|HIGHLIGHTS OF DAWN||May 2012|
Election Year 2012
“We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”
THE MOST COVERED NEWS story over the next six months will likely be the United States presidential election. Indeed, it hardly seems that the dust had settled from the 2008 election when various individuals began to campaign for the next one four years later. The Republican Party, currently out of power in the White House, has put forth many candidates during the intervening period. Many of them have been in the race for a period of time, only to fall by the wayside. At the time of this writing, it appears that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney will be the likely Republican candidate, having a sizeable lead in delegates over his two closest rivals, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum and former Georgia congressman Newt Gingrich.
Should Mitt Romney succeed in obtaining the Republican nomination at August’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, he will face the Democratic Party nominee, certain to be incumbent President Barack Obama. The task of defeating an incumbent president is a daunting one, but we can be sure Mr. Romney will use every means at his disposal to accomplish this and put the Republican Party back in the White House. For the Republicans, gaining the presidency, along with the sizeable majority they already have in the United States House of Representatives, will give them a distinct advantage over the Democrats when it comes to trying to pass their legislative agenda.
During the coming months we will most certainly see the escalation of campaign rhetoric from both political parties as well as from the candidates themselves. Each will spend hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising from fund-raising efforts and their own personal resources on advertising. Both candidates will claim that past experience and other qualifications point to them as the best choice at the voting booth. Claims will be made of corporate experience, foreign policy insight, knowledge of domestic affairs, and the ability to govern in periods of crisis. Naturally, each candidate making these claims will of necessity be critical of their opponent’s lack of these qualifications and of their past performance. As we have seen all too often, campaign ads seem to turn ruthlessly negative as the election approaches, knowing almost no boundaries of criticism. The candidates also will make many campaign promises to the people, telling them mostly the things they want to hear. Again, we see from past elections that the vast majority of these promises are never delivered. In fact, in many cases it was not even possible to keep them, yet they were made to sway the voters.
Regardless of all the campaign rhetoric, questionable claims, and hollow promises, one thing is certain. Many events in the world over the next four and one half years will likely be impacted and shaped by the determination of this year’s presidential election winner. With that in mind, it is important that we follow the scriptural instruction to “watch and be sober,” and look at world events through the prism of God’s plan as found in the Bible.
PRESENT GOVERNMENTS TO BE REPLACED
Despite the many failings and shortcomings of this country’s government, most Americans would probably agree that our system of governing is better than that of most any other country on earth. In many parts of the world, countries are led by the strongest arm, or those who have the backing of the military. Some countries are ruled by those with radical religious beliefs, and others have only achieved a semblance of order through much bloodshed. The rule of law is severely lacking in many parts of the world. In some cases, even, conditions of near-anarchy exist throughout entire countries. Taking a world view of the matter certainly should make us thankful to live in an environment where life can go on in relative peace and safety.
The Scriptures reveal to us that it is God’s plan to bring man back to righteousness here upon the earth in his coming kingdom. To accomplish this, a righteous government must be established in order to instruct man and enforce God’s laws for his benefit. None of the present governments of earth, or their leaders, are the ones the Scriptures say will be the rulers of that kingdom. Rather, it is Christ and his faithful associates, the church, “elected” or selected by God himself, who will be the governing authority at that time.
FUTURE GOVERNMENT TO BE ORGANIZED
The prophet Micah provides us insight as to how that future government will be organized. He says, “The law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” (Mic. 4:2) We notice in these words two branches of this future government will be operative. In “Zion” will center the heavenly branch of government, and in “Jerusalem” the earthly branch. Zion is a symbolic reference to Christ and his church, who will direct all of earth’s affairs as heavenly “kings and priests” during the thousand years of Christ’s reign. (Rev. 5:10; 20:6) Jerusalem symbolically represents the earthly governmental authority. This authority, the Scriptures indicate, will be centered in the faithful Ancient Worthies of old—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and many others—heroes of faith as described by the Apostle Paul in Hebrews 11. The psalmist prophetically describes these as “princes in all the earth.”—Ps. 45:16
Referring again to the above scripture from Micah, the prophet states the primary role of the two branches of earth’s coming new government. The “law” will come from Zion—the heavenly branch consisting of Christ and his church. This law will be God’s standard of righteousness, and only by obedience to it will man gain everlasting life under this kingdom arrangement. The Scriptures refer to the law of the kingdom as a New Covenant. (Jer. 31:31) It will be superior in every way to “old” arrangements whereby God dealt with man in past ages. Having offered “better sacrifices” (Heb. 9:23), Christ, together with his church, will be the mediator of the New Covenant during the time of man’s education and learning. The Apostle Paul states the matter with these words, “Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.”—chap. 12:24
Micah says also that the earthly branch of the kingdom government will be for the purpose of disseminating “the word of the Lord.” In other words, although the source of earth’s laws in the kingdom and the standard of righteousness will be from heaven, God will use his earthly representatives to teach that law to man. We believe the Scriptures indicate God’s use of the above-mentioned faithful Ancient Worthies of old to be the instruments which will be used to accomplish this worldwide education process. Indeed, all mankind will help to assist each other in the learning process of the kingdom, as each becomes familiar with and applies its laws to their own hearts and characters.
NEW GOVERNMENT AWAITING COMPLETION
In order for the new kingdom government to become operative, the two branches, heavenly and earthly, must be complete and in place, ready to rule. The fulfillment of prophecy indicates to us that the heavenly phase of the kingdom government is close to completion. The first step in completing this branch of government is the second return or coming of Christ. The correct scriptural thought is not that of a visible return to earth, but the invisible “presence” (Greek, parousia) and influence of Christ over earth’s affairs. The fulfillment of many signs given in the words of the prophets, apostles, and Jesus himself provide much in the way of evidence that Christ has already invisibly returned and is working in various ways to accomplish God’s purposes in the earth during the Harvest period of this Gospel Age. Space here does not permit a detailed consideration of these signs. We merely refer the reader to the following scriptures as a sampling of the evidences of Christ’s invisible presence: Matt. 24:27-51; Luke 12:37-46; 21:24-32; Dan. 12:1-4; II Pet. 3:3,4.
The resurrection of the church, the “body of Christ,” must also take place before the heavenly branch of kingdom government is made complete. The Bible speaks of this as the “first resurrection” (Rev. 20:5,6), clearly implying with these words that there will be a “second” or additional resurrection to follow later. The Apostle Paul says concerning those of his day who had been faithful unto death and were awaiting the first resurrection, “Them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him,” and that this would take place at “the coming [presence] of the Lord.” (I Thess. 4:14,15) These verses indicate that the first resurrection begins at the time of the Second Presence of Christ, and is experienced by the faithful saints who have “slept” in death during this Gospel Age prior to that time. In another place, Paul adds, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.” (I Cor. 15:51) Putting together these two sets of scriptures explains that the faithful members of the church who die subsequent to our Lord’s return also experience the first resurrection. However, they do not have to sleep, but one by one are raised until the last member of the church has gone “beyond the veil.” In our Lord’s parable of the wheat and the tares, he says concerning the wheat, representing the church, that he will gather them “into my barn” at “the time of harvest.” (Matt. 13:30) Because there is evidence that many are still running for the “prize of the high calling” (Phil. 3:14), we must conclude that this gathering of the church in the first resurrection, although in process, is not yet complete. As a result, the heavenly branch of kingdom government is not yet ruling over mankind.
The earthly branch of the new kingdom government awaits the resurrection of its teachers and leaders, the Ancient Worthies. The Scriptures indicate that their resurrection will take place very shortly after, but not before, the completion of the first resurrection. “These all [the faithful Ancient Worthies], having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise [of joint-heirship with Christ]: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without [before or ahead of] us should not be made perfect.”—Heb. 11:39,40
Only when both the heavenly and earthly branches of the new kingdom government are complete and in place will Christ’s (and hence God’s) righteous rulership become operative in the earth. None of earth’s present governments will be a part of this new administration. To a greater or lesser degree they are all fallen, sinful, corrupt, and grossly lacking in righteousness. They have all been “weighed in the balances, and … found wanting.”—Dan. 5:27
We might ask why the prophet Micah said that the “word of the Lord” will come from Jerusalem during the future kingdom arrangement. We recall that for many centuries the nation of Israel was God’s specially chosen and favored people, and Jerusalem the center of that typical kingdom. “You only have I known of all the families of the earth.” (Amos 3:2) Like mankind in general, they transgressed God’s law and even denied the one who was their Messiah, Jesus Christ. For these things they were severely punished, their kingdom was taken away, and they were scattered throughout the four corners of the earth. God, however, plans to recover them, showing them as an example to all mankind of his love, longsuffering, and faithfulness.
During the Harvest of this Gospel Age, we have witnessed with our own eyes the regathering, in a measure, of Israel to their land. They were reestablished as a nation in 1948, and are today considered one of the most powerful nations on earth. They still must yet, however, go through a severe period of trouble near the close of the Harvest, in order to finally bring them to the recognition of the one whom they crucified. Then, they will finally say, as Jesus foretold, “Blessed is he [Jesus their Messiah] that cometh in the name of the Lord [God].”—Matt. 23:39
The generation of Israelites regathered to their promised land who are living when the great miracle of divine intervention for their protection takes place, will be the first to receive the opportunity of blessing under the beneficent rulership of the Messianic kingdom arrangements. Those who show their loyalty to the new regime, under the leadership of their Messiah and the Ancient Worthies, will share in extending its blessings. How appropriate, then, for Micah to speak of Jerusalem as the source of the word of the Lord in the kingdom government.
A prophecy pertaining to this reads: “It shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing: fear not, but let your hands be strong. For thus saith the Lord of hosts; As I thought to punish you, when your fathers provoked me to wrath, saith the Lord of hosts, and I repented not: So again have I thought in these days [of the Messianic kingdom] to do well unto Jerusalem and to the house of Judah: fear ye not. These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates: And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the Lord.”—Zech. 8:13-17
The divine principles of righteousness here set forth, which the Israelites will need to observe and obey in order to receive the blessings of Messiah, will also have to be observed by the people of all nations, that they, too, may receive the blessings of the kingdom. Those who do will be blessed and will likewise have the privilege of joining in that great project of blessing which ultimately will be extended to include “all the families of the earth.” (Gen. 28:14) Israel’s role in all this will not be through their current human leaders who, like all the other rulers of this world, are not capable of bringing man back to righteousness. Their “fathers,” the Ancient Worthies, will be given the privilege of leading them under the authority of Christ and his church. As quoted above from the prophet Zechariah, Israel will then be an example to all mankind of a blessing, and no longer an example of a curse.
WATCH AND WAIT
As we await the completion of the heavenly and establishment of the earthly branches of the new kingdom government “elected” by God, we see many things coming to pass in a preparatory way. As already touched on, we have the many signs that our Lord has invisibly returned. He has been gathering the wheat out of every corner of the world. He has overseen the dissemination of a feast of spiritual food—“meat in due season” (Matt. 24:45)—to feed those being so gathered out. He has also used his faithful human instruments to assist in proclaiming the Gospel message as a witness to every corner of the earth. This work is also in fulfillment of prophecy: “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matt. 24:14) The “end” spoken of here is not the end of this earth and its people, but rather the end of this Gospel Age phase of God’s plan. Indeed, we have previously seen that when the present age is completed, a new age will be ushered in, the Messianic Age, which will bring mankind in general back to fellowship with God and a “restitution of all things” lost because of sin and death.—Acts 3:21
As we watch and wait on the Lord, we also see his overseeing of the process of tearing down this present order of things. Although this signifies a severe Time of Trouble, it is necessary so that earth’s current political, economic, social, and religious systems can give way to the new order of the kingdom. This trouble is described by the prophet Haggai: “Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts.” (Hag. 2:6,7) Notice how all-encompassing this “shaking” is. Everything is shaken: the heavens—human religious systems; the earth—current political systems; the sea—the masses of dissatisfied human society; and the dry land—the dried up economic systems of today. As if to further emphasize the point, the prophet then says that no nation will escape this—“all nations” will be shaken.
It is important to note that the above prophecy of Haggai does not end at merely the mention of shaking and destruction. He goes on and says that following this period of severe trouble, the “desire of all nations” will come. The Apostle Paul, when quoting this prophecy, added that when everything had been shaken during this Time of Trouble, “those things which cannot be shaken may remain.” (Heb. 12:27) That which cannot be shaken will be God’s newly elected government, centered in Christ and the church. It will be that government alone which can bring the “desire” of all nations to pass. What are some of these desires? Peace, health, safety, restoration of loved ones, family, happiness, mental and moral soundness, and quality of life are just a few of the wonderful desires which will come to fruition for man under the direction of the kingdom administration. Indeed, such a kingdom “cannot be moved” or shaken.—Heb. 12:28
In advance of this wonderful time, the processes of the present Harvest time go grandly on. The gathering of the church continues, as well as the tearing down of this present worldly order of things. When these features of God’s plan are completed, it will signal the end of both the harvest of the wheat (Matt. 13:30), and the harvest of the “vine of the earth.” (Rev. 14:19) Only then will the heavenly branch of the new government be fully in place. Only then will the earth be rid of the old order of things and be ready for the new. God will put into operation his newly-elected government and establish the New Covenant through his chosen Mediator—the Christ, head and body.
WHAT MANNER OF PERSONS OUGHT YE TO BE?
For those who know and appreciate God’s marvelous arrangements for man’s future here on earth, what should be our attitude toward this year’s presidential election, and how should we view other events going on in the world? First, we should heed the words of Jesus and “render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” (Matt. 22:21) Having done this, we must remember that the kingdom we seek is “not of this world” (John 18:36), that we are actually “ambassadors for Christ” and his coming kingdom. (II Cor. 5:20) As such, we are merely “strangers and pilgrims” here on the earth at the present time.—I Pet. 2:11
We rest in faith, confident that God will overrule this year’s presidential election in November to the extent that his ultimate purposes are served, for man’s eventual blessing. The Apostle Peter speaks of this time in which we are now living: “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens [religious systems] shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements [earth’s current order—economic and political] shall melt with fervent heat, the earth [its present social structure] also and the works that are therein [fostered by pride and fruits of the flesh] shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be [those who know these things in advance] in all holy conversation and godliness [holy conduct], Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth [a new order of things, a new government], wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent [use speed, be prompt] that ye may be found of him in peace [inner rest], without spot [before God], and blameless [before others].”—II Pet. 3:10-14
In the midst of such turbulent times and as we view this year’s presidential election from the Lord’s watchtower, let us follow Peter’s admonition to be of holy conduct, diligent in all things before God and men. “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.”—II Pet. 3:18