THE COMING KINGDOM OF CHRIST
John R. Rice,
Author of Prayer — Asking and Receiving; The Home: Courtship, Marriage and Children; Twelve Tremendous Themes; The Ruin of a Christian; Revival Appeals, etc.
A Bible study on the return of Christ, the coming restoration and conversion of Israel, the re-establishment of David’s throne at Jerusalem, Christ’s reign thereon for a thousand years, and the eternal Heaven upon the earth where all the saints of God of all ages will dwell in eternal rapture in the presence of our Father, God, and His dear Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
WITH MINGLED joy and anxiety I present this book to Christian readers everywhere. I am anxious because the matters taught are so weighty. I earnestly pray that God will make the truths that are herein presented clear to every humble heart who willingly seeks to know what God has promised and the things that “must shortly come to pass.” But there is a great joy in the telling of this story. My own heart has been so blessed in the long months of preparation, study, prayer, and writing, that I cannot but feel that others likewise will be blessed.
The burden of the book is this: that Christ will return to this earth, restore Israel to Palestine and save them, and will establish again the throne of David, and from that throne rule over the entire earth; that this kingdom will be a literal kingdom of a visible Christ reigning over a literal people; that eventually Heaven will be on this earth. Many other details of teaching will become clear as you read. All I ask is that you give to the reading an open mind and a prayerful, humble heart, and that you search the Scriptures to see whether these things are so.
Two things particularly characterize this volume.
The first is that nearly one line in three of the book is actual Scripture quotations.
Many, many other Scripture references are given. The whole matter must be settled by the Word of God. It is a book of Bible teaching. I trust and earnestly believe that this feature will make the book valuable to the well-versed Bible scholar and at the same time understandable and rich to the beginning student who knows little of the Word of God.
The other outstanding characteristic is that the Scriptures are taken at face value.
I believe the Bible. I believe it says what it means. I believe that humble, prayerful hearts who approach the Word of God in reverent faith will find its treasures fully available, and each one may fill his vessel to the full. Worldly wisdom is not sufficient, for God has hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them unto babes. So we take the Scriptures at face value.
– “Israel” means Israel.
– “Jerusalem” means Jerusalem.
– “For ever” means forever.
– “A thousand years” means a thousand years.
– All the promises of God are “yea and amen.”
If Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and the apostles believed the promises about the coming kingdom, then we may safely do the same.
– Some say the promised reign of Christ on the throne of David will never come to pass.
– Others say it began during His earthly ministry.
– Still others believe that at Pentecost the kingdom was set up and that the church and kingdom are the same.
– Still others believe that the Scriptural promises and prophecies on these matters are highly figurative, cannot be understood, and that we should leave the study of unfulfilled prophecies and preach only those that have been fulfilled.
But the careful and prayerful reader who checks this little book by THE Book will learn that God has promised a kingdom on this earth when the Lord Jesus Himself shall reign gloriously in Jerusalem over all the earth.
Please do not be offended at the positive ring throughout the book.
Before you are through you will see, I trust, that this book presents only the clear, positive teachings of the Word of God. If we were guessing about dates, or speculating on things not revealed, we might well be more timid. There is much about the future that we do not know.
Many faithful and good teachers and preachers of the Bible do not agree about details. But the great body of truth concerning the fact of Christ’s literal return and literal reign on this earth are so clearly taught that for a humble and open-minded believer to know what God’s Word says on these matters is simply to accept it and be glad.
For myself it was so. Reared and trained altogether under the teachings of postmillennialists in Sunday School, preaching service, college, university, and seminary, when I began the independent study of my Bible I was compelled and then happy to accept this Bible teaching.
In closing, may I say that the purpose of the book is not only to make clear a great Bible teaching but to establish a Hope and show Christians that it is the blessed Hope. I earnestly pray that hearts will be blessed even more than heads.
To me it is surprisingly sweet to know that there is coming a day:
– When the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ;
– When the pure in heart shall see God,
– When the meek shall inherit the earth;
– When the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
– When the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped,
– When the lame shall leap as an hart,
– When the tongue of the dumb shall sing,
– When sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Our arms will hold again our dear ones, loved and lost awhile, and we shall see Him whom we love because He first loved us.
I trust that the longing in your heart, as you read this book, will teach you to pray sincerely in the words the Saviour taught us, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10), and like the beloved John, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus”! (Revelation 22:20).
I take this occasion to acknowledge my debt to many who have helped to make this book possible.
The writings of Dr. R. A. Torrey, Dr. C. I. Scofield, Dr. W. E. Blackstone and many others have taught me to take heed to the “more sure word of prophecy” “as unto a light that shineth in a dark place.”
I owe to the ministry of such men a debt of gratitude which words can only poorly express.
The defects of the book must be many. My heart cries out that however much of prayer and study and labor has been bestowed upon the book I am an unprofitable servant. Yet before now God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the mighty, and He who blessed Moses’ rod and Gideon’s lamp, and the jawbone in the hand of Samson, can surely bless this. I put it in His hands as the little boy put the loaves and fishes there for Him to multiply and feed the hungry multitude.
May He get glory to His great name! Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
John R. Rice
Wheaton, Illinois December, 1944
CHRISTIAN people are constantly confronted by certain great questions. People are hungry to have the facts about such questions as these:
- Why did all the Jews expect Christ to have a literal kingdom on earth?
David understood that some great Descendant would continue his kingdom on this earth permanently. The Jews in the time of Christ expected some great Son of David to arise and establish again the Jewish monarchy. The wise men came to find “the King of the Jews,” and even Herod was alarmed because he expected a King to be born who would restore David’s kingdom, over Israel. Even the apostles, and that after the resurrection of Jesus, were looking for the restoration of the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6). WHY? Had God given them reason to expect a literal kingdom on earth?
- Will this war-torn world ever have real, permanent, worldwide peace?
Men’s efforts have failed. Peace treaties have become weapons of offense. All the world’s culture, civilization, and science have only succeeded in making war more terrible, more heartless, more bloody. Will this war-torn world ever have peace? If so, when, and how?
- Will the curse placed on this world because of sin ever be removed so that man can live here in a new Garden of Eden?
Weeds still grow easier than corn. Science only slightly modifies the terrible scourge of insect pests. Disease increases. Drought, floods, earthquakes and tornadoes ravage the earth. This whole planet groans and travails because of sin. Will man ever subdue this earth and have dominion over it as God commanded, as Adam lived in Eden at perfect peace with all animal life and the elements of nature?
- Has the glory of Israel departed forever?
Has God cast away forever the nation of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and the apostles? Or will God yet restore the nation Israel to its own land, Canaan, united, happy, and saved?
- Christians talk much of Heaven; where will Heaven be through eternity?
Will it be in some mystic, uncertain, far-off state where spirits without bodies gather, or will it be the paradise of God set up on this earth?
These Questions Answered in the Bible
The Bible answers these questions, definitely, explicitly, in chapter after chapter and verse after verse. Surprising as it may seem, every preacher who knows his Bible can show you the answer to any one of these five questions, with dozens of Scriptures to prove it in the Word of God.
The Bible answers these questions so clearly that they never would have been asked but for the ignorance of those who do not know the Bible and the folly of those who explain away the plain, literal teachings of God’s Word.
The simple fact is, that people generally know nothing about the prophetic portions of the Bible.
– The denominational seminaries usually do not attempt to teach these portions.
– The average pastor never preaches on prophecy, thinks it of no special importance and admits that he does not understand it.
– And many people foolishly call a discussion of prophecy “speculation.”
– Many Bible teachers and preachers say that these prophecies are so highly figurative that they cannot be understood and that perhaps most of them have already been fulfilled in a figurative sense.
– The International Sunday School lesson committee deliberately avoids these prophecies.
– Satan has evidently set out to keep from the people a knowledge of what God has plainly foretold will come to pass.
“There Shall Come in the Last Days Scoffers”
The Bible plainly foretells this attitude of skepticism toward prophecy and particularly toward the return of Christ in 2Peter 3:3-5, as follows:
“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers., walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. 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.”
Notice that these scoffers about the second coming of Christ are:
– Worldly in their living, “walking after their own lusts,”
– Modernistic in their doctrine; that is, they “willingly are ignorant” of the direct creation of the world by the Word of God.
Evidently this Scripture has come to pass, is being fulfilled before our eyes. It is a pitiful fact that in these modern days, Christians, and often preachers, walk after their own lusts and have the same habits, companions and entertainments as the unsaved world. This Scripture has also come to pass in these last days, that men, even so-called Christian college and seminary teachers, and some preachers “willingly are ignorant” of the fact “that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water.” People willingly remain ignorant of the direct creation of the world as given in Genesis, and instead of that substitute the modern doctrine of evolution.
But, says the Scripture above, given us by inspiration through the Apostle Peter, the outstanding characteristic about these men who will appear in the last days is that they are scoffers, casting doubt about the second coming of Christ, saying, “Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” How many, many preachers are scoffers about the prophecies of the future so plainly given and so often repeated in the Bible! The Devil has raised up these scoffers among Bible teachers and preachers, Sunday School lesson writers, and seminaries, to keep the masses of the people ignorant concerning God’s plain statements of the things which must come to pass.
It is fair to say that many good, earnest men who love the Lord and believe the Bible have been mistaught and are ignorant concerning the great prophecies of the Bible.
Many a preacher preaches all the truth he knows, but has been discouraged in the study of prophecy by better scholars than he. Then there have been many charlatans and false teachers who have brought reproach on the prophetic portions of God’s Word. Many people very foolishly set dates for the second coming of Christ, when Jesus plainly said that no man knows the day nor the hour, and that all should watch for that time which would come as suddenly as a thief in the night.
Seventh Day Adventists, Millerites, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Anglo-Israel teachers and many others have brought discredit on prophetic teaching. But how foolish it is to neglect and ignore half of the Bible because it has been mistaught by others! The prophetic portion of the Bible is still God’s Word and is intended to be read, to be taught, and to be understood.
More Than Half of Bible Prophecies Not Yet Fulfilled!
Most people do not realize how much of the future is told in the Bible. They know that many things about Christ’s first coming, His birth, His sufferings, His death and resurrection are foretold in the Old Testament.
They do not know that hundreds of details concerning:
– The resurrection of the Christian dead,
– The changing of the bodies of living Christians,
– Our marriage to Christ and our honeymoon,
– A great tribulation on this earth,
– The rise of the Antichrist (a world dictator),
– The last great battle on earth,
– The setting up of the kingdom of Christ,
– The regathering of Israel to one land,
– Their conversion,
– The restoration of the kingdom of David,
– The final doom of Satan,
– Judgment of sinners,
– The moving of God the Father and His house of many mansions to the new earth for the remainder of eternity,
Are told with fascinating clearness!
Far more than half of the prophecies of the Bible are as yet unfulfilled. The prophecies which have not been fulfilled are as definite, as literal, and as easily understood as the prophecies which have been fulfilled already.
The second coming of Christ is foretold as clearly as is the first coming, and the incidents connected with it are as clear as it was:
– That He should be born at Bethlehem,
– That He should be of the tribe of Judah,
– Descended from David,
– Born of a virgin,
– That He should enter Jerusalem on an ass and
– That He should preach the gospel to the poor.
Those were literal happenings, literally foretold.
The literal facts about His crucifixion, including:
– The gamble for His garments,
– The very words of the priests before the cross,
– The piercing of His hands and feet, and
– The cry of Jesus, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
All were so literally foretold that the most brazen skeptic could not deny their fulfillment. We have no reason to believe that the remainder of the prophecies will be fulfilled any less literally than these. Oftentimes the prophecies about the second coming of Jesus are in the same chapters or same verses with these other prophecies which have been already fulfilled, definitely and literally.
Unfulfilled Prophecies Can Be Understood
Sometimes people who do not know much about prophecies, or who do not believe they will be literally fulfilled, excuse themselves by saying that one cannot understand a prophecy until it has been fulfilled and that therefore we should not study nor try to interpret unfulfilled prophecies. A brief reflection ought to convince anybody that that is not true. Prophecies are given ahead of time so that people may be warned. They can be understood, and that is exactly the reason they are given.
For example, Noah prepared for the flood, built an ark, and preached to the wicked generation before the flood; and all Noah knew about it he got from prophecies that were not yet fulfilled! He did not ignore those prophecies nor think they might be figurative, but he knew what would happen and what he should do in preparation.
Lot in Sodom, and Abraham outside of Sodom, knew ahead of time that the wicked city, with others, would be destroyed by the wrath of God. All they knew about it was from the Lord’s prophecies that had not yet been fulfilled. But that is what prophecies are for, so we may be prepared when the things come to pass.
The Flood and the Destruction of Sodom, Like the Return of Christ
The judgment of God on the whole earth in the flood, and on Sodom and Gomorrah in the days of Lot, are mentioned by the Saviour in Matthew 24:37-42 and Luke 17:26-30 as typical of the events surrounding the coming of the Saviour. Jesus said, “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”
Those prophecies of the future were given to be understood ahead of time, and so are the prophecies of the Bible which are yet unfulfilled.
I remind you that just as we do not know the time of the Saviour’s coming, so the exact time of the flood and of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire and brimstone from the Lord out of Heaven were not foretold. But the essential facts were foretold plainly and the prophecies were fulfilled literally. So we may expect it to be with the prophecies which have not yet been fulfilled.
It is a fact, then, that unfulfilled prophecies can be understood. We are not to go beyond what the Bible says. We are not to teach guesses nor speculation nor what we imagine about the future, but what the Lord has revealed. And that we may take at face value, believing that it will be fulfilled to the letter, and literally, as were the prophecies which have been fulfilled heretofore.
Practically all we know about Heaven, about Hell, about the resurrection of our bodies, about rewards and judgments, we know from unfulfilled prophecies.
Many Prophecies of Christ’s First Coming Were Understood Before Time
The Old Testament is full of references to Jesus. Jesus is the theme of all the Bible, the Old as well as the New.
Jesus said, “Moses . . . wrote of me”; He said, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.”
Peter preached to Cornelius that “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43).
How foolish it would be to have the Old Testament full of predictions of prophecies about the first coming of the Saviour if none of them could be understood ahead of time.
The fact is that many, many of these prophecies were understood ahead of time.
– The wicked scribes and Pharisees knew and told Herod that the Saviour was to be born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:3-6).
– They knew that Christ should live forever (John 12:34).
– The more spiritually-minded seemed to have known (probably from Daniel 9:24-25) the time of His birth.
– Remember the wise men (Matthew 2:1-2), and Simeon (Luke 2:26).
Even the common people seemed to be expecting Jesus when He began His ministry (John 7:31).
– Christ’s virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14),
– His descent from David (Jeremiah 23:5-6),
– His birth at Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)
These were so thoroughly made known in prophecies, before they were fulfilled, that all might have known they would literally come to pass, and many did know.
The time of the Second Coming is not foretold, but Daniel 9:25 told ahead of time that the first coming of Christ would be sixty-nine sevens of years (483 years) after the command to restore Jerusalem and the temple in the days of Nehemiah and Ezra!
It is silly to say that unfulfilled prophecies cannot be understood. That is what they are given for, to be understood. Of course, there are depths to the prophecies and to all Scripture that human beings have not yet fathomed. When I read John 3:16, I cannot know all about how much God loved me! But thank God, I can clearly understand that He did love me and that He gave Christ to die for me, and that by believing on Him I have everlasting life.
Unfulfilled prophecies, then, are to be read, studied, and taught like other parts of the Bible.
Special Blessing Promised in the Study of the Prophecies
The Lord promised special blessings to those who read, who hear, and who understand prophecies. In Matthew 13:10-17, Jesus stated this principle, that since His coming many things not understood by the prophets and righteous men of old are now revealed, but only to spiritually-minded people.
He did not explain the parables of the kingdom of Heaven to the public, but did to His disciples, saying in Matthew 13:16-17:
“But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.”
Jesus has a special blessing for those whose hearts are humble and attentive to His teaching about prophecies.
Likewise in Revelation 1:3, the same Lord Jesus, in giving John the book of Revelation, said, “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.”
Remember that the book of Revelation has a divinely inspired title given in the first verse, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.”
The subject of the book of Revelation is the course of events culminating in the public revelation of Jesus Christ visibly to the whole world. And the Lord Jesus promised a special blessing to those who read, hear and keep the things written in this prophecy! Prophecy can be understood. Christians not only can understand the prophecies but are plainly commanded to read and hear them. So we should search the Bible for answers to our questions.
Unfulfilled Prophecy “a Light That Shineth in a Dark Place”
Not only can unfulfilled prophecies be understood, but they are the only lights we have in this dark world as concerns the future. Science can give no assurance about what will happen tomorrow. The rulers of the nations who in some sense have in their care the lives of millions, can only grope in an ever increasing darkness, wondering what tomorrow will bring.
But the Scriptures, thank God, will tell us; and God’s prophetic Word shines on the future as light in a dark place.
So says the Word of God. 2Peter 1:19 says: “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.”
– Prophecy of the future is “sure.” It is not speculation nor guess but sure revelation.
– To this prophecy yet unfulfilled, “ye do well that ye take heed,” as the only dependable light in the dark,
– And keep on heeding “until the day dawn”!
We are commanded to take heed to prophecy. There is a special blessing on those who study prophecy. Unfulfilled prophecy is a light shining in a dark place. Christians who know and understand the prophecies of the Bible will walk in the light and not in darkness, knowing the “things which must shortly come to pass.”
Why Jews Expected Christ to Set Up a Literal, Earthly Kingdom
We do not have to seek far to learn why the Jews of the time of Christ, even including the apostles, all expected Jesus to set up a literal kingdom on the earth. The reason is that the Bible plainly and repeatedly, from one end to the other, teaches that He will do exactly that.
– It tells that the kingdom will be over Jews.
– It tells many times that that kingdom will be centered in the land of Canaan or Palestine.
– The Bible repeats many times that the King will be a Descendant of David and will rule in the place of David, from the same place, that is, from the same throne.
– The Bible likewise makes clear that that kingdom will be a literal kingdom on a literal throne over a literal land.
Now, if your mind has been stirred enough to investigate honestly this matter, blessed are you! If so, you are getting ready to enjoy your Bible as you never did before and to learn things that you never dreamed were in the Word of God.
May God bless you and help you to learn for yourself some of the mysterious and wonderful things God has foretold as certain to come to pass. Let us learn, then, about God’s promises to Abraham, to David, to the children of Israel, to the eternal city Jerusalem, to the apostles, and to all Christians.