And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed…
I. WHAT IS THE KINGDOM? By the kingdom we understand the gospel church or Christian dispensation. When John the Baptist commenced his ministry in the wilderness of Judaea, he preached, saying, "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." In this passage we evidently find the church represented as a kingdom. There are, we apprehend, sufficient reasons why she may be so represented. She has all the qualities peculiar to a kingdom. A kingdom consists of a number of men associated for purposes of mutual benefit, who have ordained a certain code of laws for the regulation of their lives, and who have elected a ruler to preside over their interests — to dispense law and preserve order — to act as "a terror" to evil-doers and a praise to them that do well. Similar in all these respects is the church. The revealed and written word of God contains the constitution and rules of their society. It contains laws for the regulation of their lives, as individuals, as congregations, as churches, and as nations — rules for all the relations into which man in this life of change can possibly enter. Christ is their King, Lawgiver, and Judge — "King of kings, and Lord of lords" — "Head over all things" to the church are titles conspicuously written on His vesture and on His thigh.
II. SOME OF THE MORE OBVIOUS QUALITIES OF THIS KINGDOM. Every man has his distinguishing characteristics. In like manner, every community, every kingdom is distinguished by some special properties. Thus we find Russia, notorious for despotism; Spain, for bigotry; France, for fickleness and instability; Christ's kingdom is distinguished by:
1. Its spirituality.
(1) It is entirely spiritual — spiritual as to its Author, spiritual as to its origin, spiritual as to its laws, ordinances, rewards, and punishments. The founders of all kingdoms of this world have been mere men, inheriting the same nature with ourselves. The founder of the kingdom under review is God; and "God is a Spirit." Most kingdoms of men have been established by carnal means, by force, by rapine, and by blood. By the same means all false systems of religion. How different from this the manner in which the Prince of Peace extends his regal rule. He establishes His empire by the exhibition of love, by the manifestation of truth, by arguments and persuasion, adapted to operate on men's mental and moral nature. "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts."(2) The laws also of this kingdom are spiritual. They take cognizance more especially of man's moral nature. Human laws can take cognizance of the external conduct alone. The greatest tyrant on earth cannot command the sentiments of the mind, or desires of the heart. God requires the heart: "Son, give me thine heart."(3) The ordinances of this kingdom are spiritual. They are intended and adapted to remove the vices of sin from our nature, and to effect a spiritual change. Ordinances the result of human wisdom, or political sagacity, cannot correct an evil bias nor remove a sinful tendency. Human ordinances are powerless for such purposes. The ordinances of Christ's Kingdom exert a higher and more potent influence. When accompanied by the blessing of the Spirit they can transform the whole soul.
(4) The rewards and punishments of this kingdom are spiritual. Earthly rulers can confer only a material or temporal reward for obedience, or inflict a temporal punishment for disobedience. If we obey their mandates, they may confer riches, honours, something agreeable to our sentient nature. If we disobey, they may kill the body, but cannot destroy the immortal spirit. The rewards of Jehovah infinitely transcend temporal advantages however great or desirable. There are pardon of sin and acceptance in His sight, peace and joy in believing, and the crown of glory that fadeth not away. Similar also His punishments. Is not Messiah's Kingdom, therefore, spiritual and consequently different from all worldly monarchies?
2. Light. Scripture informs us that "God is light." Being light in himself He can never be the author of darkness. The kingdoms of men are kingdoms of darkness. Satan is the god of this world, and he is the prince of darkness. He knows that "Where there is no vision the people perish." Hence he endeavours by all means to keep those subject to his sway in gross moral darkness. Whilst we doubt the Divine existence, or entertain wrong views of His character and law, of our present condition — our wants and requirements — we will never come to God that we may have life. Hence, when Jehovah wills the salvation of any sinner, he commences the work of grace on his heart by spiritual illumination, by opening the eyes of the understanding to see the wonderful things contained in the law. Thus, every believer, on receiving Christ, though formerly darkness, becomes light in the Lord. His soul is filled with light on all subjects affecting his interests for time and eternity.
3. Liberty. Freedom is sweet to every living being — to everything "in whose nostrils is the breath of life." The entire animate creation rejoices in the free and unrestrained exercise of every power conferred by the Author of life. By man more especially is liberty prized. The mere mention of its name fills his soul with pleasurable emotions. Christ confers liberty in the highest and most extended sense of the term — liberty infinitely superior to that for which philanthropists have oftentimes sighed and patriots bled. Jesus confers spiritual and a right to temporal liberty on all His followers. These two kinds of freedom are intimately connected. When the former obtains the latter will in due time be sure to follow. When the former has no place the latter cannot possibly exist. When men are spiritually slaves they can neither understand nor enjoy temporal freedom. Jesus delivers all His people from the thraldom of sin and Satan. When Messiah "reigns in Mount Sion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously," "He shall deliver the needy when he crieth, the poor also, and him that hath no helper." A bright future is, therefore, in reserve for the oppressed nationalities of Europe; for the persecuted and oppressed of every clime.
4. Peace and happiness. Peace and prosperity are intimately connected. Without peace there can be no progress, no enjoyment, personal, domestic, or social. There can be no happiness to the man whose soul is filled with the tumult of contending passions, whose mind is agitated by fear, or distracted with doubt. There is no enjoyment in the family where alienation and strife reign. The kingdom or nation divided against itself will assuredly fall. Peace is thus of paramount importance; but unhappily it has long been banished from the world. The world has long been a scene of violence, of rapine, and of blood. There is no peace on its wide extent but that which prevails in the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ gives peace to all His subjects — peace with God and peace with man. The enmity of the carnal mind is slain and a spirit of love imparted — love to God as Creator, Preserver, Redeemer, and love to all His people. Such a disposition obtaining in the mind — such a spirit pervading society — peace will prevail, and harmony reign.
5. Universal. It has at all times baffled the highest efforts of human genius to establish a universal empire. The experience of Alexander in ancient, and of Napoleon in modern times, is proof positive on the point. The honour thus denied the most gifted of our race is reserved for Him who is "Prince of the kings of the earth." There will never be a universal kingdom but that of Immanuel. We learn from the context, and kindred portions of Inspired Writ, that His empire will embrace all the kingdoms of men.
6. Eternal growth and decay is the order of nature. This holds good both in regard to the animal and vegetable kingdoms. Every plant and every animal, every species of organic existence has its period of development, its period of maturity, and its time of decline. The majestic oak, monarch of the forest, once grew as a tender sapling; gradually and slowly it attained its noble dimensions; after having lifted on high its head for ages, and shaking out its green drapery to the breeze, seeming to bid defiance to the lightnings of Heaven and fury of the blast, at length it becomes gnarled and bare, and yielding to the violence of the storm, falls prostrate on the ground. In like manner with man, lord of the animate creation. As with man individually, so with man collectively, so with nations. Nations as such have their rise, their growth, their maturity, and decline. Thus with all the celebrated kingdoms of antiquity. They all prevailed for a time, and maintained their proud supremacy, but at last the elements of decay contained in their constitution wrought their ruin. Christ's Kingdom, however, though it had a commencement, and an increase, will never be destroyed, nor suffer a decline. It is free from all elements of dissolution. Sin is the cause of all death, national as well as individual. The Redeemer's Kingdom is distinguished for holiness, hence it "shall never be destroyed," but on the contrary, "shall stand for ever." The wicked may plot its overthrow; but their devices will redound to their own confusion. Observe:(1) This kingdom, though long organised, is still in a very immature state. It is still in its infancy every way considered, as regards extent knowledge, liberty, in all the qualities that give dignity and importance to any society. When it may attain its complete development is a subject of uncertainty.
(2) If the last dread conflict between Christ and Belial, light and darkness be not far distant, it is our duty to be preparing for the contest. Jehovah calls all to whom His gospel comes in its fulness and freeness to His help "against the mighty." He works by human agency in the prosecution of His plans.
(G. Stewart, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
WEB: In the days of those kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall its sovereignty be left to another people; but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.