Even the covenant people, Israel, were not always willing to accept the Lord as their king. Remember how they protested that Samuel, the anointed prophet and judge, was old-a poor excuse for their clamor, as the old man ministered with vigor among them for thirty-five years beyond that time-and how they cried for a king to rule them, that they might be like other nations. Note the pathos with which the Lord replied to Samuel’s prayer regarding this demand of the people: “Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee; for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” But the Lord will not be ever rejected by His people; at the time appointed He will come with power and great glory, and will assume His rightful place of authority as King of earth.
Daniel interpreted the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, and spoke of the many kingdoms and divisions of kingdoms that were to be established; then he added: “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.” Touching the extent of the great kingdom to be established the same prophet declared: “And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.”
Speaking of the restoration of Judah and Israel in the last days, Micah prophesied: “And the Lord shall reign over them in mount Zion from henceforth, even forever.” In the annunciation to the Virgin, the angel said of the unborn Christ: “He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” In the visions of Patmos, the Apostle John saw the glorious consummation, and a universal recognition of the eternal King: “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ: and he shall reign forever and ever.” Modern revelation is rich in evidence of an approaching reign of righteousness, with Christ as King; witness the following: “And also the Lord shall have power over his saints, and shall reign in their midst.” “For in mine own due time will I come upon the earth in judgment, and my people shall be redeemed and shall reign with me on earth.”
Kingdom and Church-In the Gospel according to Matthew, the phrase “kingdom of heaven” is of frequent occurrence; while in the books of the other evangelists, and throughout the epistles, the equivalent expression is “kingdom of God,” “kingdom of Christ,” or simply “kingdom.” It is evident that these words may be used interchangeably without violence to the true meaning. However, the term kingdom is used in more senses than one, and a careful study of the context in each instance may be necessary to a proper comprehension of the writer’s intent. The most common usages are two: An expression synonymous with “the Church” having reference to the followers of Christ without distinction as to their temporal organizations; and the designation of the literal kingdom over which Jesus Christ is to reign upon the earth in the last days.
When we contemplate the kingdom in the latter and more general sense, the Church must be regarded as a part thereof; an essential indeed, for it is the germ from which the kingdom is to be developed, and the very heart of the organization. The Church has existed and now continues in an organized form, without the kingdom as an established power with temporal authority in the world; but the kingdom cannot be maintained without the Church.
In modern revelation, the expressions “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven” are sometimes used with distinctive meanings-the former phrase signifying the Church, and the latter the literal kingdom which is to supersede and comprise all national or racial divisions. In this sense, the kingdom of God has been set up already in these the last days; its beginning in and for the present dispensation was the establishment of the Church on its latter-day and permanent foundation. This is consistent with our conception of the Church as the vital organ of the kingdom in general. The powers and authority committed to the Church are, then, the keys of the kingdom. Such meaning is made clear in the following revelation to the Church: “The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth. * * * Call upon the Lord, that his kingdom may go forth upon the earth, that the inhabitants thereof may receive it, and be prepared for the days to come, in the which the Son of Man shall come down in heaven, clothed in the brightness of his glory, to meet the kingdom of God which is set up on the earth. Wherefore, may the kingdom of God go forth, that the kingdom of heaven may come, that thou, O God, mayest be glorified in heaven so on earth, that thine enemies may be subdued; for thine is the honor, power and glory, forever and ever.”
At the time of His glorious advent, Christ will be accompanied by the hosts of righteous ones who have already passed from earth; and saints who are still alive on earth are to be quickened and caught up to meet Him, then to descend with Him as partakers of His glory. With Him too will come Enoch and his band of the pure in heart; and a union will be effected with the kingdom of God, or that part of the kingdom of heaven previously established as the Church of Jesus Christ on earth; and the kingdom on earth will be one with that in heaven. Then will be realized a fulfilment of the Lord’s own prayer, given as a pattern to all who pray: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”
The disputed question-Is the kingdom already set up on earth or are we to wait for its establishment until the time of the future advent of Christ, the King?-may properly receive answer either affirmative or negative, according to the sense in which the term “kingdom” is understood. The kingdom of God as identical with the Church of Christ has been established; its history is that of the Church in these the last days; its officers are divinely commissioned, their power is that of the Holy Priesthood. They claim an authority that is spiritual, but also temporal in dealing with the members of the organization-Church or kingdom as one may choose to call it-but they make no attempt, nor do they assert the right, to assail, modify, or in any way interfere with existing governments, far less to subdue nations or to set up rival systems of control. The kingdom of heaven, including the Church, and comprising all nations, will be set up with power and great glory when the triumphant King comes with His heavenly hosts to personally rule and reign on the earth, which He has redeemed at the sacrifice of His own life.
As seen, the kingdom of heaven will comprise more than the Church. The honorable and honest among men will be accorded protection and the privileges of citizenship under the perfect system of government which Christ will administer; and this will be their lot whether they are members of the Church or not. Law-breakers and men of impure heart will receive judgment according to their sin; but those who live according to the truth as they have been able to receive and comprehend it will enjoy the fullest liberty under the benign influences of a perfect administration. The special privileges and blessings associated with the Church, the right to hold and exercise the Priesthood with its boundless possibilities and eternal powers, will be, as now they are, for those only who enter into the covenant and become part of the Church of Jesus Christ.
The Millennium-In connection with scriptural mention of Christ’s reign on earth, a duration of a thousand years is frequently specified. While we cannot regard this as indicating a time limit to the kingdom’s existence, or a measure of the Savior’s administration of power, we are justified in the belief that the thousand years immediately following the establishment of the kingdom are to be specially characterized, and so be different from both preceding and succeeding time. The gathering of Israel and the establishment of an earthly Zion are to be effected preparatory to His coming. His advent is to be marked by a destruction of the wicked, and by the inauguration of an era of peace. The Revelator saw the souls of the martyrs, and of other righteous men, in power, living and reigning with Christ a thousand years. At the beginning of this period Satan is to be bound, “that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled.” Certain of the dead are not to live again until the thousand years are past; while the righteous “shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” Among the most ancient of revelations regarding the Millennium is that given to Enoch: “And it came to pass that Enoch saw the day of the coming of the Son of Man, in the last days, to dwell on the earth in righteousness for the space of a thousand years.”
It is evident, then, that in speaking of the Millennium we have to consider a definite period, with important events marking its beginning and its close, and conditions of unusual blessedness extending throughout. It will be a sabbatical era-a thousand years of peace. Enmity between man and beast shall cease; the fierceness and venom of the brute creation shall be done away, and love shall rule. A new condition of affairs will prevail later, as was declared in the word of the Lord to Isaiah: “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.”
Concerning the state of peace, prosperity, and duration of human life, characteristic of that period, we read: “There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old, but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed. And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them. And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord.”
The Lord’s voice is heard today declaring the same prophetic truths, as shown in the revelations touching the Millennium given in the present dispensation of the Church. In 1831, He thus addressed the elders of His Church: “For the great Millennium, of which I have spoken by the mouth of my servants, shall come. For Satan shall be bound, and when he is loosed again he shall only reign for a little season, and then cometh the end of the earth.” On another occasion these words were spoken: “For I will reveal myself from heaven with power and great glory, with all the hosts thereof, and dwell in righteousness with men on earth a thousand years, and the wicked shall not stand. * * * And again, verily, verily, I say unto you that when the thousand years are ended, and men again begin to deny their God, then will I spare the earth but for a little season; And the end shall come.”
During the millennial period conditions will be propitious for righteousness; Satan’s power will be restrained; and men, relieved to some degree from temptation, will be mostly zealous in the service of their reigning Lord. Nevertheless, sin will not be wholly abolished, nor will death be banished; though children will live to reach maturity in the flesh, and then may be changed to a condition of immortality in the “twinkling of an eye.” Both mortal and immortal beings will tenant the earth, and communion with heavenly powers will be common. The Latter-day Saints believe that during the millennial era they will be privileged to continue the vicarious work for the dead, which constitutes so important and so characteristic a feature of their duty, and that the facilities for direct communication with the heavens will enable them to carry on their labor of love without hindrance. When the thousand years are passed Satan will again be permitted to assert his power, and those who are not then numbered among the pure in heart will yield to his influence. But the liberty thus recovered by “the prince of the power of the air” will be of short duration; his final doom will speedily follow, and with him will go to the punishment that is everlasting, all who are his. Then the earth will pass to its celestial condition and become a fit abode for the glorified sons and daughters of our God.