the establishment of the kingdom is the parable of the wheat and the tares. (Matt. 13:24-32,36-43) In this lesson, Jesus said that ‘good seed’ was sown by the Son of man, and that ‘tares’ were sown by the Devil.

The parable reveals that the tares—the children of the Wicked One—and the wheat the children of the kingdom—would grow together until the end of the age, when there would be a separation and a harvest. The tares were destined to destruction, while the wheat was to be gathered into the barn.

Here we have a prophecy concerning a corrupting influence which would enter in among the followers of the Master, the children of the kingdom. This work was to continue right down to the end of the age, at which time the tare class would be destroyed, while the wheat class would be exalted to be with Jesus in his kingdom. Malachi foretold of the time when the faithful followers of Jesus would shine forth like the sun as part of the prophetic “Sun of Righteousness,” which will rise “with healing in his wings.”—Mal. 4:2

History records the fact that a great falling away from the true faith of the Gospel did occur, beginning shortly after the death of the apostles, those faithful watchers over the Lord’s people. Practically every aspect of true Christian belief became corrupted and confused. The great hope of believers concerning the return of Jesus, at which time they expected that they would be exalted in the resurrection to live and reign with him, was pushed aside by all except a small remnant. A counterfeit messianic kingdom was set up in place of the true kingdom. The corrupt church-state systems of Europe claimed to be the kingdom of Christ on earth, or Christendom.

End of the Age Prophecies

Toward the close of Jesus’ ministry, his apostles began to sense in a vague way that he might be going away for a while—although they did not seem to realize that he was to be killed by his enemies, and that the promised kingdom was a long way off. They went to him on the Mount of Olives, and asked, “Tell us when these things shall be, and what the sign of thy presence, and the conclusion of the age?”—Matt. 24:3, Rotherham

Jesus gave a lengthy reply to this inquiry. One of the clarifications he gave was that, “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24) We understand that, in this prophecy, Jerusalem represents the Jewish polity. That polity had been trodden down beginning in 606 B.C., when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon destroyed the literal city of Jerusalem, and took the people of the nation captive.

It was then that the nation of Israel lost her national independence, becoming a subject people, first to Babylon, then to Medo-Persia, then to Greece, and finally to Rome. They were vassals to Rome when Jesus came at his first advent. The disciples evidently had in mind the many prophecies concerning restoration of their own governing entity when they asked Jesus, “Wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”—Acts 1:6

When Jesus said that Jerusalem would continue to be trodden down by Gentile nations until the times of the Gentiles were fulfilled, he indicated that a specific length of time had been set aside in the plan of God during which the Jewish nation and people would be subject to Gentile overlordship. Leviticus 26:24 is a prophecy of a period of ‘seven times’ during which the Lord would punish his people. We believe that these are symbolic ‘times’, and that the actual length of this period is 2,520 years corresponding to ‘the times of the Gentiles’ referred to by Jesus during which Jerusalem, or the Jewish polity, would be trodden down.

As we have noted, this period began in 606 B.C., which means that it would end in A.D. 1914. The year 1914 is now more than a half century in the past, which fact enables us to look back on national and international events to get a fairly clear perspective of what has taken place during all those years.

Prior to the year 1914, this particular year had been pointed out by Bible students as being the end of the times of the Gentiles, but prior to the actual events it was not possible to know clearly just what would occur. Now we have a better vantage point from which to see the events which had been foretold in the sure word of prophecy. It was in 1914 that the first World War in history broke out. Much happened as a result of that war, and it was the war itself that led to the opening of Palestine to the Jew.

There were many difficulties to overcome, but gradually step by step, the land was developed. Finally, and as a result of what occurred in 1914, Israel became an independent nation among nations. This was in 1948, and now Israel no longer is a vassal nation to any other nation. She has taken her place among the free nations of earth, and is a member of the United Nations. She still has many obstacles to overcome, but so do all the other nations of earth. However, she is not now being trodden down as a servile nation to other nations.

Church-State Systems Destroyed

The Gentile aspect of the ‘times of the Gentiles’ during which the Jewish nation would be trodden down, was depicted by a great human-like image which King Nebuchadnezzar saw in a dream. It had a head of gold, breast and arms of silver, thighs of brass, and legs of iron. A stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, which smote the image on its feet. Then the image fell, was ground to powder, and the wind carried it away. Then the stone which did the smiting grew to be a great mountain which filled the whole earth.—Dan. 2:31-44

Interpreting this dream, Daniel said to Nebuchadnezzar, “Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all.” The head of gold, then, pictured the fact that God had given dominion to Nebuchadnezzar, or Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar had been king before this, but now he had been given dominion by God.

This is true also of the empires represented by the brass, silver, and iron of the image—they all rose and fell from the scene of world dominion by the hand of God. Babylon was destroyed as a world power not long after Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Medo-Persia, the brass; and Greece, the silver, also lost their positions as empires over the then-known world. Rome became divided, as represented by the two legs, the feet and toes of the image, and its divisions still existed at the beginning of 1914. However, the prophecy stated that when the image was smitten, it fell, and the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, were broken to pieces together.

As we have noted, the various kingdoms involved in this prophecy of Gentile times each fell separately. But there was one thing which was destroyed at the same time, common to them all, and that was their dominion or authority which the God of heaven had given to them. This is the background of the now outdated church-state system of government. The concept of what God bestowed upon Nebuchadnezzar had become so terribly distorted through the centuries that it developed into the corrupt church-state system of government which ruled Europe until 1914—the close of the times of the Gentiles. Now it has been destroyed, and the pieces are being ground to powder.

Thus we have not only the fact that the nation of Israel is no longer in bondage, but also this clear fulfillment of the prophecy pertaining to the destruction of the Gentile governments which were largely responsible for her being trodden down. Can there be any doubt that we are living at a most important time in the outworking of the plan of the ages! It is the time, according to Daniel 2:44, when the God of heaven is preparing to set up his kingdom.

The Days Shortened

When answering his disciples’ questions concerning the sign of his second presence, Jesus told them there would be a time of ‘great tribulation’—a tribulation so great that unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved. To this he added, according to a good translation, that “by” the elect, these days of tribulation would be shortened.—Matt. 24:21,22

It is only since 1914 that we have seen such a situation develop—one which, indeed, does threaten the destruction of all flesh, the entire human family. We refer to the horrendous possibilities threatened by nuclear warfare, which make possible the killing of millions in a matter of minutes. This is a clear fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy concerning the end of the age. What conclusions are we to reach from these various developments, especially those which have taken place since 1914? Nothing in the prophecies themselves gives us an inkling as to the final time for their complete fulfillment. In this respect it is still true that our Heavenly Father is keeping the time and the seasons in his own power.

However, we can come to a very certain conclusion. It is the same conclusion reached by Jesus, and included in his prophecies. In Jesus’ day the fig tree was a symbol of the Jewish nation, and therefore he used this symbol when speaking a parable concerning Israel: ‘Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; when they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.”—Luke 21:29-31

What a blessed assurance! Since God first began to make promises concerning the coming of a Messiah and the establishment of a righteous kingdom of blessing throughout the earth, each generation of his people looked for, hoped for, and prayed for the coming of that kingdom. Not all of them have known the extent to which the blessings of peace, health, joy, and life would come to the people, but all have sensed that this kingdom would mean a brighter and happier time for them, and for all.

So the question has been repeated “How long, O Lord, how long?”; and again, “Wilt thou at this time?”, etc. And now Jesus has given us the answer! “When ye see these things!” and we are seeing them! During the half century which has elapsed since the end of the times of the Gentiles, we have witnessed rapid progress in the major developments which Jesus foretold. We have seen the vassal-like bondage lifted from Israel; and we have seen the development of that terrible potential of destruction which threatens the destruction of all flesh. There is no mistaking the meaning of these developments. They are the very ones described by Jesus, and they have come at the very time that the prophecies foretold they would come.

Let us heed what our Lord Jesus has given as the conclusion to the meaning of these events: “When ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.” There will now be no more centuries of waiting. The kingdom is nigh at hand! Just how near we do not know, but that we are in the end of the age there can be no doubt. And this means, as Jesus so clearly stated, that the kingdom is surely near. What an incentive to faithfulness this should be!

With the establishment and functioning of that kingdom will come the end of war, of revolutions, of crime, of riots, of starvation, of vice, of illness, of pain, and of death. (Rev. 21:1-3) There will come also the end of Satanic deception, for then the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. Satan, the evil one who has deceived and continues to deceive all nations, will then be bound, and the Lord will turn to the people a pure message so they will all be enabled to serve him with one consent. What a blessed prospect! And how we should rejoice in Jesus’ assurance that it is nigh at hand.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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