God’s Kingdom Rules
1, 2. How have human governments proved inadequate?
PERHAPS you have had the experience of buying a piece of equipment, only to find that it did not work. Let us say that you called a repairman. Shortly after he “fixed” the device, however, it broke down. How disappointing that was!
2 It is similar with human governments. Mankind has always desired a government that would ensure peace and happiness. Yet, strenuous efforts to repair the breakdowns in society have not been truly successful. A great many peace treaties have been made—and then broken. Moreover, what government has been able to eradicate poverty, prejudice, crime, disease, and ecological ruin? Man’s rule is beyond repair. Even Israel’s wise King Solomon asked: “As regards earthling man, how can he discern his way?”—Proverbs 20:24.
3. (a) What was the theme of Jesus’ preaching? (b) How do some people describe God’s Kingdom?
3 Do not despair! A stable world government is not just a dream. It was the theme of Jesus’ preaching. He called it “the kingdom of God,” and he taught his followers to pray for it. (Luke 11:2; 21:31) Of course, God’s Kingdom is sometimes mentioned in religious circles. In fact, millions pray for it daily when they repeat the Lord’s Prayer (also called the Our Father or model prayer). But people answer in various ways when asked, “What is God’s Kingdom?” Some say, “It is in your heart.” Others call it heaven. The Bible gives a clear answer, as we shall see.
A KINGDOM WITH A PURPOSE
4, 5. Why did Jehovah choose to bring about a new expression of his sovereignty, and what will it accomplish?
4 Jehovah God has always been King, or Sovereign Ruler, of the universe. The fact that he created all things elevates him to that exalted position. (1 Chronicles 29:11; Psalm 103:19; Acts 4:24) But the Kingdom that Jesus preached about is subsidiary, or secondary, to God’s universal sovereignty. That Messianic Kingdom has a specific purpose, but what is it?
5 As explained in Chapter 6, the first human pair rebelled against God’s authority. Because of the issues raised, Jehovah chose to bring about a new expression of his sovereignty. God announced his purpose to produce a “seed” that would crush the Serpent, Satan, and remove the effects of mankind’s inherited sin. The primary “seed” is Jesus Christ, and “the kingdom of God” is the agency that will utterly defeat Satan. By means of this Kingdom, Jesus Christ will restore rulership over the earth in Jehovah’s name and will vindicate God’s rightful sovereignty for all time.—Genesis 3:15; Psalm 2:2-9.
6, 7. (a) Where is the Kingdom, and who are the King and his associate rulers? (b) Who are the subjects of the Kingdom?
6 According to one rendition of Jesus’ words to wicked Pharisees, he said: “The kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21, King James Version) Did Jesus mean that the Kingdom was in the wicked hearts of those corrupt men? No. A more accurate translation of the original Greek reads: “The kingdom of God is in your midst.” (New World Translation) Jesus, who was in their midst, thus referred to himself as the future King. Far from being something that a person has in his heart, God’s Kingdom is a real, operating government having a ruler and subjects. It is a heavenly government, for it is called both “the kingdom of the heavens” and “the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 13:11; Luke 8:10) In vision, the prophet Daniel beheld its Ruler as “someone like a son of man” brought before Almighty God and given lasting “rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him.” (Daniel 7:13, 14) Who is this King? Well, the Bible calls Jesus Christ “the Son of man.” (Matthew 12:40; Luke 17:26) Yes, Jehovah designated his Son, Jesus Christ, to be King.
7 Jesus does not rule alone. With him are 144,000 who have been “bought from the earth” to be his associate kings and priests. (Revelation 5:9, 10; 14:1, 3; Luke 22:28-30) The subjects of God’s Kingdom will be a global family of humans who are submissive to Christ’s leadership. (Psalm 72:7, 8) How, though, can we be sure that the Kingdom will actually vindicate God’s sovereignty and restore paradisaic conditions to our earth?
THE REALITY OF GOD’S KINGDOM
8, 9. (a) How might we illustrate the reliability of God’s Kingdom promises? (b) Why can we be sure of the Kingdom’s reality?
8 Imagine that a fire has destroyed your home. Now a friend who has the means to do so promises to help rebuild your house and provide food for your family. If that friend has always told you the truth, would you not believe him? Suppose you came home from work the next day and found that workers were already starting to clean up the debris from the fire and that food had been brought for your family. No doubt you would be completely confident that with the passing of time, things would not only be restored but would even be better than before.
9 Similarly, Jehovah gives us assurance of the Kingdom’s reality. As shown in the Bible book of Hebrews, many facets of the Law foreshadowed the Kingdom arrangement. (Hebrews 10:1) Foregleams of God’s Kingdom were also evident in the earthly kingdom of Israel. That was no ordinary government, for the rulers sat upon “Jehovah’s throne.” (1 Chronicles 29:23) Moreover, it had been foretold: “The scepter will not turn aside from Judah, neither the commander’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to him the obedience of the peoples will belong.” (Genesis 49:10)* Yes, it was into this Judean line of kings that Jesus, the permanent King of God’s government, was to be born.—Luke 1:32, 33.
10. (a) When was the foundation of God’s Messianic Kingdom laid? (b) What important work would Jesus’ prospective corulers be spearheading on earth?
10 The foundation of God’s Messianic Kingdom was laid with the selection of Jesus’ apostles. (Ephesians 2:19, 20; Revelation 21:14) These were the first of 144,000 who would rule in heaven as associate kings with Jesus Christ. While on earth, these prospective corulers would spearhead a witnessing campaign, in keeping with Jesus’ command: “Go . . . and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit.”—Matthew 28:19.
11. How is the Kingdom-preaching work being carried out today, and what is it accomplishing?
11 The command to make disciples is now being obeyed on an unprecedented scale. Jehovah’s Witnesses are proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom all around the globe, in harmony with Jesus’ prophetic words: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) As one aspect of the Kingdom-preaching work, a great educational program is being carried out. Those who submit to the laws and principles of God’s Kingdom are already experiencing a peace and unity that human governments cannot achieve. All of this gives clear evidence that God’s Kingdom is a reality!
12. (a) Why is it appropriate to call Kingdom proclaimers Jehovah’s Witnesses? (b) How does God’s Kingdom differ from human governments?
12 Jehovah told the Israelites: “You are my witnesses, . . . even my servant whom I have chosen.” (Isaiah 43:10-12) Jesus, “the Faithful Witness,” zealously declared the good news of the Kingdom. (Revelation 1:5; Matthew 4:17) So it is appropriate that present-day Kingdom proclaimers bear the divinely appointed name Jehovah’s Witnesses. But why do the Witnesses spend so much time and effort talking to others about God’s Kingdom? They do this because the Kingdom is mankind’s only hope. Human governments break down sooner or later, but God’s Kingdom never will. Isaiah 9:6, 7 calls its Ruler, Jesus, the “Prince of Peace” and adds: “To the abundance of the princely rule and to peace there will be no end.” God’s Kingdom is not like man’s governments—here today and overthrown tomorrow. Indeed, Daniel 2:44 says: “The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. . . . It itself will stand to times indefinite.”
13. (a) What are some problems that God’s Kingdom will address successfully? (b) Why can we be sure that God’s promises will be fulfilled?
13 What human king could bring about the elimination of war, crime, sickness, starvation, and homelessness? Furthermore, what earthly ruler could resurrect those who have died? God’s Kingdom and its King will address these matters. The Kingdom will not prove defective, like malfunctioning equipment that continually needs repair. Rather, God’s Kingdom will succeed, for Jehovah promises: “My word that goes forth from my mouth . . . will not return to me without results, but it will certainly do that in which I have delighted, and it will have certain success in that for which I have sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11) God’s purpose will not fail, but when was Kingdom rule to begin?
14. What misunderstanding did Jesus’ disciples have regarding the Kingdom, but what did Jesus know about his rulership?
14 “Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” This question posed by Jesus’ disciples revealed that as yet they did not know the purpose of God’s Kingdom and the appointed time for its rule to begin. Warning them not to speculate about the matter, Jesus said: “It does not belong to you to get knowledge of the times or seasons which the Father has placed in his own jurisdiction.” Jesus knew that his rulership over the earth was reserved for the future, long after his resurrection and ascension to heaven. (Acts 1:6-11; Luke 19:11, 12, 15) The Scriptures had foretold this. How so?
15. How does Psalm 110:1 shed light on the timing of Jesus’ rulership?
15 Prophetically referring to Jesus as “Lord,” King David said: “The utterance of Jehovah to my Lord is: ‘Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.’” (Psalm 110:1; compare Acts 2:34-36.) This prophecy indicates that Jesus’ rulership would not begin immediately after his ascension to heaven. Rather, he would wait at God’s right hand. (Hebrews 10:12, 13) How long would this waiting go on? When would his rulership begin? The Bible helps us to find the answers.
16. What happened in 607 B.C.E., and how was this related to God’s Kingdom?
16 The only city in all the earth upon which Jehovah placed his name was Jerusalem. (1 Kings 11:36) It was also the capital of a God-approved earthly kingdom typical of God’s heavenly Kingdom. Therefore, the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 607 B.C.E. was very significant. This event marked the beginning of a lengthy interruption of God’s direct rule over his people on earth. Some six centuries later, Jesus indicated that this period of interrupted rule was still in effect, for he said: “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled.”—Luke 21:24.
17. (a) What are “the appointed times of the nations,” and how long were they to last? (b) When did “the appointed times of the nations” begin and end?
17 During “the appointed times of the nations,” worldly governments would be allowed to interrupt rulership approved by God. That period began with the destruction of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E., and Daniel indicated that it would go on for “seven times.” (Daniel 4:23-25) How long is that? The Bible shows that three and a half “times” equal 1,260 days. (Revelation 12:6, 14) Twice that period, or seven times, would be 2,520 days. But nothing noteworthy happened at the end of that short period of time. By applying “a day for a year” to Daniel’s prophecy and counting 2,520 years from 607 B.C.E., however, we arrive at the year 1914 C.E.—Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:6.
18. What did Jesus do shortly after receiving Kingdom power, and how did this affect the earth?
18 Did Jesus begin to reign in heaven at that time? Scriptural reasons for saying that he did will be discussed in the next chapter. Of course, the beginning of Jesus’ rule would not be marked by immediate peace on the earth. Revelation 12:7-12 shows that just after receiving the Kingdom, Jesus would oust Satan and the demon angels from heaven. This would mean woe for the earth, but it is heartening to read that the Devil has only “a short period of time” left. Soon, we will be able to rejoice not only because God’s Kingdom rules but also because it will bring blessings to the earth and obedient mankind. (Psalm 72:7, 8) How do we know that this will happen soon?
The name Shiloh means “He Whose It Is; He to Whom It Belongs.” In time, it became evident that “Shiloh” was Jesus Christ, “the Lion that is of the tribe of Judah.” (Revelation 5:5) Some of the Jewish Targums simply replaced the word “Shiloh” with “the Messiah” or “the king Messiah.”
TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE
What is God’s Kingdom, and from where does it rule?
Who rules in the Kingdom, and who are its subjects?
How has Jehovah assured us that his Kingdom is a reality?
When did “the appointed times of the nations” begin and end?
[Box on page 94]
SOME IMPORTANT EVENTS RELATED TO GOD’S KINGDOM
• Jehovah announces his purpose to produce a “seed” that would crush the head of the Serpent, Satan the Devil.—Genesis 3:15.
• Jesus is enthroned in the heavenly Kingdom in 1914 C.E. as “the appointed times of the nations” end.—Revelation 11:15.
• Satan and his demons are cast down to the vicinity of the earth and bring increased woe to mankind.—Revelation 12:9-12.