And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying…
We can imagine, I suppose, that when the Revelation of St. John the Divine was taken to the different Christian Churches, in the upper chambers where they were accustomed to meet together, or in the secret places where they gathered for fear of persecution, after they had read these glowing pages, they must have parted with new feelings of hope in their hearts. They would expect that a time would come speedily when the persecutions would be memories of the past, and the kingdom would be set up, of which they had been reading in such vivid colours. Yet the day passed by, and the Roman power remained, and the Temple, sacred to Diana at Ephesus, was as stable as ever. It happened then as it has happened to many a one since. So it must have been with many of those of the ancient Church, when, all eager and expectant, they found the vision was sealed for the time; they must go their way and tarry until the time should come when the promise would be fulfilled. We can scarcely be surprised at finding that they looked for a very literal fulfilment in the shape of a kingdom which should, by the exercise of power, bear down all opposition. They were told of a great king who went forth "conquering and to conquer." The tradition of the old Jewish Church was of a people going forth as the Lord's messengers to crush down all the Lord's enemies. Again, the majority of Christian people, when they found that the promise could not be realised in that way, looked for something totally different. The promise seemed impossible of literal fulfilment. The kingdom of God became totally distinct from the kingdom of the world. It was something which could only be reached when this world was over. When persecution broke out, when the people were dragged to prison, men felt that the kingdom of God was not of this world, but of that which is to come. And so, little by little, people had that expectation for the realisation of this promise. Does the Christian Church of to-day have the same expectation? Is there any possibility of the realisation of this promise? I would suggest that the realisation is to come through our changed ideas about the kingdom of God; that the kingdom of God does not mean power victorious, but that it means love victorious; that the kingdom of God means what St. Paul does when he writes, "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." What I want to leave in your minds is the conviction that the crown of thorns is the crown of glory; that the Cross is the throne on which Christ is exalted. What do these two things mean — the crown of thorns and the cross of shame? They mean the extremest manifestation of infinite love. Christ has said that love is greater than hate; love is greater than infamy. And that is the only principle on which "the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever." The Christian Church is slowly abandoning the idea of conquering by mere power. The Christian Church is slowly losing the idea of the kingdom of this world becoming the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ in the persons of those who pass away beyond this world, and become the subjects of a kingdom which has nothing to do with this world. His kingdom shall come on this earth by the individual members copying the example of Jesus Christ, and believing in the revelation of that love which overcame sin; so that the people who live upon this earth shall be willing subjects of Divine love, and living in perfect love to their fellow-men.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the seventh angel sounded; and 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.