When Christ Comes in Kingdom Glory
MANY persons world wide are keenly interested in the time when Jesus Christ comes in Kingdom glory. For centuries God-fearing persons have looked forward to it. Jesus himself raised anticipation for his return by telling four of his disciples who had come to him on the Mount of Olives:
“When the Son of man arrives in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit down on his glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”—Matt. 25:31, 32.
Is there any way to determine the time for this momentous event? On his return Jesus obviously would not be seen with human eyes, since he is said to come with his invisible angels. So is there substantial evidence in the Bible that establishes the time when Jesus comes invisibly in Kingdom glory? Let us see.
“THE APPOINTED TIMES OF THE NATIONS”
That group of four disciples on the Mount of Olives had asked Jesus when the magnificent Jewish temple would be thrown down, also what would be the sign of his second presence and the conclusion of the system of things, or “time of the end.” (Matt. 24:1-3; Luke 21:5-7; Dan. 12:4) After discussing these matters at some length, and while talking about the destruction due to come upon Jerusalem, Jesus said: “They [the Jews] will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled.”—Luke 21:24.
The period of time indicated by the expression “the appointed times of the nations” is really of vital significance, for Jesus closely connects it with the discussion of his second presence, in Kingdom glory. Actually it is a key, the understanding of which conclusively identifies the time of Jesus’ coming in glory. Therefore, it is a matter deserving careful study.
MEANING OF THE GREEK WORD “TIMES”
The word “times” here used at Luke 21:24 comes from the Greek word kairos (plural, kairoi), which, according to one Greek authority, “signified a fixed or definite period, a season, sometimes an opportune or seasonable time.”* Thus, kairos is used in the Scriptures with reference to the “harvest season,” “the season of the fruits,” and “the season of figs.”—Matt. 13:30; 21:34; Mark 11:13.
Interestingly, kairos is also used in connection with future times or occasions within God’s arrangement or ‘timetable,’ particularly as relates to Christ’s second presence and his kingdom. For example, the apostle Paul speaks of the “sacred secret” revealed by God “for an administration at the full limit of the appointed times [kairon], namely, to gather all things together again in the Christ.”—Eph. 1:9, 10; see also Acts 1:7 and Ac 3:19.
In view of the meaning of the word “times” (kairoi), as used in the Bible, it can properly be expected that the expression “the appointed times of the nations” does not refer to something vague or indefinite. Rather, it has reference to a “fixed or definite period,” one having a definite beginning and a definite end.
But when do the “appointed times of the nations” begin? When do they end? And what occurs when this fixed period of time concludes? The answers to these questions are necessarily bound up in Jesus’ reference to the trampling upon of Jerusalem until the fulfillment of “the appointed times of the nations.”
JERUSALEM TRAMPLED ON BY THE NATIONS
The literal city of Jerusalem is obviously referred to in Jesus’ description of the destruction that was to come and did come upon Jerusalem in the year 70 C.E. On that occasion the Roman armies demolished the city and threw down the magnificent temple there. However, the statement concerning “the appointed times of the nations” carries the prophecy far beyond that point. Many Bible commentators have noted this. For example, the well-known commentary by F. C. Cook says of this part of the text: “It serves to separate the strictly eschatological portion of the great prophecy [that is, the portion relating to Jesus’ second presence], from the part belonging properly to the destruction of Jerusalem.”
Thus, when Jesus spoke of “Jerusalem” as being trampled upon “until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled,” he was not simply referring to the literal city of Jerusalem as being trampled upon, but to something additional and greater. To what? To find out let us examine what significance the inspired Scriptures attach to Jerusalem.
Jerusalem was the capital of the nation of Israel, whose kings of the line of David were said to “sit upon Jehovah’s throne.” (1 Chron. 29:23) Jerusalem, therefore, represented the seat of the divinely constituted government or typical kingdom of God operating through the house of David. With its Mount Zion, it was “the town of the grand King.” (Ps. 48:1, 2) Hence, Jerusalem came to stand for the kingdom of the dynasty of King David, much as Washington, London, Paris and Moscow represent the ruling powers of present-day nations, and are so referred to in news communiqués.
The trampling on that kingdom of the dynasty of Davidic rulers did not first begin with the Roman devastating of the city of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. It began centuries earlier with the overthrow of that dynasty in 607 B.C.E.* when the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and took captive the dethroned king of David’s line, Zedekiah, and the land was left desolate. (2 Ki. 25:1-26) This accorded with the prophetic words directed to Zedekiah at Ezekiel 21:25-27, that he should “remove the turban, and lift off the crown. This will not be the same. . . . A ruin, a ruin, a ruin I shall make it. As for this also, it will certainly become no one’s until he comes who has the legal right, and I must give it to him.”
The one who has the “legal right” to the Davidic crown lost by Zedekiah is demonstrated in the Christian Greek Scriptures to be Christ Jesus. Concerning this one the angel who announced his future birth said: “Jehovah God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule as king over the house of Jacob forever, and there will be no end of his kingdom.”—Luke 1:32, 33.
Thus, with the dethronement of King Zedekiah in 607 B.C.E. and the desolation of Jerusalem and Judah, the Gentile powers exercised domination over the entire earth. The kingdom of the dynasty of King David suffered an interruption. Hence Jerusalem, which represented or stood for the “throne of David” that was to be given to the rightful one, Jesus Christ, would continue to be trampled on as long as God’s kingdom, as functioning through David’s house, was kept in a low, inoperative condition under the Gentile powers.
Jesus Christ did not assume his right to rule in Kingdom glory when he was a man on earth. Jerusalem was still being trampled upon by the nations in the first century. When, therefore, was the kingdom of Jehovah God by means of his anointed one, Jesus Christ, to be lifted up to assume power? When would Christ begin his glorious rule? The answer is found in the prophetic Bible book of Daniel, which Jesus referred to at least two times when giving the prophecy concerning his presence in Kingdom glory.—Compare Matthew 24:15, 21 with Daniel 11:31; 12:1.
VISION OF THE SYMBOLIC TREE
In the book of Daniel we find a picture drawn of the domination of the earth by the Gentile powers during their “appointed times.” This information is bound up in a symbolic vision that God gave to the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar.
The vision was of an immense tree that an angel from heaven commanded to be chopped down. The tree’s stump was then banded with iron and copper. It had to stay that way among the grass of the field until “seven times” passed over it. As the prophecy said: “Let its heart be changed from that of mankind, and let the heart of a beast be given to it, and let seven times pass over it. . . . to the intent that people living may know that the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind and that to the one whom he wants to, he gives it and he sets up over it even the lowliest one of mankind.” (Please read the complete vision at Daniel 4:10-17.)
The vision definitely had a fulfillment in Nebuchadnezzar himself. He experienced seven years of madness and roved about as a beast of the field, after which he recovered. (Dan. 4:31-35) Therefore, some view the vision as having direct prophetic application only to him. They see in this vision merely the presentation of the eternal verity of God’s supremacy over all other powers human or supposedly divine. And while they do acknowledge the application of that truth or principle beyond Nebuchadnezzar’s own case, they do not see it as relating to any specific time period or divine schedule.
However, an examination of the entire book of Daniel reveals that the element of time is everywhere prominent in the visions and prophecies it presents. The world powers and events described in the book are shown, not as isolated or occurring at random, with the time element left ambiguous, but, rather, as fitting into a historical setting or time sequence.—Compare Daniel 2:36-45; 7:3-12, 17-26; 8:3-14, 20-25; 9:2, 24-27; 11:2-24; 12:7-13.
Additionally, the Bible book of Daniel repeatedly points forward toward the conclusion that forms the theme of its prophecies: The establishment of a universal and eternal kingdom of God exercised through the rulership of His chosen one, “the Son of man.” “See there!” one prophecy of Daniel says, “with the clouds of the heavens someone like a son of man happened to be coming . . . And to him there were given rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him. His rulership is an indefinitely lasting rulership that will not pass away, and his kingdom one that will not be brought to ruin.” This one, of course, is the ruler of David’s line, Jesus Christ, coming in Kingdom glory.—Matt. 25:31; Dan. 7:13, 14; 4:17; 2:44.
In view of the above, it does not seem logical to evaluate the vision of the symbolic “tree” and its reference to “seven times” as having no other application than to the seven years of madness and subsequent recovery and return to power experienced by one Babylonian ruler. There are at least three strong reasons for believing that the lengthy vision and its interpretation were included in the book of Daniel because of their revealing the duration of the “appointed times of the nations” and the time for the establishment of God’s kingdom of his Christ.
First, because of when it was given—at the critical point in history when God, the Universal Sovereign, had allowed the very kingdom that he had established among his covenant people to be overthrown. Second, because of the person to whom the vision was revealed, namely, to the very ruler who served as the divine instrument in such overthrow, and who thereby became the recipient of world domination by divine permission, that is, without interference by any representative kingdom of Jehovah God. And third, because of the whole theme of the vision, which is: “That people living may know that the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind and that to the one whom he wants to, he gives it and he sets up over it even the lowliest one of mankind.”—Dan. 4:17.
Also of important significance are the symbolisms used in this prophetic vision. Trees are elsewhere used to represent ruling powers, including that of God’s typical kingdom of Jerusalem. (Compare Judges 9:6-15; Ezekiel 17:1-24; 31:2-18.) A stump’s being caused to sprout, and the symbol of a “twig” or “sprout” are found a number of times as representing the renewal of rulership in a certain stock or line, particularly in the Messianic prophecies. (Isa. 10:33–11:10; Jer. 23:5; Zech. 6:12, 13) Jesus spoke of himself as both “the root and the offspring of David.”—Rev. 22:16.
MEANING OF THE VISION
The fact is evident that the key point of the vision is Jehovah God’s exercise of irresistible sovereignty in the “kingdom of mankind,” and this provides the guide to the full meaning of the vision.
The tree is shown to have a first application to Nebuchadnezzar, who, at that point in history, was the head of the dominant world power, Babylon. Yet, prior to Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Jerusalem, the typical kingdom of God ruling out of that city was the agency by which Jehovah expressed his rightful sovereignty toward earth. But, by allowing that typical kingdom at Jerusalem to be overthrown, Jehovah permitted his own visible expression of sovereignty through the Davidic dynasty of kings to be cut down. The expression and exercise of world domination in “the kingdom of mankind,” unhindered by any representative kingdom of God, now passed into the hands of the Gentile nations.—Lam. 1:5; 2:2, 16, 17.
In the light of these facts the “tree” is seen to represent, beyond and above its initial application to Nebuchadnezzar, world sovereignty or domination by God’s kingdom.
God, however, here makes clear that he has not forever delivered up such world domination to the Gentile powers. The vision shows that God’s self-restraint, represented by the bands of iron and copper around the “stump” of the tree, would continue until “seven times pass over it.” (Dan. 4:16, 23, 25) Then, since “the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind,” He would give world domination “to the one whom he wants to.” Yes, to the glorified “Son of man,” Jesus Christ! (Dan. 4:17; 7:13, 14; Matt. 25:31) Thus, the symbolic “stump,” representing God’s retention of the sovereign right to exercise world domination in “the kingdom of mankind,” was due to sprout again in his Son’s kingdom.—Ps. 89:27, 35-37.
But when exactly would this occur? When would the symbolic “seven times” or “appointed times of the nations” conclude? When would Jerusalem, or the kingdom of God functioning through David’s house that is signified by “Jerusalem,” cease to be trampled upon? Yes, when would the one who has the “legal right” to the “throne of David” come in Kingdom glory?—Ezek. 21:27; Luke 1:32.
THE LENGTH OF THE “SEVEN TIMES”
In Nebuchadnezzar’s personal experience of the vision’s fulfillment the “seven times” were evidently seven years, during which he admits that he became mad and abandoned his throne to eat grass like a beast of the field. (Dan. 4:33-36) Notably, the Biblical description of the exercise of world domination by the Gentile powers is presented through the figure of beasts, which are in opposition to the holy people of God and their “Prince of princes.” (Compare Daniel 7:2-8, 12, 17-26; 8:3-12, 20-25; Revelation 11:7; 13:1-11; 17:7-14.) And concerning the word “times” (from Aramaic iddan) as used in Daniel’s prophecy, it is shown by lexicographers here to mean “years.”*
The duration of a year as so used is indicated to be 360 days. Confirmative evidence for this is found at Revelation 12:6, 14, where three and a half times are shown to equal “a thousand two hundred and sixty days.” (Compare Revelation 11:2, 3.) If, now, three and a half symbolic “times” amount to 1,260 symbolic days, then twice three and a half (or seven) symbolic “times” would be twice 1,260 days, that is to say, 2,520 days. But in their greater fulfillment, in connection with the length of “the appointed times of the nations,” these are not literal days. Then what are they?
That a specific number of days may be used in the Bible record to represent prophetically an equivalent number of years can be seen by reading the accounts at Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6. Only by applying the formula there expressed of “a day for a year” to the “seven times” of this prophecy can the vision of Daniel chapter four have significant fulfillment beyond the now extinct Nebuchadnezzar’s day, as the evidence thus far presented gives reason to expect. The “seven times,” therefore, represent 2,520 years.
The results obtained from viewing the prophetic “seven times” as a period of 2,520 years perhaps provide the strongest proof that such is their true meaning. As has been demonstrated, the beginning of the “appointed times of the nations” dates from the overthrow and trampling of Jerusalem and the desolation of Judah, which was accomplished about the middle of the seventh Jewish lunar month, Tishri, or about October 1 of the year 607 B.C.E. Counting 2,520 years from that date (while taking into consideration that there is no “zero” year between B.C.E. and C.E.) we arrive at the fall of the year 1914 C.E. as the time for the completion of those “seven times” of Gentile domination by God’s permission.
WHAT IT MEANS
This, therefore, means that “the appointed times of the nations” were fulfilled in 1914 C.E. At that time the trampling upon Jerusalem ended. God’s kingdom, as functioning through King David’s house, assumed power and began ruling. Yes, Jesus Christ, the one who has the “legal right,” was then installed as king, being given “the throne of David his father.”—Ezek. 21:27; Luke 1:32.
Contrary to the expectations of some, this did not mean that Jesus then began ruling in earthly Jerusalem. Instead, he began to rule in “the Jerusalem above.” (Gal. 4:26) The long-looked-forward-to Messianic kingdom is a heavenly government, a government whose seat is in what the Bible symbolically calls “a city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem.” (Heb. 12:22) For this reason Jesus told the four disciples with him on the Mount of Olives that he would arrive in glory with all his angels with him, and would “sit down on his glorious throne.”—Matt. 25:31.
Happily, therefore, we are now living at “the conclusion of the system of things,” in “the time of the end.” (Matt. 24:3; Dan. 12:4) What has taken place from and after the year 1914 is confirmative proof of this fact. In 1914 the first world war in mankind’s history erupted. It was the first conflict fought over the issue, not of the domination of Europe alone, nor of Africa, nor of Asia, but of the domination of the world. A comparison of this and the other striking features of the period that has followed 1914 with the context of Jesus’ reference to the “appointed times of the nations” reveals an obvious fulfillment. Yes, the very things that Jesus and his apostles said would mark his second presence are everywhere in evidence!—Luke 21:7-33; 2 Tim. 3:1-5; 2 Pet. 3:3, 4; Rev. 11:15-18.
This means that the rightful ruler Jesus Christ is now engaged in the work of separating “people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” He is marking you either for preservation to “inherit the kingdom prepared for you,” or for destruction at the fast-approaching battle of Armageddon. What you must do to be among the great crowd of mankind rescued out of Armageddon you can learn by examining the following article.—Matt. 25:31-46.
Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W. E. Vine, 1962, Vol. IV, page 138.
According to a note in the Chronological Table prefacing The ‘Holy Scriptures’- A New Translation from the Original Languages, (1949) by J. N. Darby: “Nebuchadnezzar reigns, at first conjointly with Nabopolassar—and carries away the Jews to Babylon. The ‘times of the Gentiles’ commence. Beginning of 70 years captivity in Babylon.”
See Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libros, by Koehler and Baumgartner, page 1106; A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, by Brown, Driver and Briggs, page 1105.