Chapter 12

Setting up the Kingdom

Jesus will suddenly return to establish the Kingdom of God. There is not the slightest doubt about it. God has promised it on the strength of His own existence. He says the coming of His Kingdom is as certain as the fact that day follows night.

Exactly how and when Christ will appear we are not told, but from the instant of his coming the world will never be the same again.

The establishment of the Kingdom of God will not be an instantaneous event. The untold sufferings caused by centuries of human misrule will not be swept away overnight, nor will the earth awaken immediately to a new and cloudless dawn and a matchless day. Rather the Bible tells us that there will be a period of transition during which the old evils will be purged and the new and perfect system ushered in. Although a considerable amount of detail can be gleaned from Scripture, the timing of some of the events of this period is uncertain, as is their precise sequence. In other words, we are told what will happen at the return of Christ, but cannot be sure just when or in what order. With this proviso let us look at two important events of this transition period: the resurrection and rewarding of the saints, and God's punishment of the world for its wickedness.


In chapter 10 we considered the Bible teaching about the resurrection and the thrilling prospect that awaits those who are found worthy of eternal life. Resurrecting and judging his saints

will probably be among the first things Jesus will do at his return.

All who have known God's way of life are responsible to Christ's judgment seat. The vast majority of these will have died, some of them thousands of years ago, but others will still be alive at his coming. Of these two categories the dead will be the first to rise, and then the living will be gathered to meet Christ with them. Several passages describe these events:

For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent (i.e. precede) them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so we shall ever be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).

And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other (Matthew 24:31).

Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left (Matthew 24:40-41).

In this way all those who have known God's way will be gathered before Jesus to receive his verdict on their lives. As we saw in chapter 10 the unfaithful and disobedient will receive punishment and death. To them it will be a resurrection of condemnation (Daniel 12:2; John 5:29; Matthew 25:46). But the faithful will receive the gift of immortality from their judge, for as Paul said, Jesus will change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body (Philippians 3:21). After the saints have been glorified, Christ will have at his disposal a multitude of immortal ones to assist him in his work of setting up the Kingdom of God.

Christ and his perfected followers will then commence the great work of toppling the Kingdom of Men, thus fulfilling God's prediction in Nebuchadnezzar's dream when the huge statue fell in fragments to the ground on the impact of the stone. It will also be the time when God's promises to Abraham and David will finally receive their fulfilment. Christ will at last possess the gate of his enemies as promised to Abraham, and re-establish David's throne in Jerusalem.


It might be expected that a world with hundreds of millions claiming to follow Jesus will welcome him back with open arms and willingly submit to his rule; but the Bible dispels such comforting thoughts. Christ's claim to be the new ruler of the world will be hotly contested. David predicted the reaction of at least some nations at this time:

Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and his anointed (Messiah), saying, Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.

But such puny opposition will be futile, only provoking God's anger:

He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord has them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 'I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill' (Psalm 2:1-6 RSV).

Clearly, Christ's claim to be king will be opposed. What else does the Bible say about this?

Jesus will manifest himself on earth probably after the northern invader has overrun Israel, and his first task will be to free the land from this occupation. Then he will crush defiance coming from other quarters, some of which may involve another attack on God's land. The Bible contains very many references to this great final conflict between the power of sin vested in human rule and the invincible power of Christ. In the previous chapter we saw that preparations for this encounter are going on at the present time, and this is a sign of Christ's imminent return. We now look at the outcome. It will be a war made up of several battles, and although, as I have already mentioned, it is difficult to use the prophecies to determine the exact sequence of events, it seems that the Holy Land will be freed first and the Jews introduced to their Messiah. Then Jesus will stamp out challenges to his authority occurring in other parts of the world. In the following section I will give the overall outcome of events without attempting to distinguish between the various phases of the operation.


The references to the final attack on the Jews and Jerusalem and their subsequent deliverance by their Messiah are very specific. This is the picture revealed by the prophets:

For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land (Joel 3:1-2).

For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity (Zechariah 14:2).

This will be accompanied by vast war preparations throughout the world:

Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong. Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about (Joel 3:9-11).

Hebrew names almost always have a meaning, and this is true of the place where this huge international army assembles, the valley of Jehoshaphat. The first part of the word is an abbreviated form of God's personal name, Jehovah, or better, Yahweh. The second part means judgment. So the Valley of Jehoshaphat into which these invaders assemble means The valley of Yahweh's Judgment, and with such an ominous ring about it must clearly be seen as a symbolic name. It describes the momentous things that will occur there rather than identify a particular valley in Israel. The New Testament also describes this event and gives it another symbolic name which is probably more familiar. Speaking of a spirit of opposition at work on earth at this time, John says it would

Go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty .... And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon (Revelation 16:14, 16).

One translation of the word Armageddon is 'A heap in a valley of judgment' (Thomas: Eureka Vol.3 p.604), and so makes it the equivalent of the Old Testament Valley of Jehoshaphat. Both describe the confrontation between God and man:

Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision .... The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake (Joel 3:14, 16).

Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle (Zechariah 14:3).

The result of this conflict will be conclusive. Many Bible passages, using the imagery applicable to earlier days, but which can readily be perceived in terms of modern warfare, tell of the destruction of all human opposition when God openly intervenes to protect His land and people:

And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem (Zechariah 12:9).

For in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I spoken, Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel .... And I will smite thy bow out of thy left hand, and will cause thine arrows to fall out of thy right hand. Thou shalt fall upon the mountains of Israel, thou and all thy bands, and the people that is with thee .... Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself: and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the Lord (Ezekiel 38:19; 39:3-4; 38:23).

In Judah God is known, his name is great in Israel .... There he broke the flashing arrows, the shield, the sword, and the weapons of war .... The stouthearted were stripped of their spoil; they sank into sleep; all the men of war were unable to use their hands. At thy rebuke, O God of Jacob, both rider and horse lay stunned .... Who can stand before thee when once thy anger is roused? From the heavens thou didst utter judgment; the earth feared and was still, when God arose to establish judgment to save all the oppressed of the earth (Psalm 76:1,3,5-9 RSV).

The last of these two quotations is an excellent example of how information about the future is hidden away in the Bible in most unexpected places. What appears to be a psalm about the kingdom of David in the past is suddenly transformed into a prophecy of the time of the end and the setting up of the eternal throne of David. How can we say this? Because of the information in that last phrase. There is only one time when God will arise in judgment to save all the oppressed of the earth, and that is when Christ returns. Read the rest of the psalm and you will find allusions linking it with Psalm 2 which definitely refers to this time.


About the time that the Holy Land is freed from all hostile forces Jerusalem will be the scene of a dramatic and poignant event. The Jews, after experiencing the humiliation and horrors of invasion and occupation, followed by the joy of release and freedom, will suddenly become aware of the identity of their deliverer. The national policy of the Jews has always been to reject the claims of Jesus to be their long promised Messiah, but then their error in refusing him and their guilt in crucifying him will be undeniable.

It is not difficult to imagine the heart-felt remorse of the Jews when they realise the enormity of their sin in killing the very one whom God sent to be their Messiah. They will bow before Jesus full of penitence, self-reproach and anguish of mind, and give way to public lamentation and expressions of sorrow:

And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem .... And the land shall mourn (Zechariah 12:10-12).

This national repentance and acceptance of Jesus will be the basis on which God will restore and bless Israel:

So the house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God from that day and forward. Neither will I hide my face any more from them: for I have poured out my spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord God (Ezekiel 39:22, 29).

With the nation of Israel redeemed, and with Jesus at last enthroned as King of the Jews, the original Israelitish Kingdom, when king David ruled on God's throne in Jerusalem, will be restored. Israel will thus become the Kingdom of God on earth, and Jerusalem its capital city (Matthew 5:35; Micah 4:8). And from this centre Jesus will invite the submission of the rest of the world, giving nations the choice between willing or enforced acceptance of his position as King of kings. Continuing the quotation from Psalm 2, which on New Testament authority refers to Christ (Acts 13:33), we read of God's promise to Jesus that he will govern the whole earth, and His advice to the nations to submit to their new ruler:

Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen (i.e. nations) for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him (Psalm 2:6-12).

We can deduce that this invitation to cede sovereignty to the new King in Jerusalem will not be very palatable to the majority of nations. Clear references speak of a united attempt to unseat this new champion of the Jews, whom the other nations will probably regard as an impostor who has deceived Israel with fraudulent claims, and who by his very presence is desecrating the holy shrines in Jerusalem. This is the scenario depicted in the book of Revelation, continuing the ideas and even the actual phrases of the Psalm just quoted. Although the language is obviously figurative, it clearly indicates that there will be a final conflict between the rulers of the world and Christ, who will be aided by his immortal saints:

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

And I saw .... the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army (Revelation 19:11,14-16,19).

The outcome of such a confrontation must be a foregone conclusion! Mortal man cannot succeed when he pits his puny power against the one who can say with complete truthfulness All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth (Matthew 28:18). Opposition to Jesus will melt away under the heat of his might and righteous anger, until at last the whole world will acknowledge him as its supreme ruler.

The work of Christ in subduing the nations, resurrecting the dead, rewarding the faithful, and setting up the Kingdom of God is summarised elsewhere in the book of Revelation. They are part of the well known words of the Hallelujah Chorus in Handel's Messiah, but here they are put in the right context of his return to the earth:

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 for ever and ever. We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty .... because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth (Revelation 11:15, 17-18).


To many people the foregoing passages from the Bible, with repeated allusions to such things as the wrath of God and the fierceness of his anger, may make very strange reading. They may well accept that Jesus will one day come back to the earth, but to suggest that he will use his power to attack and punish people, and even use compulsion to bring about the changes necessary to inaugurate the Kingdom of God, is nothing short of preposterous, even blasphemous as far as they are concerned. Where is the Gentle Jesus, meek and mild that they were taught about in Sunday School? And where is the God of love who is kind and forgiving and desirous of the salvation of all men?

This nice and cosy popular view of God and Jesus is not gained from an overall study of Bible teaching, but rather by selective reading that passes over the many passages that do not fit in with the concept of a wholly benign Supreme Being. God certainly is revealed as a God of love, kindness and patience, but also as a God of justice that will by no means clear the guilty (Exodus 34:7). In the New Testament Paul similarly refers to dual aspects of the Creator's attributes. He speaks of the goodness and severity of God (Romans 11:22), and on another occasion warns his readers that our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).

Jesus also is indeed gentle and kind to those who are prepared to listen to him, but to those who refuse him he will be severe and unyielding. For an example, take his own words about what he will do at his return:

So shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:40-42).

So whilst God is kind and merciful to those who believe and trust Him, His sense of justice and His hatred of sin causes Him to punish those who refuse to listen. In all His dealings with man God is very patient, but ultimately He must be just:

Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live? (Ezekiel 18:23).

The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked (Nahum 1:3).

So if man refuses to listen, God, although very longsuffering, eventually will have to intervene to punish sin. He has done this at least twice before: on the occasions of the Flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; and the time is soon coming when He will do so again. So let us not shut our eyes to the clear teaching of the whole Bible that at the time of the end the world will suffer terribly in the purging process that will purify and prepare it for the establishment of the Kingdom of God. Remember that the statue in Nebuchadnezzar's dream was not gradually and quietly absorbed into the stone that was to become the Kingdom of God, but was violently demolished and then removed.


There is one situation that is very popular with the cartoonists. A bedraggled and unkempt man holds a placard with the legend The end of the world is nigh, or sometimes it is Prepare to meet thy doom. Most people laugh off such warnings as coming from the lunatic fringe of society, yet in Bible terms they contain more than a grain of a very uncomfortable truth. The world is about to suffer the most horrifying and devastating consequences of its denial of God. If these divine judgments were alluded to in an obscure and symbolic passage of Scripture it might be possible to interpret them in a non-literal way, but in fact they are central to the message of Old and New Testaments. I would like to give examples from the words of the Apostles Paul and Peter and from the prophecy of Isaiah to show that, unlike today, the reality of God's judgment of sin was a prominent part of original Christian preaching.


Final judgment, either on a personal or a world-wide scale is a feature of Paul's teaching. In one of his letters he warned those who had hard and impenitent hearts that they were storing up for themselves

Wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his deeds (Romans 2:5-6)

Paul could obviously express this judgment in very real terms, for we read that when he

Reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled .... (Acts 24:25).

Earlier he had told the Athenians why they should turn to God:

Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead (Acts 17:31).

But Paul's strongest descriptions of the punishment a world that rejects God will receive at the hand of the returned Jesus are contained in his letter to the Thessalonian believers. Those who think love and mercy are the only characteristics of Christ and his Father should ponder well these inspired words. Speaking of the time of reward and comfort for Christ's true followers, he says that it will be a time of punishment for a godless world:

And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).

He refers again to this aspect of Christ's work in his second letter to them. Concerning the evil systems that will oppose Jesus at his return he wrote:

Whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming (2 Thessalonians 2:8).

Have you noticed the repeated mention of fire and burning in connection with these punishments? Clearly Paul had no illusions about the severity of God's judgments on the world to which Jesus will return. Do other first century inspired writers share his understanding of the troubles that will precede the setting up of the Kingdom of God?


This phrase of the Apostle Peter describes the fate of the world which will experience the return of Jesus to the earth. Like his Master he uses the earlier world destroyed by the Flood as the basis for his teaching. Referring to those in the last days who would deny the return of Jesus he says:

For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished (2 Peter 3:5-6).

When Peter refers to the pre-Flood world perishing, he obviously does not mean the literal earth and sky. The Flood destroyed the evil system on the earth that had been produced and maintained by a wicked generation of men. The actual planet survived and was soon restored to its former fertility and beauty. In the same way the 'heavens and earth' which Peter says will pass away at the coming of Jesus represent the structure of human society and government rather than the globe itself. This must be so for we read elsewhere that the earth abideth for ever (Ecclesiastes 1:4).

Taking the heavens and earth to be the human organisations on this planet that have existed since the Flood, listen to what Peter says will happen to them at the return of Jesus:

But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up (2 Peter 3:7, 10).

So Peter repeats the message of Jesus and Paul. The world will be subjected to an intense and painful process of purification in the period soon after Christ's return. Evil men will be destroyed, and all human systems abolished as they were at the Flood.


This third example is from the Old Testament, and its message is exactly the same. In the prophecy of Isaiah are a group of four chapters (24-27) that contain a graphic portrayal of the chaos coming upon a world that has become completely defiled:

Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof.

The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the Lord hath spoken this word.

The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard .... and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again (Isaiah 24:1, 3, 19-20).

The complete desolation of the earth will come as a punishment on its population for their degrading ways:

The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left (Isaiah 24:5-6).

And all this will happen despite the opportunities there have been over the years for man to turn to God and show repentance:

Let favour be shewed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness: in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the Lord. Lord, when thy hand is lifted up, they will not see (Isaiah 26:10- 11).

So the only way that the world can be reformed and made righteous will be by God's judgments:

When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness (Isaiah 26:9).

But the picture is not all black. From out of the ashes and chaos of the destroyed human kingdoms will arise a new order. The ruined cities of the nations will give place to a new 'city' -the Kingdom of God-over which Christ will rule and in which all will find peace and security. For Isaiah also says in this passage:

In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks. Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in. Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord JEHOVAH is everlasting strength (Isaiah 26:1-4).


Our natural tendency is to shrink from visualising such a time of judgment and punishment for the earth as these passages indicate. Because of this it is important that we realise the strength and unanimity of the Bible teaching about this time of trouble. In the Old Testament we saw:

  1. The violent removal of the statue representing the Kingdom of Men. (Daniel).
  2. The destruction of the northern invader of Israel in the last days. (Ezekiel).
  3. The destruction of the armies of the nations gathered in the 'Valley of Yahweh's judgment'. (Joel).
  4. The destruction of the nations that come against Jerusalem. (Zechariah).
  5. World wide catastrophe resulting in depopulation and the ruin of present human systems. (Isaiah).
  6. In every one of these references the devastation is caused by direct divine intervention resulting in the recognition by the nations of God's power and authority, and leads on to the establishment of God's Kingdom in a purified earth.

The New Testament predictions are equally definite:

  1. Jesus spoke of a time of fiery judgment for the world at his return.
  2. Paul frequently alluded to the same time, calling it the time of God's vengeance, when Jesus will return in flaming fire.
  3. Peter likened the judgments of the time of the end to the destruction caused by the Flood, except that this time the agency would be fire rather than water.
  4. The book of Revelation several times depicts the great terminal battles that will display the 'wrath of God' and usher in the time when The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ.

Combining these inspired predictions we have a picture of an earth scourged by war, tormented by suffering, shaken by earthquakes, rocked by social upheavals, its cities burned and its population decimated; until mankind at last acknowledges the existence of the God of Heaven and the authority He has invested in the one whom He has sent to be King of kings and Lord of lords. Another Psalm, which Jesus himself quoted as applying to the Messiah, speaks of the return of Jesus from heaven to claim David's throne in Jerusalem and of his final acceptance by a chastened people:

The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power (Psalm 110:1-3).

Writing these last few pages has not been easy. It is no light thing to contemplate a devastated world full of misery, suffering and death. I could have ignored the evidence. From considering the return of Christ I could have moved swiftly to the time of peace and joy that will bathe the world in the Kingdom of God. But in avoiding all reference to God's judgments I would have been dishonest, and failing in my objective of trying to present the whole Bible teaching. Above all I would be dishonouring the One who has revealed this for the enlightenment and warning of the generation living at the time of the end.

But after this dark night will come a splendid dawn. From its nucleus in Jerusalem and Israel the Kingdom of God under the rule of Christ and his immortal helpers will spread throughout the world, just as in the dream of Nebuchadnezzar the stone that had destroyed the statue eventually grew to fill all the earth.

We have already considered in chapter 2 the Bible's picture of the Kingdom of God on earth and I suggest that my readers now turn back to p.17 and refresh their minds about the joy and peace that will fill the earth under the reign of Israel's Messiah, before we look at the brief Scriptural allusions to the perfect state beyond the Millennium.