Chapter 10 – Will God’s Kingdom Be a Literal or a Spiritual Kingdom? – The Government of God
It would be almost unnecessary to answer such a question as the above, were it not for the opinions that are entertained in the world concerning a purely spiritual kingdom, particularly as in a preceding chapter I have clearly pointed out a literal kingdom, rule, and reign. But I have introduced this merely to meet some questions that exist in the minds of many, relative to a spiritual kingdom, arising from certain remarks of our Saviour’s, where he says, “My kingdom is not of this world;” and again, the “kingdom of heaven is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost;” and again, “the kingdom of God is within (or among) you.”
The kingdom of God, as I have already stated, is the government of God, whether in the heavens, or on the earth. Hence Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven.” And when the kingdom of God is established on the earth, and prevails universally, then will the will of God be done on earth, and not till then; then will the reign of God exist on the earth, as it now does in heaven. It is this reign we are speaking of, a reign of righteousness. But whenever God’s laws are established, or his kingdom is organized, and officers selected, and men yield obedience to the laws of the kingdom of God; to such an extent does God’s kingdom prevail. John preached the kingdom of God, or, heaven nigh at hand. Jesus said, the kingdom of heaven is within you. Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to a husbandman who sowed wheat, and when he went to his field, he found tares also. (Matt. xiii.) Now what was this field? The field was the world, or in other words, God’s rightful possession, where he ought to govern; the good seed are the children of the kingdom, or those who receive and obey the laws of the kingdom of heaven. The tares are the children of the wicked one; or those who rebel against God and his laws. The tares are to be gathered out of his kingdom, and burned; and then are the righteous to shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Again, the kingdom of Heaven is likened unto a treasure that a man found in a field, and sold all his possessions, in order that he might possess himself of that field and treasure; and a pearl of great price, for which a man did likewise; thus Abraham, Noah, Lot, Moses, and many of the Prophets purchased this treasure at the sacrifice of all things. And why? They discovered the pearl, the treasure, and had respect unto the recompense of reward; enduring as seeing him who is invisible. And what was it all for? For the purpose of obtaining present blessings, earthly enjoyments, the pleasures of sense? No! they all died in faith not having received the promises; but having seen them afar off; they knew of the treasure, and sold all for it; they “looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Wherefore it is said, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he hath prepared for them a city. They looked for a reign of righteousness—the government of God—they were inspired with the same hope as that of all the Prophets who had prophesied since the world begun, viz., the hope of the restitution of all things. John the Baptist, and Jesus would have introduced the kingdom; but the people would not have it; still, as the apostle John says, to as many as did believe, “to them gave he power to become the Sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John i. 12.) They became sons of God. Yes, say some spiritually, and I say literally too. They made a literal covenant with God to keep his laws; they were administered to literally by officers of the kingdom of God; they believed literally; were baptized literally, and received the gift of the Holy Ghost literally; and became literally the servants or sons of God. But what was their hope? Was it in this world? Yes, but not at the present. They expected the promise of Jesus to be fulfilled to them: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” And they looked, with Peter, and all the ancient Saints, for a new Heaven and a new Earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. They looked with Paul, and the Saints to whom he wrote, for a kingdom, not ariel or visionary, but one “which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”
The world, as we have before stated, although it belongs to God, has never been under his control. His vineyard has brought forth briars and thorns; tares have been sown in his field; but there has been some wheat, and that wheat represents the children of the kingdom, who have kept his laws and observed his ordinances; and wheresoever the laws of his kingdom have been observed, in the same proportion has his kingdom prevailed. Christ, therefore, organized his kingdom with Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, Teachers, Evangelists, etc.; officers and administrators of his laws, which laws were given by the Lord; they baptized for the remission of sins, laid on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and introduced members into the kingdom of God on earth, and as they were empowered to bind on earth, and in heaven, to seal on earth, and in heaven, these persons, not only became members of the Church here, but also of the kingdom of heaven, and participators in all its blessings here and hereafter. They were now Sons of God; but it did not fully appear yet what they should be, only they should be like him. If he conquered death, so should they; if he overcame, so should they; if he sat down upon his Father’s throne, he would give to them that overcame, power to sit down upon his throne, as he overcame and sat down upon his Father’s throne. And if Jesus comes to reign on the earth, he will also bring his Saints with him, and they shall live and reign with him. These things are spiritual, but they are literal; they are temporal, but they are also spiritual and eternal. Hence with God all things are temporal; all things are spiritual; and all things are eternal. These are only our phrases to specify certain ideas, which ideas in themselves are very often incorrect: we have bodies and spirits, but it takes both to be a perfect man. We talk about time and eternity,—what is time? A portion of eternity; eternity was, before time was, and will continue to exist when time shall be no more. Spiritual and temporal things are only so, as we form ideas of them. What is our body?—temporal, material? Yes, matter; but the matter of which it is made is eternal, and it will yet be spiritual like unto Christ’s glorious body. What is our spirit?—material, spiritual and eternal also? But more subtle and elastic than our corporeal bodies.
Having said so much on this subject, we now come to some of our questions. “The kingdom of Heaven is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy, in the Holy Ghost.” What are we to understand by this? that righteousness composes a kingdom? Righteousness is an attribute, a principle, a state of being, not a government; peace and joy are the result of this attribute. God is righteous, and consequently righteousness flows from him. There may be also a righteous man; but we do not say that God is a kingdom, or that a righteous man is a kingdom, but that the kingdom of God is a righteous kingdom. You can say a righteous kingdom, a kingdom of righteousness; but you cannot say righteousness is a kingdom. A kingdom may be governed by righteous laws; its laws may be righteous, its administrators righteous, its people righteous; but to say righteousness is a kingdom, is nonsense. The kingdom of God is a righteous kingdom; it is made up of higher enjoyments than eating and drinking; it is more refined and elevated; it is a kingdom of holiness, virtue, purity; of “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost,”—principles that exist in part now, as far as the kingdom extends. When the kingdom of God is universal, it will, like the kingdom in the heavens, be all “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost;” yet, it will have its laws, officers, and administrators, and will be a literal, tangible thing. The Spirit of the Lord shall be poured upon all flesh; the will of God will be done on earth as it is in heaven, and the joy and peace which result from righteousness, will be experienced by all the world. What did Jesus mean, then, when he said, “The kingdom of Heaven is within you,” or “among you” (marginal reading.) (Luke xvii. 20, 21.) There certainly must be some mistake here, for Jesus was speaking to Pharisees, whom he had denounced as corrupt men, hypocrites, whited walls, painted sepulchres, etc. Now, who will say they had the kingdom of God within them? The kingdom of God was among them. And it did not come with observation, nor with ostentation or pomp; they might have seen it, but their eyes were blinded, that they could not see; their ears were stopped that they could not hear. Many of us suppose that if we had lived in their day, we should have recognized it among the miracles, signs, and powers that were manifested by him. But Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and know me, and follow me, but others do not.” If any man do his will, says Jesus, “he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John vii. 17.) But if they do not, what then? They have eyes, but see not; ears, but hear not. The God of this world blinds their eyes, lest the light of the gospel should shine in upon them. Jesus says, “Except a man be born again; he cannot see the kingdom of God.” And “except he is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter into it.” (John iii. 3 and 5.) It therefore cometh not with observation; the Scriptures are clear on the point, and show to the last that when God’s kingdom shall be more fully established on the earth, the inhabitants of the earth will be as ignorant of it as the Jews were, that Jesus was the Messiah; for the nations of the earth, with their kings, will yet be gathered together against the people of the Lord, to battle, when the Lord himself will go and fight against them, and there will be one of the most terrible slaughters that ever took place on the earth. It cometh not with observation. It is a righteous kingdom, and righteous men can see it, and appreciate it, and those only.
I have demonstrated, in a preceding chapter, to which I refer my readers, more fully on this subject, that the kingdom of God would be literally established on the earth; it will not be an ariel phantom, according to some visionaries, but a substantial reality. It will be established, as before said, on a literal earth, and will be composed of literal men, women, and children; of living saints who keep the commandments of God, and of resurrected bodies who shall actually come out of their graves, and live on the earth. The Lord will be king over all the earth, and all mankind literally under his sovereignty, and every nation under the heavens will have to acknowledge his authority, and bow to his scepter. Those who serve him in righteousness will have communications with God, and with Jesus; will have the ministering of Angels, and will know the past, the present, and the future; and other people, who may not yield full obedience to his laws, nor be fully instructed in his covenants, will, nevertheless, have to yield full obedience to his government. For it will be the reign of God upon the earth, and he will enforce his laws, and command that obedience from the nations of the world which is legitimately his right. Satan will not then be permitted to control its inhabitants, for the Lord God will be king over all the earth, and the kingdom and greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven will be given to the saints. This may properly be called the day of reckoning, the time when the world’s accounts will be settled; when things that have been going wrong for ages, will be put right; when injustice and misrule will no more be permitted; when the usurper shall be cast out; when the rightful heir shall possess the kingdom; when unrighteousness will be banished, and justice and judgement bear sway; when the wicked shall be rooted out of the earth, and the saints possess it; when God’s designs shall be accomplished on the earth, and men resume their proper position. It is the fulfilment of the promises of the Lord to his people, or in scriptural words, “The dispensation of the fulness of times, when God will gather together all things in one.” Satan has had his dominion, and has deceived, corrupted, and cursed the human family; but then his dominion will be destroyed, and he will be cast into the bottomless pit; men will no longer be under the influence of his spirit, be decoyed by his wiles, or imposed upon by his deceptions. Religion, and the fear of God, will no longer be painted in dismal colours, or be dressed in the sable drapery of sanctimonious priests, or sacerdotal gloom; nor yet in the forbidding costumes of hermits, monks, and nuns. But, stript of all this religious masquerade, and superstitious mummery, the fear of God, and the observance of his laws, will be looked upon in their proper light. God will be seen, feared, and worshipped as our Father, Friend, and Benefactor; his laws will be kept as being those framed by infinite wisdom, and the most conducive to the happiness of the human family. Virtue, truth, and righteousness, will appear in their native loveliness, beauty, simplicity, glory, and magnificence, for God alone will be exalted in that day.
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Chapter 10 of the The Government of God, by John Taylor (1852)