Chapter 13

The Perfect Kingdom

In this chapter we come to the completion of God's plan for the earth and man. In previous pages we have traced the gradual development of His purpose from the far-off days of man's creation and the Garden in Eden. We saw how sin entered into the world, and the tragic consequences of human transgression. But we saw also the first ray of light appear in the promise of a son to Eve who would eventually destroy sin and death.

We then looked at God's promises which proclaimed to Abraham that he would have a son who would bring blessing to all peoples of the world. We next considered the promise to David that his son would be a King like himself, but over the far greater Kingdom of God. We then noted that the coming of this ruler was a theme of the Old Testament prophets, and that when Jesus was born he was hailed as this long awaited Messiah. The future Kingdom of God was the focus of Christ's preaching, and having made forgiveness and eternal life possible for his friends by the loving sacrifice of his life, he went to heaven to await the time of his return to set up the Kingdom.

After studying the God-given signs of the second coming of Jesus, we noted that these indicate that the earth seems now ready for his return. We next examined the passages that explained the great work of Jesus in gathering his living friends, raising his dead ones, and rewarding the faithful among them with eternal life. We saw that with their help he will cleanse the earth of the evil legacies of human rule. Finally we returned to some of those delightful word-pictures in which the prophets describe the blessings of Christ's future reign, and which we considered in detail in chapter 2.

Now we come to the grand climax, when the years of preparation give way to the eternal ages of fulfilment.

At the end of his thousand year rule Jesus will be reigning over a transformed world. The Kingdom of Men, which at his return was teetering on the brink of self-destruction, will long since have given place to the perfect government of the Kingdom of God. The evils of war, famine, disease, oppression and injustice, that inherited legacy of sin, will be but a distant memory in the minds of privileged and happy people who, under the wise guidance of Christ and his immortal assistants, will have turned to God in loving and obedient service. The prediction at the birth of Jesus will have come true at last: for resulting from Glory to God in the highestthere will be on earth peace, good will toward men.

But delightful and happy though this time will be, this phase of the Kingdom of God is not the completion of God's plan for the earth. Sin, although much less in evidence, will still exist; and death, although a comparatively rare event, will still occur.

Thus even during the Millennium the earth will not yet have reached the condition that will enable the pure and holy Creator to dwell among man in perfect fellowship. The fulfilment of this original intention must await a further development-the complete removal of sin and death from the face of our planet.

From the book of Revelation we learn that during the Millennium the power of sin will be restrained. As we saw in chapter 9 the Bible uses a serpent as a symbol of sin because in Eden the serpent was instrumental in bringing sin into the world. Maintaining this symbology, Revelation depicts the 'serpent' as being bound with a chain for the thousand years of Christ's rule, thus teaching that for this period the power of sin will be reduced, although not completely destroyed (Revelation 20:2).

But at the end of the Millennium this restraint on sin will be removed, and a spirit of rebellion will surge over the world. This will be the final test of allegiance for the mortal inhabitants of the Kingdom of God. Will they remain faithful to the God who has blessed them with his inexhaustible bounty during the previous thousand years, or will they listen to the plausible arguments of some who, forgetful of the horrors of the old Kingdom of Men, feel that they can do better themselves? It seems that the liberated power of sin will cause the rebels to have a considerable following, for Revelation describes how that after the serpent's release he

Shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth .... to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city(Revelation 20:8-9).

Inevitably this insurrection will be doomed to failure. The terse statement of Scripture describes the utter annihilation of the rebels:

And fire came down from God out of heaven, and destroyed them(Revelation 20:9).

This same chapter goes on to describe the final removal of sin and death. At the end of the Millennium those who have lived during that period will have judgment passed upon their lives at a tribunal similar to the one that 1000 years before had determined the eternal destiny of those who had lived under human rule. After a resurrection of any who may have died, the faithful will be given eternal life and join with those who were made immortal at the start of the Millennium; whilst the unfaithful will be punished with death. Thus at the end of these events there will be no mortal people left on earth. Sin and its results will have been eliminated, and all will delight in the perfection of the divine nature, experiencing the fulness of their Creator's power and love (Revelation 20:10-15).

With the final removal of sin, the grand scheme for man's redemption will at last be completed, and there will be nothing to prevent perfect and uninterrupted fellowship between God and man. So the Kingdom of God will enter its final and permanent stage. In his letter to the Corinthians, in another 'key' passage, Paul summarises the process by which this perfect unity will have been achieved. In a broad sweep of Bible teaching he covers the entry of sin into the world, bringing death to all those that are 'in Adam'. He points to the means of redemption in Christ, explaining that first Jesus obtained eternal life, and then his followers will be similarly blessed at his second coming. He refers to the reign of Jesus over the Kingdom of God, during which rule he will subdue all other powers and at last even death itself. And then he explains that the only power that will not have become subject to Jesus is God Himself. Finally, Jesus will present the perfected Kingdom to God, for Him to inhabit for eternity: even the Son becoming subject to the universal rule of the Father. The passage will repay close and careful study, for it summarises the whole of the purpose of God in relation to His Kingdom.

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he 'has put everything under his feet.' Now when it says that 'everything' has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all(1 Corinthians 15:22-28 NIV).

The delights of the perfect time when God is all in allare beyond the possibility of our present comprehension, nor can we imagine the abilities, feelings or opportunities that will open up to those who will be eternally united to the great Creator of the universe. Suited to our limited understanding, Scripture therefore portrays that time as the absence of present ills rather than attempting to picture a state for which we have no experience to draw upon, and no words adequate to describe:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away'(Revelation 21:3-4 NIV).

But what is for me the most impressive reference to the perfect state of things beyond the Millennium is the closing vision of the book of Revelation. For here in the very last chapter of the Bible we are presented with a sublimely beautiful contrast with the earliest chapters in Genesis. Hundreds of years separated the writing of these two passages, and thousands separate the events they describe, yet hidden in the symbols of the closing words of Scripture are the circumstances and events of the Garden in Eden-a convincing indication of the control that the Bible's Author exercised over the writers who were but His mouthpiece.

The original Garden as described in Genesis had many features. The man and woman experienced fellowship with their Creator. There was a river flowing through that brought life-giving water, and there was a tree of life in the midst of this original paradise. The pleasant duty of the newly created pair was to tend this fruitful plot in service to their God, and to have dominion over the creation of God. But all this was put out of man's reach because of their transgression. They were driven from the Garden, the tree with its life-giving fruit was no longer accessible, they were banished from the face of God and the communion with Him was broken. They went out into an earth that was henceforth cursed because of their sin. And so commenced man's long history of trouble, sorrow and death.

All this is reversed in the very last word-picture of the Bible-a symbolic Garden in which all these lost delights will be restored to the faithful of mankind. Drawing extensively on the symbology of Genesis this Garden is described as being watered by a river of life, beside which will be a tree of life with healing fruit and leaves. The curse on the earth will be removed, and God will dwell in the Garden and His redeemed will see His face. These also will be invited to serve Him and to have dominion over the earth, this time for ever.

Below is the passage in all its delightful imagery, and you can note from the italicised words the unity of ideas between Genesis and Revelation, the beginning and ending of God's revelation to man. Everything lost on man's expulsion from Eden is restored in far greater measure in the perfect Kingdom of God:

And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever(Revelation 22:1-5).

With this symbolic picture in the last chapter of the Bible the golden thread of God's revelation to man ends. After weaving in and out the pages of the whole Bible, it has led us at last to view the future time of perfect intimacy, unalloyed joy and inexpressible unity that will exist eternally between the Almighty Creator, His Son, and those who have become reconciled to God through him. Then will the prayer of Jesus for the believers receive its glorious and complete fulfilment:

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us .... And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one (John 17:21-23).

It was in longing for this state of absolute perfection that our beloved Saviour put these words into the lips of every one of his true followers:

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. THY KINGDOM COME. THY WILL BE DONE IN EARTH, AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.

May our Bible study together in these pages have opened your eyes to the true Bible teaching about the Kingdom of God. May it have given you a desire to study God's Word like some of old who searched the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. And may it have awakened in your heart a desire to respond to the love of God revealed in His Son, by whom the Kingdom has been made possible.

For when it has had this effect, you will be able to say the concluding words of Lord's Prayer not only with true understanding, but with joyous hope of eternal life as well: