4.2.8 Monarchy: Leadership
Volume 4: The Human Condition—Chapter 2.8
Let us begin with the conclusion of the matter: “Oh come, let us sing to Yahweh! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving. Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For Yahweh is the great God, and the great King above all gods.” (Psalm 95:1-3) A “god” (lower-case g) is, in the broadest sense, anything or anyone that is obeyed, worshiped, or honored with our time, resources, and hopes—whatever we trust to make things right for us. Veneration of such a “god” is (at least in the present age and from our point of view) strictly voluntary, for it is the realm of intangibles—our dreams, aspirations, and desires.
A “king” by contrast, is one who rules by virtue of strength. His authority is derived from his ability to force his will upon his subjects, if he so chooses. The people (in theory) have no choice but to obey him. A “king,” in this conceptual way of thinking, could rule over many nations and peoples (as Nebuchadnezzar and Alexander the Great did), his power projected by armies that ultimately answer to him. Or he could just be a small time Somali warlord or inner city gang boss, “ruling” over a small neighborhood through intimidation and threats, punctuated by the occasional murder or firebombing, just to make a point.
Man’s concept of “gods” is similarly broad. In the post-flood pagan world, virtually all false “deities” were derived at some level from the proto-Babylonian unholy trinity of Nimrod (the “father”), his wife Semiramis (the “queen of heaven”) and her son Tammuz (the “sun god” who was born at the winter solstice, marketed as the reincarnation of the deceased Nimrod). Nimrod (or Ninus) shows up in history as Bel or Ba’al, Moloch, Chemosh, Marduk, Poseidon, Hercules, Mars, and Saturn, etc. The moon goddess Semiramis is the prototype for fertility goddesses of every description: Isis, Cybele, Rhea, Athena, Ishtar, Astarte, Venus, Diana, and many more. And Tammuz (Satan’s counterfeit Christ—the “son”) shows up as Osiris, Jupiter, Plutus, Kronos, Bacchus, Asshur, Cupid, Apollo, and Mithras, among others. (There is a “Tammuz” idolatry reference in Ezekiel 8:14.) These pagan “gods” were originally based on the personalities of human monarchs who pursued self-deification. Nimrod is mentioned in scripture as “a mighty one in the earth…a powerful hunter before Yahweh” (Genesis 10:8-9). So although he was the first “king” in the post-flood world—eventually becoming a small-g “god” in the eyes of his subjects—he still stood “before” Yahweh. That is, paniym: “before the face of” the great King above all gods.
The Hindus, another ancient religion, honor some 330 million separate gods. It is my guess that most of these are either individual demons or figments of the imagination. Islam, a relative newcomer, worships only one, Allah (although two earlier ones are venerated in “stealth mode”—Yemen’s bloodthirsty ar-Rahman and the generic “Lord”) Also, Allah’s three goddess “daughters,” al-Lat, Manat, and al-Uzza, are mentioned in a Qur’anic passage known as “the satanic verses,” something of an embarrassment for a supposedly monotheistic religion. Allah was a recycled Arabian pagan deity whose “idol” (a broken black meteorite) had been housed for centuries in Mecca’s pagan shrine, the Ka’aba. Muhammad didn’t call upon Allah until after he was run out of Mecca at the point of a sword—preferring to worship gods from out of town, so his prophetic credentials couldn’t be tested and found wanting. Interestingly, Allah is said to be a moon god—traditionally a feminine role: someone (like Semiramis) who isn’t a true light source, but who only reflects light from the sun. Perhaps there’s a little divine gender dysphoria going on there. I don’t know.
Today, people “worship” things or people that would blush to be called “gods,” but the effect is identical. Atheists, rejecting the very idea of a creator, worship nothing (i.e., blind chance), or worse, humanity itself. As a popular outworking of this error, entertainers, athletes, and even politicians are often given far more deference than their actual benefit to humanity might indicate—defining them functionally as “gods” (or at least, demigods). And at the bottom of this barrel, impersonal deities like power, sex, and money (alternately: pride, pleasure, and profit) consume the lives of men, sucking them dry and leaving them empty shells.
So the Psalmist insists, “Yahweh is the great God, and the great King above all gods.” The point is that Yahweh is not only a god, but the God—the only One worthy of the title. And at the same time, He rules as King by virtue of unassailable authority and power over every other entity that might be worshiped by man, real or imagined, plausible or not. In the end, His unlimited power will make Him victorious above anything and everything that might be called “god.” Every knee will bow, whether they want to or not. Since gods, unlike monarchs, are a matter of individual human choice, it strikes me as absolute insanity to devote one’s life to anything other than the Real Thing—the One True God, the Almighty Creator—Yahweh.
But this begs the question: if Yahweh is so powerful a king, why does He not force His will and way upon the world? Why do we so often see evil and rebellion and hatred—the very antithesis of His self-revealed nature, love—endemic among the tribes of man? The answer lies in the nature of love. The One Thing that a God of unlimited power cannot procure for Himself by virtue of His strength is the love of the beings He has created. It’s not a matter of authority; it’s a matter of logistics. Real love by its very nature is voluntary. It requires free will—including the freedom to choose not to love. Love forced is not love at all, but something else, like obedience, loyalty—or hypocrisy. For God’s sentient creatures that do not have free will (like animals or angels for instance), real love is technically impossible, for love presupposes the possibility of rejection. You can (in theory) be dedicated, obedient, devoted, friendly and faithful, and still not have love in the Biblical “agape” sense—a love that is not natural or instinctive, but rather the result of the lover’s choice and purpose.
So Yahweh, being “the great God,” invites people (whom He created with free will) to choose to love Him (technically, to reciprocate the love He has already shown to us). But since He is also “the great King above all gods,” it is His royal prerogative to exclude from His kingdom all who do not share His primary nature—love. Yahweh, it would seem, has painted Himself into a corner. His solution to the conundrum is time—said to have been created, along with matter and space, in the very first verse of the Bible. He has provided a finite amount of time in which we humans may choose whether or not to love our Creator. On the individual level, it is one’s lifetime, and we never really know how much time we’ve got. In the ultimate stroke of loving genius, He created man as a mortal being—subject to physical death—because it would be the worst of curses to live forever in a state of enmity with your Creator.
But He also placed a time limit on the free will of the human race at large. This is revealed in the oft-repeated Law of the Sabbath. Starting at the sin of Adam, we humans have been given “six days” (i.e., six thousand years) to determine whether we want to respond to God’s love or reject it. During these 6,000 years, Yahweh has promised not exercise the privilege of force that is rightly His as King: for the time being, free will defines us. On the seventh day, however—the final Millennium of mortal man—His very presence among us as King of kings will functionally preclude any semblance of “free will.” Choosing not to believe in the existence or nature of God will be impossible, for He will be personally present among us in all His glory. Think of it this way: standing in a Kansas wheat field, you might convince yourself there is no such thing as salt water. But you can no longer deny its existence or nature if you suddenly find yourself treading water in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
A monarch, by definition, is the chief authority over a country and people; it is a person or thing preeminent in its class. A king or queen (or Caesar, pharaoh, czar, caliph, or emperor, etc.) typically holds “office” for life—which is to say, as long as they can manage to hold on to power without being assassinated. The power a monarch wields is not just physical or overt. He (or she) is also expected to be a leader, setting the moral tone for the entire nation. Needless to say, some are better than others in this regard, and some are downright abysmal.
During the period of history when Yahweh’s symbols were being established, kings rose to power either through valor, bloodline, or treachery. Typically, a king was expected to personally lead his nation’s armies on the battlefield, giving the “leadership” angle real substance. Today, of course, real monarchies are rare: kings and queens typically “rule” only as figureheads in what are known as “constitutional monarchies,” in which (as in the U.K.) the real power is held by elected politicians, not the royal family. Indeed, most human governments today are democracies or republics: they have leaders (elected presidents or prime ministers, and lesser officers) but no reigning monarchs. Third-world dictators are the exception—they operate as kings, but are seldom successful in passing the throne from one generation to the next.
That being said, most of the scriptural admonitions, instructions, and revelations concerning monarchs are relevant as well to any sort of national leader. The whole point is that these things are meant to prophetically inform us about the ultimate King—Yahshua the Messiah. The closer one adheres to His ideal, the better a monarch he will be.
The ideal nature of kings.
Scripture is replete with clues informing us what our leaders are supposed to be like. Not surprisingly, justice and righteousness invariably top the list. But how does one acquire these things? Through the exercise of wisdom—something King Solomon is specifically said to have requested of God in his youth. So later, writing as the personified “wisdom,” he said, “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge and discretion. The fear of Yahweh is to hate evil. Pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate. Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom. I am understanding, I have strength. By me kings reign, and rulers decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, all the judges of the earth.” (Proverbs 8:12-16)
That’s quite a list, and there are some surprises in there. (1) Wisdom lives under the same roof with “prudence” or discretion (Hebrew: ormah), which also shades toward craftiness, subtlety, or being wily. You might say, “Wisdom has a good poker face—he is the antithesis of naïve.” (2) “Knowledge” (daath) denotes perception, skill, discernment, and understanding—even cunning. (3) “Discretion” (mezimmah) is from a root verb that means to consider, purpose, or devise. It can either mean machination or sagacity, depending upon whether the intent is evil or good. As a companion to wisdom, I’d take this as a reference to one’s ability to envision the solution to a tricky problem and implement it.
To “fear Yahweh” is to show reverence for or piety toward Him, although there is also an element of fear (in the sense of terror) in the noun yirah. Yahweh is the Almighty, after all. We dare not take that fact lightly. In any case, the hatred of evil is equated with this godly fear, for God, being good, hates evil as well—not evil people (for we are all fallen), but evil itself (Hebrew: ra’): anything bad, malignant, or unpleasant, giving pain, unhappiness or misery—adversity, affliction, calamity, or distress. Wisdom also hates pride and arrogance—two related words adding up to a swelling ego, ostentatious ornamentation, haughtiness, and self-exaltation—the pathway of evil (ra again), and speech designed to overthrow righteousness.
On the positive side, wisdom provides good counsel, sound advice (etsah). “Sound wisdom” (tushiyyah) supports an undertaking, effecting success. This is equated with understanding (binah—the object of knowledge) and mighty valor (geburah) leading to triumph.
I have taken the trouble to flesh all of that out because “by me [that is, by this complex sort of wisdom] kings reign, and rulers decree justice.” In other words, arrogant godless fools have no business sitting on the thrones of men. Kings may have power by virtue of their position, but in order to be “good,” they must also have wisdom—something that begins with the reverence for Yahweh and His Messiah. Alas, too few do.
Many Israelite kings are listed in scripture. Their reigns are summarized as either good (“He did right in the sight of Yahweh”) or bad (“He did evil in the sight of Yahweh”). Considering the fact that they had the Torah, the priesthood, and over half a millennium of national history to guide them in the path of righteousness, their track record is abysmal. Of the four kings (well, 3½—Rehoboam barely counts) of united Israel, only David was listed as “good.” “So David reigned over all Israel; and David administered judgment and justice to all his people.” (II Samuel 8:15) Even though his sins (and their consequences) are meticulously documented in scripture, he never turned his back on Yahweh. It is sad and ironic that his son Solomon, though renowned for godly wisdom in his youth, author of three books in the Tanakh’s canon, and builder of the first temple, must be placed (at least partially) in the “evil” column because of his dabblings in idolatry in his old age.
After Solomon’s death, the kingdom was split in two because of this idolatry: Judah and Benjamin in the south continued with David’s royal line, while the remaining ten northern tribes went their own way. Their inaugural king, Jeroboam, had the same chance to follow Yahweh the other kings had, but alas, his paranoia led the northern kingdom (a.k.a. Ephraim, a.k.a. Israel) into apostasy and idolatry from which they never recovered. Out of nineteen kings, none of them was listed as “good.” (Only one, Jehu, was even partially faithful.) In Judah (with the royal line of David and Solomon on the throne) out of twenty kings, only six were listed as “good,” though some of the six (like David himself) made terrible blunders. The tribe of Judah, through David, had been prophesied to comprise the Messiah’s lineage, but it seems quite a miracle we ever got there: there was a 607 year gap between the death of Josiah, the last godly king of Judah, and the birth of Christ. To put things in perspective, 607 years ago, nobody even knew there was a continent between Europe and the Orient.
The prophet Isaiah (who ministered in Judah about the time Israel’s northern kingdom was being hauled off into captivity by the Assyrians) explained the problem with tolerating a godless leader—or a score of them in a row: “And when they say to you, ‘Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,’ should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living?...” Consulting “familiar spirits” to divine the future (instead of inquiring of Yahweh, as they should have), was standard operating procedure in pagan-led Ephraim. It didn’t have to be that way, and the people suffered because of their kings’ unwillingness to honor the God of their fathers.
What should they have done? “To the law and to the testimony! If they [those in charge] do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” The Torah had warned them (most pointedly in Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26) what would happen to the nation if they did not heed the Instructions of Yahweh their God. And Moses’ words were now coming to pass exactly as he had said. “They [the people suffering judgment] will pass through it hard-pressed and hungry; and it shall happen, when they are hungry, that they will be enraged and curse their king and their God, and look upward. Then they will look to the earth, and see trouble and darkness, gloom of anguish; and they will be driven into darkness.” (Isaiah 8:19-22) It makes sense for a misled people to “curse their king,” the one who led them into such dystopia. “God” here should be rendered with a small “g”—that is, the god they’re cursing is the false one (Ba’al, Moloch, blind chance, etc.) upon whom they’ve chosen to rely, with disastrous results. They’re tempted to “look upward,” to the source of the “Law and the testimony” they’ve been ignoring. But those who fail to repent (looking upward to Yahweh) will perceive nothing but the gloom of their current self-imposed darkness.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Choosing one’s God, as I said, is always a matter of one’s own personal prerogative. You may be stuck with the worst of kings, but remember the prophet Elijah, trying to cope with those most evil of monarchs, Ahab and Jezebel. As he fled for his life, he imagined himself to be all alone in his faith in Yahweh. God took him aside (I Kings 19) and instructed him to anoint two new kings (one for Syria and the other for Israel, who together would “take care of” the problem on the throne). And He told the prophet that He had reserved seven thousand in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Ahab’s false god Ba’al. This scene brings two realities into focus: (1) In this world, God’s people will always be in the minority—entering the kingdom of heaven via the “narrow gate” of truth rather than the “broad highway” of religious apostasy. And (2) we believers are never alone, even though it may seem like it sometimes. The gates of hell cannot prevail against the called-out assembly of Yahweh.
There was only one “good” king remaining in Judah’s future when Isaiah lived, and Josiah’s influence would prove too little and too late to head off national discipline at the hands of the Babylonians (see II Kings 26-27). Still, he prophesied, “Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule with justice….” He can’t be talking ultimately about Josiah (or Hezekiah, Isaiah’s contemporary), because their sons most certainly did not “rule with justice.” The reference is to Yahshua the Messiah, who still (you may have noticed) has not returned to assume the throne of Planet Earth. The “princes” here refer to the church-age believers—we who will reign with Christ as sinless immortals during the coming kingdom age.
And what will this “King of Righteousness” be like? Isaiah continues: “A man [I’d capitalize that: a Man—the Son of man, the Son of God] will be as a hiding place from the wind, and a cover from the tempest, as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. The eyes of those who see will not be dim, and the ears of those who hear will listen. Also the heart of the rash will understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers will be ready to speak plainly.” (Isaiah 32:1-4) This ideal and ultimate King will (1) give us shelter from the storms of life, (2) provide living water for cleansing and refreshment, (3) be a fortress of protection from our enemies and shade against the heat of affliction, (4) open our eyes to the light, (5) open our ears to the truth, (6) give us, undisciplined fools that we are, His wisdom and discernment, and (7) teach us how to express ourselves, proclaiming the word of God. And the amazing part? Although King Yahshua has not assumed His rightful place on the throne of Earth as yet, all of these things are available to His “princes” and “princesses” now, today, in this life.
Jeremiah’s long ministry overlapped the reign of Josiah, but he lived long enough to see the destruction of the temple and the sack of Jerusalem. His “admonition” to the house of David, then, is more likely a prophecy of what the ultimate King of kings will accomplish: “O house of David! Thus says Yahweh: Execute judgment in the morning, and deliver him who is plundered out of the hand of the oppressor.” (Jeremiah 21:12) I can be fairly certain that the Jews enduring the Antichrist’s wrath during the Time of Jacob’s Trouble will be in wholehearted agreement with this sentiment. But leaders of any national description could (and should) be doing these same things. “Judgment” here (Hebrew: mishpat) denotes the dispensation of justice, the pronouncement of a fair and impartial legal verdict—something that by definition is in a king’s power to render.
Speaking of the house of David, this might be a good time to review the great king’s last words, for they speak of the qualifications of rulers: “The Spirit of Yahweh spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spoke to me: ‘He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be like the light of the morning when the sun rises, a morning without clouds, like the tender grass springing out of the earth, by clear shining after rain.’” (II Samuel 23:2-4) Oh, if only our leaders were like that.
A Psalm by Solomon is not only a prayer for personal wisdom, but also a prophecy of the coming Messiah. It’s another description of the ideal nature of kings. “Give the king Your judgments, O God, and Your righteousness to the king’s Son. He will judge Your people with righteousness, and Your poor with justice [mishpat, both times]…. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. Those who dwell in the wilderness will bow before Him, and His enemies will lick the dust. The kings of Tarshish and of the isles will bring presents. The kings of Sheba and Seba will offer gifts. Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him. All nations shall serve Him.” (Psalm 72:1-2, 8-11) Notice that during the Millennial reign of Christ, the King being described here (who will hold uncontested dominion over the whole earth) will judge God’s people with righteousness. That’s because after His reign commences, no one on earth will still be in open rebellion against Him. Everyone will pay homage to Yahweh, including two groups named here who might come as a surprise. The “kings of Tarshish” represent the commercial interests of the world (for whom self-interest characteristically reigns supreme today); and “Sheba and Seba” are peoples who have been held under the yoke of bondage to Islam for the past fourteen centuries. Repentance is indicated during the Tribulation for some very unlikely groups.
Solomon’s wisdom prevailed as long as he was willing to exercise it—as long as he took his own advice. The Queen of Sheba observed: “Blessed be Yahweh your God, who delighted in you [Solomon], setting you on the throne of Israel! Because Yahweh has loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness.” (I Kings 10:9) Sadly, there is little evidence that any king in Judah (with the possible exception of Josiah) paid much attention to the Torah. If Solomon had followed Yahweh’s instructions for kings, he would not have lost focus in his old age, letting his pagan wives lead him into idolatry, like a racehorse who got confused and stopped running in the home stretch.
It is telling that Theocratic Israel wasn’t designed to have any permanent monarchy at all, but only a system of priests, Levites, scribes, elders and magistrates, whose role it was to serve—not lead, and certainly not to rule. Their “King” was supposed to be Yahweh Himself (whose Shekinah manifestation inhabited the tabernacle). His “royal edicts” were delivered before the fact in the form of Torah precepts. After Joshua’s death, God occasionally raised up “judges” in response to Israel’s self-imposed problems, but their offices didn’t amount to “monarchy.” They were localized and temporary.
That being said, Yahweh knew Israel would eventually want a king to lead them. So He gave them a brief “instruction booklet” to follow. “When you come to the land which Yahweh your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me,’ you shall surely set a king over you whom Yahweh your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother….” Rule Number One was that Yahweh Himself was to choose their king. Ironically, the guy He first identified (through the prophet Samuel) was the tall, handsome Saul, who was everything the people thought they wanted—a warrior who looked the part. It was as if God was saying, “Okay, let’s get this silly hero worship stuff out of your system at the very beginning.” Only later (after Saul had proved God’s point by not living up to the hype) did Yahweh choose David—a man after His own heart.
Rule Number Two was that the king must be an Israelite. Israel was not to be seen as a vassal to any foreign nation or king. As it would transpire in the wake of their apostasy, however, there were foreign kings in Israel’s future, but only as part of their often-prophesied punishment in exile—first the Assyrians, then the Babylonians, Medes and Persians, Greeks, and finally the Romans in their turn. (Even Herod, who was placed on Israel’s throne by the Romans, was an Idumean, i.e., an Edomite, not a Jew.) The bottom line: if the ruler of Israel was not of Jewish blood, they could be assured they were still in the spiritual dog house. Alas, Israel would not see another Jewish political leader in the land until 1948. (Bar Kochba doesn’t count: he was a rebel warlord, not a king.) And even then, the restoration of Israel won’t be complete until King Yahshua—from the royal line of Judah, as required in Genesis 49:10—returns in glory to reign in Jerusalem.
So far, Solomon was okay. But here’s where he began to run into trouble. Rule Number Three: “But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for Yahweh has said to you, ‘You shall not return that way again….’” Solomon, we read in I Kings 4 and 10, kept 40,000 horses, employed 12,000 horsemen, and had 1,400 chariots. I’d call that “multiplication,” any way you look at it—especially since he wasn’t really a man of war, but merely maintained what his father David had won in battle. And where did these horses come from? You guessed it: Egypt (along with some from Kue—i.e., Cilicia, in Southern Turkey.)
Rule Number Four: “Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself….” I Kings 11 reports that Solomon ended up with seven hundred wives of royal lineage plus three hundred concubines. I don’t care if he felt he needed to cement some alliances to the Egyptians, Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites with marriages to foreign princesses—that’s just plain ridiculous. Worse, he acquiesced in his old age to their pagan proclivities, building—and using—worship facilities dedicated to Ashtoreth, Molech, and Chemosh. It was a clear violation of the most fundamental of the Ten Commandments: “You shall have no other gods before Me.” And it precipitated the dividing of the kingdom after his death.
And wealth? His father had ended up a very wealthy man, but all David could think about was building Yahweh’s temple—a project for which he set aside a substantial fortune. Solomon’s income (which, granted, was not something he particularly coveted or lusted after) grew to outrageous proportions: 666 talents of gold annually (a talent weighing somewhere between 75 and 90 pounds), plus immense revenues derived from trade and tribute. And yet, in his old age he had a reputation for placing a “heavy yoke” on the backs of Israel’s citizens. If he had heeded the Torah’s admonition not to multiply silver and gold for himself, he could easily have afforded to eliminate every vestige of personal financial stress in the entire nation.
Rule Number Five had huge implications, but there is no hint that any Israelite king ever did this: “Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites….” It was critical that kings in Israel knew the Law that God had handed down through Moses. They were not to get it into their heads that their wishes and whims carried the same weight as Yahweh’s word, for from there, it was but one small step to seeing yourself as some sort of “god.” Copies of the Torah were rare and precious, of course, and generally speaking, making new ones was the job of professional scribes (Hebrew: saphar), for whom precision and accuracy in transmission was of the utmost importance. That being said, Israel was meant to be a literate society (see for example Deuteronomy 11:20), in which ordinary people were able to read and write—and comprehend—God’s word.
Kings were supposed to be leaders—thus at least as well educated as their subjects. And there would have been something intimate and sacred in the king making a Torah copy for his own use—even if it didn’t turn out as flawless or beautifully rendered as a scribe could do it. The king’s copy wouldn’t be in general circulation, and (if all went according to God’s plan) it would be thoroughly worn out by the end of a lifetime of use, so any “mistakes” he made in transmission would be unlikely to affect the “textus receptus,” so to speak. The “standard” was the scroll the High Priest used. The whole point of the exercise was aligning the heart of the king with the word of God throughout his reign: “And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear Yahweh his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel.” (Deuteronomy 17:14-20) I have often reflected that American presidents should be required by law to make a handwritten copy of the Sermon on the Mount before they could take the oath of office. I know—I’m dreaming.
Even before the Torah was committed to parchment, the suzerainty of God over earthly monarchs was a well-established principle. Elihu, Job’s friend, asks, “Should one who hates justice govern? Will you condemn Him who is most just? Is it fitting to say to a king, ‘You are worthless,’ and to nobles, ‘You are wicked’? Yet [Yahweh] is not partial to princes, nor does He regard the rich more than the poor, for they are all the work of His hands. In a moment they die, in the middle of the night. The people are shaken and pass away. The mighty are taken away without a hand.” (Job 34:17-20) If nothing else, our common state of human mortality should compel all of us—kings and subjects alike—to refrain from pride. We all have an appointment with the grave.
Solomon was arguably the most blessed of Israel’s monarchs. His lofty vantage point prompted him to say quite a lot about how kings should comport themselves. For example: “The king establishes the land by justice, but he who receives bribes overthrows it.” (Proverbs 29:4) The principle is right out of the Torah (see Deuteronomy 16:19, etc.), but there, judges were in view, not kings necessarily. That being said, we would not be wrong to see a king as sort of a one-man Supreme Court—the final word on any given issue. So bribes (or the negative counterpart, threats and blackmail) were a sure path toward injustice. Alas, today’s political scene in America seems positively awash in such things, even as “we the people” cry out to Yahweh for a restoration of justice.
Another justice-related issue: substance abuse. “It is not for kings to drink wine, nor for princes intoxicating drink, lest they drink and forget the law, and pervert the justice of all the afflicted.” (Proverbs 31:4-5) Not getting drunk on the job was already the rule for priests (see Leviticus 10:9-11). And such temperance would be required of overseers and deacons in the church as well (I Timothy 3). So it could practically have gone without saying that kings—who were never “off duty”—should not allow themselves to be under the influence of anything other than the Spirit of God—ever. The classic biblical example of a king getting drunk and suffering the consequences (although it had less to do with injustice than it did with pride and apostasy) is the story of Babylon’s last king, Belshazzar, related in Daniel 5. As he drank himself half blind with a thousand of his closest friends (drinking from gold and silver vessels his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem), the Medes and Persians were busy diverting the Euphrates River that ran through the middle of town, so they could march under the wall and take Babylon in one night, virtually without firing a shot.
Something else that will weaken a king’s ability to reign in justice and righteousness is bad advice, corrupt counsel, or as they call it these days, “fake news.” “If a ruler pays attention to lies, all his servants become wicked.” (Proverbs 29:12) The heart of this proverb, once again, rests in the Torah. The obvious place to start is the Ninth Commandment—prohibiting giving false witness. But on the king’s part, he would be well advised to heed what underlies the dietary laws: the implied command to be discerning about what to put into your life. A wise monarch surrounds himself with trustworthy, honorable counselors, who can be counted upon to tell him the truth, even if it hurts. But if his inner circle is interested only in feathering their own nests or pushing a politically correct (i.e., satanic) agenda (something that might shift from nation to nation and from era to era), then the king’s reign will be compromised, even he means well. It is as they say in computer code lingo: “garbage in, garbage out.”
As important as it is for a king to be getting “good intel,” it is also his responsibility to use the mind God gave him to discern what’s really happening: “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter….” That is (as we know), Yahweh often couches His truth in terms only an honest, faithful searcher can comprehend—speaking to us in parables, as it were. But kings are commanded to exercise wisdom, which, as we also know, begins with the fear of God. A godly monarch will be hard to fool.
“As the heavens for height and the earth for depth, so the heart of kings is unsearchable.” In other words, a wise king will consider the big picture, not just the small issue before him. Even small matters can have unanticipated ramifications. “Take away the dross from silver, and it will go to the silversmith for jewelry. Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne will be established in righteousness.” (Proverbs 25:2-5) If a monarch’s reign is to be “established in righteousness,” it must be purified, like precious metal, of worthless elements. And this often involves turning up the heat and scooping off the scum that floats to the surface—“draining the swamp,” as American patriots put it these days. Nobody ever said purity was painless.
The foregoing “ideals” have all been rather general and conceptual. But the final chapters of the Book of Ezekiel describe a real time (yet future) and actual people. The instructions to them reveal yet more royal principles. “Thus says the Lord Yahweh: ‘If the prince gives a gift of some of his inheritance to any of his sons, it shall belong to his sons; it is their possession by inheritance….” Some background: my prophecy study led me to the conclusion that the time in question is the Millennial reign of Christ, and the “prince” eluded to here is none other than the resurrected—now immortal—King David. The prince’s “sons” are his literal mortal descendants—Jews of David’s line who have lived through the Great Tribulation, have (at last) met and received their Messiah, and are now inhabiting the restored land of Israel.
What got me thinking in terms of mortals and immortals cohabiting the earth is Yahshua’s promise that His twelve disciples would sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel in His kingdom (see Luke 22:30). I realize the whole concept is likely to boggle the mind, but the scriptural evidence is quite solid. (For further study, see The End of the Beginning, chapter 27, elsewhere on this website. The “prince’s” land is specifically described in Ezekiel 45:7-8.
Anyway, I’m bringing up the subject here only because it further describes the “ideal monarch,” even in the literal Kingdom of God on Earth. “But if he gives a gift of some of his inheritance to one of his servants, it shall be his until the year of liberty, after which it shall return to the prince. But his inheritance shall belong to his sons; it shall become theirs.” Jubilee rules will be in effect: it is Prince David’s prerogative to “lease” part of his own land (a considerable territory) to whomever he wishes. But at the Jubilee, it will revert back to his ownership. His biological descendants, however, will keep whatever plots of land they are granted in perpetuity—that is, until the Millennial kingdom has run its course (after which the paradigm will shift again: a new heavens and a new earth).
“Moreover the prince shall not take any of the people’s inheritance by evicting them from their property; he shall provide an inheritance for his sons from his own property, so that none of My people may be scattered from his property.’” (Ezekiel 46:16-18) This is where the instructions gain traction in our world. No king (or government) has the right to take, give away, or sell that which does not belong to him. The distribution of the earth’s bounty among men is the prerogative of Yahweh alone. Something akin to this precept was built into the U.S. Constitution. The Fourth Amendment reads (in part): “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…,” the key word for our purposes being “seizures.” If you have committed no crime, the “king” has no right to take what you own.
So sum up then, kings are to exercise wisdom, knowledge, discernment, discretion, justice, mercy, and righteousness. A king is to be familiar with and sensitive to God’s Law, sober minded, and obsessed neither with sexual pleasure, accumulating wealth, nor with military might. He is to be chosen by God, and be a citizen-patriot of the nation he leads—not a foreigner with divided loyalties. He must not take bribes or listen to lies, but rather surround himself with trustworthy, honest people. The king must have the mental acuity to see the big picture, being willing and able to “play chess” when those about him are “playing checkers.” And he must have an agenda of purity and love for his people.
Alas, leaders approaching this description are (and always have been) few and far between. But bear in mind that these ideals predict and describe the ultimate King—Yahshua the Messiah—who is destined to rule over the whole earth. And unless I am mistaken about many things, His reign is scheduled to begin sooner than most of us would have thought possible, given the current sorry state of human governance on this planet. “Behold,” He says. “I am coming quickly.” (Revelation 22:7) Yes. He’s coming promptly, suddenly, precisely on schedule.
How to respond to kings.
Now that we know what kings are supposed to be like, we should consider what the Bible says about how we “subjects” are to comport ourselves in their presence. It would appear that once again, the ultimate King, Yahshua, is the model for monarchs—whether or not they actually measure up. That is, we are to offer our temporal rulers the same deference and honor we would the King of kings, for they are—whether we like it or not, and whether or not they act like it—His surrogates in this present earth.
It’s not the man—it’s what he symbolizes. Considering the abysmal leadership provided by most “kings” today (i.e., national leaders, including presidents, prime ministers, etc.), lots of us get miffed with Paul when he says, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God….” What? Doesn’t he realize that our leader is a dirty (fill-in-the-blank) for whom God’s stated agenda is the last thing he’d want to advance? Actually, Paul was used to guys like Rome’s Emperor Nero, arguably worse than any president we’ve ever had in the United States (which is saying something). So we need to swallow hard and search for the truth behind this often-counterintuitive bit of advice for Christians.
He continues, “Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good….” He’s not saying that everything the government says to do is right and good. He’s saying that, generally speaking, if you obey the law of the land, you will have no reason to live in fear of your leaders, legitimate or not. If we are citizens of the kingdom of heaven, there’s not much point in going to violent and destructive extremes in our attempts to correct what’s wrong in the kingdoms of men. Besides, building “heaven on earth” is a silly and counterproductive goal; it’s not what we’re called to do. Rather, we are instructed to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.
There is a fine line we must keep track of here. Most governments, truth be told, are ungodly. That’s par for the course. It is when they cross the line and become anti-godly that we have a right and duty to resist—or flee. Moreover, God has given us the specific right to defend ourselves if attacked (see Luke 22:38). How does one endeavor to confront the king without “resisting his authority”? It depends on where and when you live. Many people today live in democracies or republics. So if you have the right to vote, do so. Worship openly if you can, and in secret if you must. Do whatever is legal to advance the cause of Christ. But in most places, don’t expect any support or protection from your government. God may be on your side—they aren’t.
In America, peaceful public gatherings are specifically allowed by our Constitution. But the way we protest what we perceive as ongoing injustice can reveal a lot about who we serve—God or man (or Satan). For example, Christians periodically gather in the nation’s capital to “March for Life” (that is, protest the continued legality of abortion in this country). We get the proper permits, march peacefully, obey the traffic laws, and clean up after ourselves. But in contrast, groups like Antifa, “Occupy,” or Black Lives Matter, among a plethora of similar banners, descend upon a city with no clear-cut lawful objective, blocking traffic, accosting passers-by, breaking windows, and setting the occasional police car on fire. They are seldom called to account for their crimes, nor is it our place (as citizens) to punish them. But if justice is not dispensed by man, it must be left in the hands of the God to whom vengeance belongs. It’s a fascinating phenomenon: without reading a single sign or hearing a single speech, one can discern the spiritual component of a “demonstration” simply by observing the condition of the neighborhood the morning after it takes place. The more debris left behind, the more satanic the inspiration.
Generally speaking, riots and revolutions are not the purview of a Christian sub-population. The American Revolution of the late 18th Century appears to be an exception, but only because of the Last Days destiny Yahweh had in mind for us. The French Revolution of the same general time period is more typical in motivation and outcome. (I firmly believe that God put the U.S. on the map for one purpose only: to ensure Israel’s political existence in the Land of Promise in the days leading up to the return of the King. For the most part, we have been true to that calling.)
So believers are to be blameless—though we’ll often get blamed anyway. Paul concludes: “But if you do evil, be afraid; for he [“the authority”] does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” Even evil governments have been known to punish evil: they hate the competition. They may not operate according to God’s Law, but everybody’s got a conscience—or at least an agenda. “Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” (Romans 13:1-7) This is a hard truth: we are not to refuse to pay taxes to a government that we know will not use the money wisely. For example, our Federal Government funds Planned Parenthood, whose sole purpose (arguably) is to murder innocent children in the womb—over seven million of them so far. According to Paul, this is not the fault of Christians who dutifully pay their taxes (unless, of course, we knowingly vote for politicians who favor abortion).
The stunning truth underlying all of this is that the world is not our home. It is, if you will, merely the front porch, where we all stand as we decide whether or not to ring the doorbell to the kingdom of heaven. Yes, this is where we make our choices and establish our testimony. But our real lives—our permanent lives—will take place in the world to come: a world in which we won’t even inhabit the same bodies anymore.
Peter came to the same conclusion, though from a different angle. His thought is that our Christian testimony—how we comport ourselves in the face of abuse and injustice—will suffer if we return evil for evil: “This is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” (I Peter 2:15-17) As Christ Himself admonished us, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44) Peter points out that these “enemies” we are called to love might even include the king himself. We are to honor him anyway, for he (or at least his office) is symbolic of Christ’s coming reign. And God (as we know) takes His symbols very seriously.
Wise Solomon also had a bit to say about how we should respond to our leaders. “I say, keep the king’s commandment for the sake of your oath to God. Do not be hasty to go from his presence. Do not take your stand for an evil thing, for he does whatever pleases him. Where the word of a king is, there is power, and who may say to him, ‘What are you doing?’ He who keeps his command will experience nothing harmful. And a wise man’s heart discerns both time and judgment.” (Ecclesiastes 8:2-5) It’s basically the same thing both Peter and Paul said: a temporal king is actually a surrogate for Yahshua the Messiah, so we should do our best to relate to him as we would God in flesh.
Solomon also notes, (1) We believers have taken an oath of loyalty to our God—an oath that compels us to do our utmost to keep His commandments. (2) Do not attempt to hide from King’s presence, as Adam and Eve tried to do after sinning in the Garden. Falling before Him asking for mercy is a better strategy. (3) Nor should we try to defend our sin, excuse it, or minimize it: the King (Yahweh) isn’t stupid—He invented moral absolutes. (4) King Yahshua is (as He announced in the Great Commission—Matthew 28:18) the sole and final authority in the universe. No one has the right to challenge Him. (5) The King defends those who demonstrate by their actions that they trust Him. And (6) A wise subject is sensitive to the King’s schedule (especially as we approach the Last Days) and the dispensation of His justice—His intention to separate good from evil, once and for all.
A bit later, Solomon writes, “Do not curse the king, even in your thought. Do not curse the rich, even in your bedroom. For a bird of the air may carry your voice, and a bird in flight may tell the matter.” (Ecclesiastes 10:20) Even if the temporal king never hears of your disrespect, the God-King is well aware of your intentions and attitude. This advice would be easier to take if you didn’t know what the king was doing, of course—so you’d have no reason to “curse him.” But alas, those days of blissful ignorance are gone. These days, it’s hard not to hear about what’s going on, though the news is usually slanted radically toward a leftist (a.k.a. satanic) worldview. And cursing the king in private? It’s all too easy these days to curse him in public without giving it a second thought—via social media. In these Last Days, the “bird of the air” that carries your voice is most likely Twitter. If we can’t keep our speech respectful and edifying, perhaps we would be better off not participating at all.
More wise counsel: “Do not exalt yourself in the presence of the king, and do not stand in the place of the great, for it is better that he say to you, ‘Come up here,’ than that you should be put lower in the presence of the prince, whom your eyes have seen.” (Proverbs 25:6-7) Christ Himself repeated this advice several times: Mark 12:38-40, Matthew 23:5-12, Luke 14:7-14, etc. And Paul admonished each of us not to “think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3) Pride—the self-exaltation of oneself over his fellow man—is always a bad idea, and is always condemned in scripture. But showing pride in the face of the King of kings is just plain stupid. Every knee will bow before Him—voluntarily if we’re smart, by compulsion if we’re not.
The kings of old literally held the power of life and death in their hands; today’s leaders not so much. But once again, the type reveals the antitype. Solomon writes, “As messengers of death is the king’s wrath, but a wise man will appease it. In the light of the king’s face is life, and his favor is like a cloud of the latter rain.” (Proverbs 16:14-15) Again, worldly kings are metaphorical of the ultimate God-King, Yahshua. If you were expecting another lowly babe in a manger or another innocent man dying on a cross, you’re in for a shock. The returning Messiah-King is described thus: “Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” (Revelation 19:15) But what about the wise, who will experience life through the light of the King’s face? They are seen a bit later: “God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4) Just as Solomon wrote it, that’s about the most radical contrast imaginable.
The contrast is drawn between those who experience the King’s wrath and those who receive His blessing. But the same King is the source of both outcomes. The difference, then, is in the attitude of the subject. Does he honor the King or rebel against Him? This is easy enough to see when we are looking forward to the reign of Christ. But it’s a bit counterintuitive when worldly monarchs are in view. Earthly kings aren’t perfect—why should we defer to them? It’s because they’re symbolic of the King of kings. A parallel example would be the Fifth Commandment: “Honor your father and your mother.” Our fathers and mothers aren’t perfect either, yet we “children” are to respect, obey, and defer to them. Why? Because they are metaphorical (by God’s design) of His own relationship with us as our Creator. Honoring your parents is a picture of honoring Yahweh. Honoring the king is another picture—that of honoring Christ. It should go without saying (but I’ll say it anyway): this puts a heavy responsibility on the shoulders of parents and kings alike: they represent Almighty God to those “under” them, whether they like it or not.
During Christ’s first advent, the Romans ruled Judea (and pretty much everything else in the neighborhood of the Mediterranean Sea). The Jews generally hated them, not just because the Romans were foreigners, gentiles, and pagans, but because they taxed them, as government overlords are wont to do. Nobody likes getting taxed. America, for all intents and purposes, was born because of a three percent tax on tea. (That doesn’t sound so bad anymore, does it?) Anyway, the Pharisees laid a trap for Yahshua, forcing Him (they thought) to betray either His people or the Romans—they didn’t particularly care which. “Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians [the party loyal to Rome’s puppet-king, Herod], saying, ‘Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?’”
It was one of those classic “When-did-you-stop-beating-your-wife” questions. There was seemingly no way to give a straight answer without incriminating yourself with somebody. “But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, ‘Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the tax money.’ So they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’ They said to Him, ‘Caesar’s.’ And He said to them, ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.” (Matthew 22:15-22) It was the perfect answer. Money had the king’s picture on it, so in the kingdom of heaven, it was worthless—we shouldn’t get too attached to it. We, on the other hand, are made in the very image of God, so we should be devoted to Him without reservation, body and soul. The answer left the religio-political troublemakers with no ground to stand upon.
But on a more prosaic level, it also means that we—though children of God—are to pay the taxes demanded by our godless governments, without complaint or rebellion. That’s not to say you shouldn’t vote for candidates who treat taxpayers with respect by running efficient governments free of corruption, nor does it prevent you from “voting with your feet” if one state or county is abusive and another one isn’t. The point is not that the “king” is entitled to what he steals from you; it’s that if you “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, all [the necessities of life] shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) My wife and I are a living testament to this truth. Over our half-century together we invested heavily in the kingdom of God, while our subsequent abundant blessings were taxed half to death by a greedy and godless government. And yet, somehow, we are able to live quite comfortably on the blessings that were left over after the taxman was through with us. Paul was right: “God has supplied all our needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (See Philippians 4:19.) In the end, it doesn’t really matter how much the government takes: our Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and He owns the hills.
On another occasion, Yahshua arranged to pay a tax, not because it was legitimate, but merely to avoid giving offense. The money was meaningless—what counted was showing love to others. “When they had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, ‘Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?’ He said, ‘Yes.’” Of course He did: it was a Torah requirement: see Exodus 30:13-16. The designation in Greek is didrachmon—a double-drachma silver coin. But the lesson lay elsewhere: “And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, ‘What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?’” Here, the word for “taxes” was kensos, the Roman tribute or poll tax. “Peter said to Him, ‘From strangers.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Then the sons are free. Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you.’” (Matthew 17:24-27)
Yahshua was making several points here: (1) As sons of God, we owe nothing to godless governments, or even to the godless religious elite class who were “running things” at the temple during this time. (2) But because the tax money is of no actual value to a believer (who is living on an “alternate revenue stream”) there is no point in withholding it from the overlords who demand it. There are other, better “hills to die on” than the issue of taxation. (3) God is able to supply our needs from outlandishly unexpected sources. Peter was a fisherman, so Yahshua sent him fishing—though we do not normally expect to find money in the mouths of our finny quarry. And actually, He did something similarly unexpected with me, turning my profession as a graphic and verbal communicator into stock options worth millions (of which the government took the lion’s share). See my first book, In the Company of Good and Evil (co-authored with Craig Winn) for the story.
However, we’re not really talking about money or taxes here, but rather how to deal with ungodly governments—kings or emperors or presidents: monarchs of any description. Paul broached the subject with two young pastors, Timothy and Titus. “I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (I Timothy 2:1-4) These men lived under the suzerainty of Rome—with kings like Nero and Caligula—the worst of the worst. So his admonition is counterintuitive, to say the least. Pray for them? Give thanks for them? Intercede for them? Yes, and not “tongue-in-cheek,” as in David’s prayer: “Let his days be few, and let another take his office.” (Psalm 109:8)
We are not instructed to pray that their insane and evil plans are successful, of course. But we are to implore heaven that the love of God invades their hearts, quieting their minds. We should pray that their malicious proclivities find no resolution—something that would benefit the king every bit as much as his subjects. We are to ask God to prepare their hearts for repentance, for a change of mind and attitude. Mr. Obama was arguably the worst president the United States ever had, but how many of us prayed for him? (I am as guilty as you are in this regard, I’m afraid.) What would have happened if Yahweh, in response to our prayers, had softened his heart, and as a result he had turned his back on Islam, homosexuality, sobriety, and socialism, instituting instead policies that were truly beneficial to America? What if he had actually done the good things he talked about in 2008 in order to get himself elected—things he knew the majority of Americans wanted and needed? What if he had gotten radically, genuinely saved? That’s the sort of thing adherence to Paul’s admonition might have accomplished. But no; we all just sat there grumbling to one another about his petty treasons, fiscal irresponsibility, and moral turpitude. Shame on us.
To Titus Paul wrote, “Remind them [your flock] to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.” (Titus 3:1-2) Most kings, no matter how evil, will be happy enough if we Christians simply obey the laws of the land, work to make their kingdoms better for everyone, live in peace with all men—oh, and pay our taxes without complaint. This is not to say we should deny the truth of God’s word, calling sin acceptable before God. One of Satan’s favorite ploys is to equate godly standards with hatred of sinners, insisting that we believers should tolerate—nay, approve of and support—any perversion man can invent. God’s word warns that unrepentant sinners will die. But this doesn’t mean that we, His people, are supposed to kill them (in any conceivable sense of the word)—quite the opposite, in fact. We are rather to do what we can to dissuade them from committing spiritual suicide—to “talk them down from the ledge,” so to speak. I trust you can tell the difference.
Kings and kingdoms are in God’s hand.
I’ve said ’til my cheeks hurt that God’s primary gift to mankind is free will—the privilege of choice. It’s the only thing that makes agape-love possible in this world. That being said, He is neither disinterested nor unwilling to direct the general course of human events toward bringing His word and plan to fruition—in His way, and on His schedule. Ironically enough, this often involves refusing to intervene in human affairs, even though lives might be saved if He did.
To my mind, the most striking example of this principle in recent history is God’s refusal to preemptively stop the rise of Nazism in the 1930s. Although tens of millions of lives could have been saved, the polarizing effect of the World War II era—including Hitler’s Holocaust—had one unforeseen result that would never have happened through the normal course of human events: the re-creation of a Jewish political state in the Promised Land. In retrospect, we realize that Israel’s restoration, redemption, and reconciliation with Yahweh is by far the most often-repeated prophecy in the Tanakh. God’s first step was to give them a toe-hold in the Land of Promise. Adolph Hitler would be horrified to learn that Yahweh played him like a Stradivarius regarding the ultimate blessing of Israel—by refusing to kill him in 1923, before he could do any real damage.
Rewind the tape a couple of millennia to the time of Daniel, a captured Jewish prince serving in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon—the most powerful man on earth at the time. Imagine standing before the king and informing him that he’s not all that, but that Yahweh is: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons. He removes kings and raises up kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things. He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him.” (Daniel 2:20-22) Okay, Daniel didn’t exactly say this to the king. It was what He prayed in thanks to Yahweh for having been given the key to a disturbing vision that Nebuchadnezzar had dreamed—an apparition no one else could interpret.
What Daniel actually said to Nebuchadnezzar was this: “The secret which the king has demanded, the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, and the soothsayers cannot declare to the king. But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.” (Daniel 2:27-28) Daniel’s respectful response revealed several truths. (1) There is only one God (i.e., not someone in the Babylonian pantheon) who “reveals secrets.” What Daniel didn’t tell the king, but could have, is that Yahweh Himself had sent the dream, because He was the One who was planning to bring it all about. (2) It doesn’t matter how smart or educated one is: clear understanding of future events is the purview of God alone—and to whom He chooses to reveal it. And (3) Nebuchadnezzar had been chosen to be the recipient of the vision because he was personally part of the picture. The picture, in turn, revealed how God was going to use a succession of human governments to bring His plan to fruition. They would come and go, replaced in the end by the kingdom of God, a reign that would (unlike the others) endure forever.
We aren’t told whether Nebuchadnezzar really couldn’t remember the dream, or if he could and merely wanted to find out how wise his “wise men” actually were. Either way, Daniel (after praying about it) knew what the king had been shown; and more importantly, he knew what it meant. “You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome. This image’s head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay….” The statue was composed of five different materials. Starting at the head of gold and working downward, each substance was progressively less valuable, more prone to corruption, than the one preceding it.
The only “action” in the dream was what Daniel described next: “You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces.” The statue was attacked and destroyed from without by a great stone, one with no human source (unlike the image itself). Note that it began by assaulting the feet, but the whole statue was subsequently vaporized. “Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors. The wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. This is the dream….” It’s no wonder Nebuchadnezzar was disturbed. He had no frame of reference for this. No one did.
But Daniel had also been shown, in rough outline anyway, what the dream meant. “Now we will tell the interpretation of it before the king. You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all—you are this head of gold….” Fortunately for Daniel, the dream allowed him to speak in flattering terms of his boss, King Nebuchadnezzar. (You could lose your head if your prophetic gift compelled you to denounce the king. Just ask John the Baptist.) Note, however, that Daniel credits Nebuchadnezzar’s greatness to “the God of heaven.” The king needed to know right up front that the glory of his reign was due to God’s sovereignty—not his own talent or worth. (He would later receive a seven-year lesson confirming this—more on this amazing episode in a moment.)
With Nebuchadnezzar at the “head,” it becomes apparent that the statue is a timeline of gentile kingdoms, beginning chronologically with Babylon, then cycling through a series of other, increasingly corrupt, regimes. “But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others….” The “silver” kingdom would turn out to be Medo-Persia. Daniel himself saw the transition, recorded in chapter 5. Persia would fall in turn to the “bronze” kingdom—that of Alexander the Great’s Greece, which persisted for a few hundred years until the Roman war machine, the statue’s legs of iron, crushed everything in its path.
But what is it with this phrase “shall rule over all the earth”? In historical fact, nobody has ever done that, and nobody will until the Antichrist reigns during the Great Tribulation. The key is the word “earth.” Daniel used the Aramaic ara, equivalent to the Hebrew word eretz. It doesn’t necessarily mean the whole Planet Earth; it can also denote earth (as in soil or dirt), ground, territory, or land—especially a particular region: e.g. the Promised Land, a.k.a. “eretz Israel.” There were other powerful kingdoms prior to Nebuchadnezzar’s (like Egypt and Assyria), but Babylon was the first to control Yahweh’s Land of Promise, Israel. Persia, Greece, and Rome in turn “inherited” the Land as they conquered the previous landlords. Why is it important? Because this “Land” is where Yahweh’s Messiah would be revealed. As you know, Rome was the conqueror of record when Yahshua walked the earth.
Once the Messiah’s mission had been accomplished (under Rome’s rule), the rest of the story was rather beside the point—for a couple of millennia, anyway. By the end of the fifth century, Rome was no longer a viable empire. But spiritual significance aside, history marched on. Europe—Rome’s backyard—has dominated world history until quite recently—either directly or through its “children” in the western hemisphere. But now, just as the statue describes it, it has become splintered and fragmented, partly weak and partly strong. Europe’s Muslim infestation of the past half-century has brought the weak-strong dichotomy into sharp focus: “Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay….” In what has to be the miscalculation of the millennium, Europe has imported millions of Muslims, only to discover that they do not assimilate into the cultures of their new homes, any more than iron can be alloyed with clay.
Not surprisingly, other prophecies from Daniel pinpoint the old Roman Empire (the statue’s iron component) as the home of the coming Antichrist, who will personify and consolidate gentile world power during the Tribulation. Thus modern Europe, the “feet partly of iron and partly of clay,” is where Yahweh has chosen to begin the process of dismantling—obliterating—gentile power in the earth, in preparation for the thousand-year Kingdom of God. “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed….” Note that gentile governments will rule the earth right up until God’s kingdom is established. That is, there will be no interim period of anarchy, Eastern ascendency, or Zionist hegemony (so dear to atheistic conspiracy theorists) between what the statue represents and the Messiah’s earthly kingdom.
Moreover, the kingdom of Christ will (unlike all the others) never end. “And the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold—the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure.” (Daniel 2:31-45)
Most of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream has been fulfilled in history with astonishing accuracy. The only thing left for God to do is to transfer power (in a way we can perceive it, that is) from human kings to Himself. Of course, the risen Yahshua already revealed the reality of the thing: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” (Matthew 28:18) It is my firm conviction that the Sabbath Law reveals when God intends to transition us from “faith” to “sight,” from “work” to “rest.” If we remember that the “work of God is to believe in the One He has sent” (i.e., Yahshua—see John 6:29), and that “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day,” (II Peter 3:8) it becomes apparent that we are very, very close to the ultimate Sabbath, the kingdom of God on earth. The “Stone cut out of the Mountain without hands” must finish His work of dismantling all corrupt human governance before the Feast of Tabernacles, 2033, unless I am mistaken about a great many things.
In the meantime, we would do well to remember who is in charge: “The Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men.” (Daniel 4:17) We’re back following the interaction between the prophet Daniel and his boss, Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar. Those words, surprisingly, are not Daniel’s, but the King’s. He had not forgotten what Daniel’s God was capable of, and had rightly humbled himself before Him—as any wise leader should do. Now Nebuchadnezzar had received a second dream, even more troubling than the first. The bottom line was that the king was advised to “break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor.” (Daniel 4:27) The dream said (in so many words) that if he did not, the king would go insane and be removed from power for seven years. Nebuchadnezzar did okay for a year, but then, in an unguarded moment, he expressed his natural kingly pride, and immediately the dream’s curse fell upon him.
We’ll skip over the incredible political miracle that allowed Daniel (and perhaps others) to hold the king’s throne open and unoccupied for seven long years) and cut to the chase. As promised in the dream, the king’s sanity eventually returned to him, and once again, Nebuchadnezzar gave glory to God: “At the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing. He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’… Those who walk in pride He is able to put down.” (Daniel 4:34-37) Oh, if only the leaders of the nations understood this truth, for nothing whatsoever has changed.
Perhaps this is also a prophecy: maybe Nebuchadnezzar is speaking for all the nations who will inhabit the earth during the Millennial reign of Christ. After all, since Yahshua is the King of kings, other leaders will answer to Him, ruling under His suzerainty. These under-kings will look back on the whole history of human government and realize that with very few exceptions, their predecessors ruled like crazy people, with no understanding, little compassion, and a great deal of arrogance. In Yahshua’s Millennial kingdom, that will no longer happen.
What are the credentials of Yahshua, this King of kings? Why will He reign over the earth from Jerusalem, not Rome, Washington, or Babylon? It’s because first and foremost, He is the King of Israel, who will rule from the throne of Israel’s greatest king, His ancestor David. His tribal pedigree was assigned by David’s ancestor, Jacob: “Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise. Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies. Your father’s children shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s whelp. From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; and as a lion, who shall rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh [“He to whom it—the scepter—belongs”] comes, and to Him shall be the obedience of the people.” (Genesis 49:8-10) It is He, and He alone, in whose hands Yahweh has placed all the kingdoms of the earth. I get the distinct impression that the whole “Israel” connection is merely meant to demonstrate that there is nothing too difficult for our God to achieve.
God allows us to make poor choices.
Why don’t we ever seem to have godly “kings” now, in this age? Why must we wait until Christ’s Millennial reign in order to enjoy justice and righteous in the affairs of state? It’s because we humans are built with the privilege of free will, but we are also a fallen, sinful race: our hearts are wicked, so we all too often make poor choices, ungodly decisions. If the majority is tasked with choosing the “king” (in a process called democracy) the result is usually disastrous, because “wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.” (Matthew 7:13) And if the “king” gains power not through popular acclaim but by strength or treachery, we’re still faced with the fallen nature of man: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
The Psalmist gives us a glimpse of the mindset of man—a state of rebellion that has been simmering for ages, but will reach full boil by the end of the Great Tribulation. “Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against Yahweh and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us….’” Yahweh and “His Anointed” (i.e., the Messiah—the Christ) are presented as two separate entities here because Yahshua, the ultimate King, is the only anthropomorphic form of God mortal man will ever see (at least until the end of the Millennial Kingdom). If Yahweh were to show His face in undiminished glory, no mortal flesh would survive the encounter. In reality, Yahweh and Yahshua aren’t so much “two separate persons” as They are two distinct forms (or manifestations) of the same divine identity.
When the returning Christ plants his foot on the Mount of Olives on the definitive Day of Atonement (see Zechariah 12:10, 14:4) the Antichrist, who will have gathered his international armies near the Mountain of Megiddo (read: Armageddon) will say “He has fallen into our trap at last. Let us go to Jerusalem and rid ourselves of this wannabe slave-master once and for all.” Thus will begin the most one-sided “battle” in human history. “He who sits in the heavens shall laugh. Yahweh shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure: ‘Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion….’” Although the resurrected saints will accompany the Messiah (see Revelation 19:14), He will destroy the armies of Earth gathered against him—hundreds of millions strong—all by Himself, without even breaking a sweat (see Isaiah 63:1-6).
The last time Yahshua visited us, we crucified Him. He did not resist, but voluntarily allowed Himself to be led as a Lamb to the slaughter to atone for our sins. What’s different this time? Ironically, it’s free will again. At last, at the very end of the Sixth Day of man (that is, with the Sabbath so close you can practically reach out and touch it), virtually everyone on earth will have made his choice: to follow either Yahweh or Satan, Christ or the Antichrist. Now, at the end, He can openly divulge the glorious truth: Yahshua is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. For the first time since Eden, God will not be abridging the free will He has bestowed upon mankind by revealing His Messiah’s true nature to those who haven’t yet chosen—because everyone already has.
The Psalmist phrased it like this: “I will declare the decree: Yahweh has said to Me, ‘You are My Son. Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron. You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel….’” There is a revealing linguistic twist here. The word translated “begotten” is yalad, which literally means “to bring forth.” It is usually (and quite naturally) used of a mother bearing a child. But here, it describes Yahweh “bringing forth” Yahshua into the role for which He was destined from eternity past—that of the ultimate Monarch. Brown-Driver-Briggs notes that here, it means “formally installing a king into theocratic rights.”
Armageddon is not yet upon mankind, but it soon will be. So in the meantime, while free will remains the paradigm, what are we advised to do? “Now therefore, be wise, O kings. Be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve Yahweh with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.” (Psalm 2) This would be good counsel for anyone, but it is addressed specifically to “kings” and “judges,” those who might be inclined (as Nebuchadnezzar was) to start “believing their own press,” grow arrogant, unjust, unrighteous, and unmerciful. Yes, here in the age of grace, Yahweh will not force you to honor Him or believe in His Messiah. But the day is coming (and soon, if my observations are correct) when His glorious physical presence among us will render “choice” a quaint anachronism. There will come a time when you can’t really not believe. Why? Because Yahshua’s authority and deity will be too obvious to deny. “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” (I Corinthians 13:12)
Though free will is what makes it possible for us to choose to reciprocate God’s love, it has a downside: by definition, we also have the potential to choose poorly. People have been doing that ever since Eden. And choosing leaders from among men? We have been especially bad at that. “They [Israel] set up kings, but not by Me. They made princes, but I did not acknowledge them. From their silver and gold they made idols for themselves—that they might be cut off.” (Hosea 8:4) The Torah had specified that any king that Israel took must be chosen by Yahweh, but they usually ignored that bit of good advice, just as they ignored the most fundamental commandment of all—not to worship anything but the One True God.
Poor choices have their consequences, and Israel was no exception. (In fact, since they were God’s chosen people, the consequences were probably even more obviously inevitable than with anyone else.) But among the bad news, God left them a glimmer of hope: they would eventually return to the way it was meant to be—with Yahweh Himself (in the persona of Yahshua) on the throne. So Hosea continues: “O Israel, you are destroyed, but your help is from Me. I will be your King. Where is any other, that he may save you in all your cities? And your judges to whom you said, ‘Give me a king and princes’? I gave you a king in My anger, and took him away in My wrath.” (Hosea 13:9-11) When Hosea began his ministry, Israel had long since split into northern and southern kingdoms, though the northern kingdom where he prophesied (known as Ephraim, or simply Israel) had not yet been hauled off to Assyria for its idolatry and apostasy. But their problems had begun with poor choices made some seven centuries earlier, in the period of the judges, when the nation had made its first “royal blunder.”
The story is related back in the book of I Samuel. “Now it came to pass when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice….” There’s the first problem—not that Samuel’s sons did not measure up to their illustrious father, but that he presumed they would. Judges in Israel had always been appointed and anointed directly by Yahweh; their tenures (you can’t really call them “reigns”) had always been temporary and local, nor had their sons ever been divinely appointed as judges in their stead. Gideon (the judge who gets the most “press” in scripture, not that he was by any means perfect) understood this well: see Judges 8:23.
“Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, ‘Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.’ But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to judge us….’” The second problem was that if the people perceived a need for a replacement for Samuel, they should have asked Yahweh for one. He had indeed sporadically provided judges for Israel—but only when the need was dire, and not before. That being said, the need had never been dire until and unless they had turned their back on the God that they were now asking Samuel to replace with a king. Yahweh, in His wisdom, had habitually provided Israel with the minimum government possible. They had His Torah, the priests and Levites, and their tribal elders—and these were all the “government” anybody who honored Yahweh should have needed.
“So Samuel prayed to Yahweh.” What now, Father? “And Yahweh said to Samuel, ‘Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day—with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also. Now therefore, heed their voice. However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them….’” Yahweh informed His faithful servant that this was nothing new: Israel had never consistently honored their God or heeded His word. They had instead rebelled at every turn. Sometimes the worst curse you can inflict on someone is to give them what they want.
For almost half a millennium, Israel had be blessed with perfect freedom: no king (except for Yahweh), wise leaders (for the most part), and a minimum of rules (most of which were symbolic in nature—prophetic of the coming Messiah. For a compendium of the relatively few “practical” laws, see The Owner’s Manual, Volume 3, Appendix 1, elsewhere on this website.) The people thought a king would relieve them of the burden of personal responsibility before God. Maybe they figured they could henceforth screw up royally and then plead, “I was only following orders.”
But Samuel informed them of what they were really asking for when they demanded a king to rule over them: “So Samuel told all the words of Yahweh to the people who asked him for a king. And he said, ‘This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots….” The Torah had already instructed that a king in Israel was not to multiply horses for himself, for it would tend to make him reliant on his own military forces rather than on Yahweh. Samuel was revealing that their king would begin by throwing out the parts of God’s Law he didn’t find convenient.
“He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and Yahweh will not hear you in that day….’” If you find being personally responsible to Yahweh stifling and inconvenient, Samuel says, then get ready for something exponentially worse: being personally responsible to a fallen, sinful human being, someone who’ll take what he wants from you—your money, labor, and freedom—simply because the crown suggests that he is entitled to them.
Note the repeated reference to the king taking “a tenth” and “your finest.” Samuel is saying that at best, the financial impact of the Levitical tithe (which, you’ll recall, was provided by God up front) would be effectively doubled. Instead of living on 90% of their increase, the Israelites would henceforth have to live on 80%. (I fully realize that most people today would love to be allowed to keep 80% of what they earn.) But this was just the beginning. The “camel’s nose,” as they say, “was being allowed into the tent.” It was only a matter of time before the whole beast would be taking up residence. At worst, this meant the king would see himself as “God’s representative,” and thus the rightful recipient of the Levitical tithe. Yahweh, of course, would beg to differ.
The people responded, “Our mind is made up. Don’t confuse us with facts.” “Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, ‘No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.’ And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he repeated them in the hearing of Yahweh. So Yahweh said to Samuel, ‘Heed their voice, and make them a king.’” (I Samuel 8:1-22) As I said, the downside of having free will is that you are free to make bad choices as well as good ones. And as poor choices go, this one was a doozy. They said they wanted someone who would “go out before us and fight our battles.” Sure, commanders give commands. But rare is the king who is willing to bleed for his people.
Flash forward to the final battle, however, and we see that everyone—kings included—will stake their mortal lives on their cause, no matter how misguided. “Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, ‘Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.’” (Revelation 19:17-18) The ultimate poor choice is (and always has been) to go to war against the God who gives you life. By the end of the Tribulation, everyone left alive on earth will have chosen whether to honor God or rebel against Him. Alas, most will choose poorly. Note that King Yahshua doesn’t even bother “preparing” for the battle of Armageddon, other than to summon the clean-up crew to the scene ahead of time. The buzzards and vultures won’t be circling in the heavens looking for something to eat, not this time. The blood will flow and the bodies will left in piles a meter deep for the space of 180 miles, north to south. Yum.
This is all the result of the ultimate poor choice: rebellion against Yahweh and against His Messiah. But the Antichrist and his followers can’t say God didn’t go out of His way to warn them. As far back as Judah’s captivity in Babylon, He had His prophet describe what would happen to them, and why. The following is one of those prophecies (of which there are many) that has both near and far fulfillments, and both literal and symbolic subjects. In the near term, He’s speaking to the King of Tyre, then a proud, powerful, and corrupt city-state on the Mediterranean coast in present-day Lebanon. But in the long run, He is also (and ultimately) addressing the Tribulation’s Antichrist: “The word of Yahweh came to me again, saying, son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, thus says the Lord Yahweh: ‘Because your heart is lifted up, and you say, “I am a god, I sit in the seat of gods, in the midst of the seas.” Yet you are a man, and not a god, though you set your heart as the heart of a god.’ Behold, you are wiser [i.e., more shrewd] than Daniel! There is no secret that can be hidden from you! With your wisdom [Hebrew: chokmah—skill, cleverness] and your understanding you have gained riches for yourself, and gathered gold and silver into your treasuries. By your great wisdom in trade you have increased your riches, and your heart is lifted up because of your riches….”
Many kings have been clever enough in war, trade, and administration to grow wealthy and powerful. (The success of the Antichrist will be unprecedented in this regard: the whole world—excuse Israel—will willingly fall under his suzerainty, and he will take over the earth’s present central-bank-Illuminati scam like Al Capone rubbing out a small-time competitor.) In the absence of godly restraint, kings often begin to imagine themselves to be gods—people who deserve the deference they receive from their sycophants. These people actually come to think they can’t be stopped.
Tyre thought their city was impregnable, for they had moved it, lock, stock, and barrel, to a new island fortress offshore, where foreign armies couldn’t get to it, and where it could be easily defended by their world-class navy. The king of Tyre did not figure on the patience and determination of Alexander the Great, who ordered the old abandoned city dismantled brick by brick and thrown into the sea—building a causeway long enough for his armies to reach and destroy Tyre’s “impregnable” Island fortress. “Therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh: ‘Because you have set your heart as the heart of a god, Behold, therefore, I will bring strangers against you, the most terrible of the nations, and they shall draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom, and defile your splendor. They shall throw you down into the Pit, and you shall die the death of the slain in the midst of the seas. Will you still say before him who slays you, “I am a god”? But you shall be a man, and not a god, in the hand of him who slays you. You shall die the death of the uncircumcised by the hand of aliens, for I have spoken,’ says the Lord Yahweh.” (Ezekiel 28:1-10)
The Antichrist, I’m guessing, will have even more reason to boast in his unassailable position. In the wake of the decimation of dar al-Islam, nuclear war, worldwide financial meltdown, famine, disease, and global anarchy, he will find himself universally hailed as the long-awaited messiah and elected to the throne of Planet Earth. The only enemies he’ll have left are Israel (rebellious to the end) and small (but growing) pockets of belatedly repentant “Laodicean” Christians—whom he will try with all his might to exterminate. In the end, God will give the Antichrist only three and a half years to reign. And it won’t take armies like Alexander’s to bring him down. One Man—the Son of God, returning from heaven on the definitive Day of Atonement—will do the job single-handedly. Ezekiel asks the king of Tyre, “Will you still say before him who slays you, ‘I am a god’? But you shall be a man, and not a god, in the hand of him who slays you.” Likewise, King Yahshua will slay the world’s armies arrayed against Him, and then throw the Antichrist into hell without bothering to kill him first. As I said, the worst choice a man can make is to rebel against his Creator.
Ezekiel continues condemning the King of Tyre, but midway through his rant the focus shifts to God’s real target—the one who is represented by the King of Tyre, none other than Satan himself. “Moreover the word of Yahweh came to me, saying, son of man, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre, and say to him, thus says the Lord Yahweh: ‘You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God. Every precious stone was your covering: the sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold.” Not coincidentally, “Tyre” is related to tsur, a stone. “The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created. You were the anointed cherub who covers. I established you. You were on the holy mountain of God. You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones….” Yes, it’s abundantly clear that we are no longer talking about a human king (no matter how exalted) but the most splendiferous angel of them all.
Satan didn’t get his beauty and power by earning it. It was all a gift from the Creator he was about to betray. Ironically, the one thing he (and the other spirit messengers) had not been given was free will. Angels operate autonomously, but they do not have the legal right to choose not to obey Yahweh. Think of them as soldiers: they have the ability to disobey orders, but not the permission to do so. In terms of grade-school English, they can rebel against God, but they may not. In other words, they were not created for the purpose of sharing a loving relationship with Almighty Yahweh, as we humans are. They are there to serve Him. Period. Most angels do, but those who do not will pay the penalty—eternal incarceration (after they have outlasted their usefulness to God). That, in fact, was God’s purpose in creating hell in the first place: it was not really meant for men at all. (See Matthew 25:41.)
Ezekiel explains: “You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you. By the abundance of your trading you became filled with violence within, and you sinned. Therefore I cast you as a profane thing out of the mountain of God. And I destroyed you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the fiery stones. Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty. You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, that they might gaze at you. You defiled your sanctuaries by the multitude of your iniquities, by the iniquity of your trading.” The Hebrew word translated “trading” here is rekullah, meaning merchandise or traffic. From Eden forward, Satan has been “selling us” lies, rebellion, and death. “Therefore I brought fire from your midst. It devoured you, and I turned you to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all who saw you. All who knew you among the peoples are astonished at you. You have become a horror, and shall be no more forever.’” (Ezekiel 28:11-19) We need to shake off the myth that Satan “rules” hell. He does not. The kings who followed him there will be amazed to discover how far he has fallen—from the “covering cherub” of Creation’s glory to the burnt-out shadow of horror and loathing he will be in the eternal fire. And they will ask themselves, “How could we have been so foolish as to follow that?”
Queens are monarchs too, though they don’t occupy the same symbolic niche that kings do in God’s word—looking forward to the King of kings. Nevertheless, this might be a good place to discuss how they too make choices—some good, and some bad—that affect the lives of their subjects. So as a study in contrasts, let us compare Esther with Jezebel.
Esther had not chosen or aspired to be the queen of Persia. She was not born into royalty—in fact, she was an orphan, being taken care by her uncle Mordecai. An unlikely series of events had placed this beautiful young Jewish girl on the throne of Persia, the new “replacement” queen of King Ahasuerus (a.k.a. Xerxes), sometime around 480 BC. To put things in perspective, this was a little over a century after Jerusalem and its temple had been destroyed by Babylon’s Nebuchadnezzar II. In other words, Esther had been born in exile, along with the vast majority of the world’s Jews during the mid-fourth century B.C. (The second temple had been built a little over thirty years before this, but few Jews lived in Judea—Nehemiah’s return was yet in the future.)
Forgive me for cutting to the chase, but it’s a long story. (Please read the Book of Esther for yourself. It’s fascinating.) In a nutshell, Haman, the king’s friend, sycophant, and drinking buddy hatched a plot to exterminate all the Jews under Persian control—virtually every Jew on the face of the earth at that time—and got the king to sign off on it. Needless to say, this would have caused serious logistical problems for Yahweh, who had promised that the Messiah would come through Israel. Either Ahasuerus didn’t realize his bride-queen was Jewish, or Haman hadn’t been specific with the king about who the target was. Complicating matters, Persian law said that nobody—not even the king—could undo a proclamation like this, once he had signed it into law. And anyone who approached the king without being summoned was to be put to death—unless he held out his scepter in welcome. Ahasuerus hadn’t called for Esther in a month.
All of this put Esther in a ticklish, seemingly hopeless situation. But she got some wise counsel from her uncle. “And Mordecai told them [the queen’s maids and eunuch messengers] to answer Esther: ‘Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?’ Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: ‘Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!...’” In a remarkable display of bravery and patriotism for her people, she chose to do what she could to head off this genocidal disaster—even if she died in the attempt. Although God’s name is not mentioned in the Book of Esther, her faith was in Yahweh, not in her own status, beauty, or diplomatic skill.
Backed by the prayers of her people, she followed through as she had resolved to do: “Now it happened on the third day that Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, across from the king’s house, while the king sat on his royal throne in the royal house, facing the entrance of the house. So it was, when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, that she found favor in his sight, and the king held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther went near and touched the top of the scepter. And the king said to her, ‘What do you wish, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given to you—up to half the kingdom!’” (Esther 4:13-16, 5:1-3) Although she could have asked for—and gotten—Haman’s head on a platter, that would not have helped her people, due to the edict that was already in place and couldn’t be rescinded. So she employed the wisdom of Solomon, dragging the drama out long enough to give Haman enough rope to hang himself—literally—and securing for the Jews in all of Persia’s 127 provinces the right to defend themselves and plunder their enemies.
Queen Esther’s good choices, then, were instrumental in the national salvation of Israel—and through them, the world. Interestingly, the climax of the story of Israel’s deliverance from genocide took place exactly one month before Passover, as if to remind Israel of the salvation the next full moon would portend. It is now celebrated as Purim (from pur, a lot or game of chance, the means by which Haman had originally chosen the date of Israel’s demise).
The poster child for poor choices made by queens would have to be the infamous Jezebel. Unlike Esther, Jezebel was born to royalty and aspired to parlay her royal birth into as much wealth and power as possible. She was a Sidonian princess, the daughter of King Ithobaal I. Her marriage to Israel’s King Ahab had been one of typical political expediency: you weren’t likely to go to war with your father-in-law. But Jezebel quickly seduced her weak-willed husband into the worship practices of Sidon’s pagan deities, Ba’al and Asherah.
We have our pick of Jezebel’s “poor-choice” stories, but let’s look at the tale of Naboth’s vineyard, for it reveals her character—her willingness to let the ends justify the means, no matter who got hurt. We pick up the story with Ahab sulking like a three-year-old when his neighbor Naboth refused to sell him a plot of land that had been in his family since the conquest. “So Ahab went into his house sullen and displeased because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him; for he had said, ‘I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.’ And he lay down on his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no food.” He was about as mature as a spoiled child denied a Twinkie half an hour before dinnertime. “But Jezebel his wife came to him, and said to him, ‘Why is your spirit so sullen that you eat no food?’ He said to her, ‘Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite, and said to him, “Give me your vineyard for money; or else, if it pleases you, I will give you another vineyard for it.” And he answered, “I will not give you my vineyard.”’”
We can be reasonably sure that Ahab had no intention of returning the land to Naboth’s family at the Jubilee, as required in the Torah. He wanted what he wanted, and he wanted it now. “Then Jezebel his wife said to him, ‘You now exercise authority over Israel! Arise, eat food, and let your heart be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite….’” Ahab was a villain, but it never occurred to him that there were ways to get what you wanted that didn’t involve honesty or legality. Jezebel labored under no such qualms. She forged letters in Ahab’s name, sealed them with his seal, and sent them to the elders and nobles of the city. The letters read: “Proclaim a fast, and seat Naboth with high honor among the people; and seat two men, scoundrels, before him to bear witness against him, saying, ‘You have blasphemed God and the king.’ Then take him out, and stone him, that he may die….” The “fast” was intended to give a pious, religious gloss to the proceedings, obscuring the fact that the whole thing was nothing but a cynical land grab. If Naboth was blaspheming God, he was bringing shame and judgment on the whole community—hence the punishment of public stoning. Note that Jezebel insisted on two witnesses—just as the Torah required. Heaven forbid this affair should have even a hint of impropriety.
“And it came to pass, when Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, that Jezebel said to Ahab, ‘Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money; for Naboth is not alive, but dead.’ So it was, when Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, that Ahab got up and went down to take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.” (I Kings 21:4-7, 15-16) Jezebel had innocent blood on her hands—as surely as if she had stabbed Naboth through the heart with her poison pen. Her objective hadn’t really been to secure a plot of land for Ahab’s vegetable garden. It was to secure her reputation with her husband as a “fixer” par excellence, someone who could get things done—even if he were too weak, cowardly, and unimaginative to do it himself. Law and conscience be damned: Jezebel was a force to be reckoned with—a legend in her own mind.
Jezebel and Esther, though both queens, couldn’t be less alike. And it all boils down the choices they made. Esther chose to honor Yahweh and try to protect her people, even though doing so entailed a great deal of personal risk. Jezebel chose instead to feather her own nest, showing neither justice nor mercy. (She’s so much like a certain female American politician, it’s scary.) Esther went down in history as the savior of her people—a legendary heroine of Israel. Jezebel’s poor choices made her an enduring metaphor for any woman who is evil, nasty, faithless, and self-centered. She ended up getting thrown out of a window by eunuchs and eaten by dogs in the street. Poetic justice.
Christ as King.
The whole point of studying earthly monarchs, as I said, is that they are symbolic of the ultimate King of kings, whether they want to be or not. Kings, who are powerful by virtue of their office, are (by God’s definition) supposed to also be godly, just, righteous, merciful, and wise. Just how far earthly leaders fall short of that ideal will be made painfully obvious when Yahshua the Messiah returns at last to Planet Earth in glory.
Chagrin and confusion were the result of His first advent, when Yahshua did not seize the throne of David as many expected, but instead went to the cross to atone for our sins. On at least one occasion, the enthusiastic crowd got tired of waiting for Him to make His move, and tried to compel Him to assume the royal position to which He was so obviously entitled. “Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.” (John 6:15) Theirs was the right impulse for the wrong advent, as it turned out.
Where did the people get the idea that the Messiah would rule as a king? In scripture. Many passages characterized Yahweh as King, but one in particular equated the Son of God with the reigning monarch: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given. And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of Yahweh of hosts will perform this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7) The long-awaited Savior would come as a human son, a descendant of King David. Twice here, His “government” is described: He would have the right and ability to rule, and His kingdom would endure forever.
That last requirement—an eternal kingdom—became a perverse sticking point for later Jews. The twisted logic went like this: since we were able to kill Yahshua, He must not have been the Messiah, for if Messiah is king, and His reign lasts forever, He therefore cannot be slain. The rabbi most responsible for wresting control of Judaism from the priests and giving it to the sages (like himself) was Rabbi Akiba—a bitter but influential enemy of Christ and Christianity. Early in the second century, Akiba declared a brutal Jewish warlord named Simon ben Kosiba to be the Messiah. (Akiba changed his name to Bar Kochba—“son of a star,” as in Numbers 24:17). Both Akiba and Bar Kochba were killed by the Romans in 135 A.D., bringing into focus the principle that “if you’re dead, you must not be the Messiah” as described in Isaiah 9.
An eleventh-century Rabbi named Maimonides succinctly stated the case in his massive tome, the Mishneh Torah, still authoritative among orthodox Jews. He wrote, “If a king will arise from the house of David, a student of Torah, performing good deeds, like his ancestor David, in the spirit of both the Written and the Oral Torah, and prevail upon all Israel to reinstate the Torah and to follow its direction, and will fight the battles of the Lord, he will presumably be the Messiah. If he has done these things and succeeded, having overcome the surrounding enemy nations and rebuilt the sanctuary on its site and gathered the dispersed of Israel, he will certainly be the Messiah. If he has not succeeded to such an extent, or has been slain, it is certain that he is not the one concerning whom the Torah has assured us….”
I hate to break it to you, Maimonides, but the Antichrist will make a pretty good show of doing most of that. Even though he will be “slain,” early in the game, he will be magically “resurrected”—seen by Satan as a requirement, now that he knows what to look for. See Revelation 13:1-3 and Zechariah 11:16-17 for the prophetic details. It’s all fake, of course. The Antichrist won’t be David’s heir—he won’t even be Jewish. But the genealogical records needed to verify someone’s Messianic credentials went up in smoke when the Romans destroyed the second temple in 70 AD. So the Antichrist will be able to find shelter in the dearth of documentary evidence—sort of like Obama did—until he’s sent to hell during the Battle of Armageddon, that is.
But Yahshua didn’t rule forever, either. For that matter, He didn’t rule at all. The scriptures had not made it particularly clear (unless you know where to look) that the Messiah’s redemption and His reign would not happen at the same time. Still, everyone was quite familiar with passages like this, equating God with the King: “Give ear to my words, O Yahweh; consider my meditation. Give heed to the voice of my cry, my King and my God, For to You I will pray.” (Psalm 5:1-2) So the expectations were there—but the details and logistics were a little fuzzy. (If they had not been somewhat ambiguous, Satan would have flooded history with so many false fulfillments, we never would have sorted it out. Thank you, Yahweh.)
Speaking of “expectations,” “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?’” Remember, kings were to be “anointed,” and “anointed” is what “Messiah” means. “‘For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.’ When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” He was “troubled” because no royal heir had recently been born into his house, and he was paranoid enough to have murdered his wife and two of his sons to “protect” his throne. “And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah. For out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.”’” (Matthew 2:1-6)
God warned the wise men in a dream that they had inadvertently tipped off the location of the newborn King of kings to a monarch crazy enough to kill every infant in the area just to safeguard his throne. Oops. So Mary and Joseph left Bethlehem, took the Christ Child to Egypt, and stayed there until Herod died. Who knew that Hosea had actually been talking about Yahshua when He reported Yahweh’s words: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and [heads up: there’s a change of subject here] out of Egypt I called My Son.” (Hosea 11:1)
Growing up, Yahshua certainly didn’t act like a king (okay, a prince). When He reached His teens, He played the role of an apprentice carpenter, and later an itinerant rabbi. Yes, He gathered a few followers about Himself, but His popularity was based on His teaching: a radically literal view of the two greatest commandments in the Torah—love Yahweh unreservedly, and love your fellow man as you do yourself. Then, of course, there were the healings, the miracles, and the raising to life of dead people, but none of that was even remotely “king-like” behavior. He didn’t seem to have a single political bone in His body. Although the Tanakh was peppered with references to Yahweh being King, and to the Messiah being the Son of God (suggesting that folks do the math on the matter), not once did Yahshua of Nazareth declare publically that He was a king, or suggest that the Romans should be overthrown.
Indeed, His “trial” before the Sanhedrin focused on the charge that He was the Christ, the anointed Son of God—something He did not deny. But the very idea would have been laughed out of court by any Roman magistrate. Prophets and holy men did not intimidate them. So where on earth did the whole “King of the Jews” issue come from? It came from the Jewish leaders themselves, both religious and political, who knew that the Roman Procurator, Pontius Pilate, would at least have to listen to that charge (as a potential threat to Rome). Of course, they had to explain the connection to him, using small words no doubt, to make sure he would draw the proper conclusion: “Then the whole multitude of them arose and led Him to Pilate. And they began to accuse Him, saying, ‘We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.’” (Luke 23:1-2) “Perverting the nation” was a slippery and insupportable charge. The whole “not paying taxes to Caesar” issue was a blatant falsehood, as we have seen. In reality, Yahshua had insisted that Caesar was to receive everything he had coming to him. And Yahshua had never once publically claimed to be the Messiah, in so many words. People weren’t entirely stupid, of course: they figured it out on their own. “And many of the people believed in Him, and said, ‘When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?’” (John 7:31)
Now that the issue had been raised, Pilate had no choice but to question Yahshua about it. Even though there was no evidence to support the charge, Yahshua knew that royalty was His ticket to the cross—where His real work would be accomplished: that of “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” So He too set about making sure Pilate had to do something about it. “Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?...’ Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.’ Pilate therefore said to Him, ‘Are You a king then?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.’” (John 18:33, 36-37; cf. Mark 15:2; cf. Luke 23:3) It’s interesting that He says that His “kingdom is not now from here.” The Greek word for “now” (nun) means: at the present; as it is; as the logical result of what precedes; at the moment. The implication is that His Kingdom would be an earthly one at some time in the future. So He was telling Pilate, “You’re about to crucify Me for a ‘crime’ I have not yet committed.”
In truth, Pilate didn’t really see any merit to the case. He would rather have let Yahshua go, if he thought he could get away with it. So first he tried the old “bait and switch” ploy: scourge Him, but don’t execute him. It didn’t work. “So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him. And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe. Then they said, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they struck Him with their hands. Pilate then went out again, and said to them, ‘Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.’” (John 19:1-4) All the scourging managed to do is ensure that Yahshua was already near death when they crucified Him, explaining why He lasted only a brief few hours on the cross before perishing, explaining in turn why the soldiers didn’t have to break His legs to hurry the process along. One more prophetic detail fulfilled. (See Exodus 12:46.)
The only thing Pilate found compelling was the Jews’ threat that if he didn’t have Yahshua crucified, he would be seen (and reported) as a traitor to Rome: the emperor would have his head on a platter: “From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, ‘If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.’ When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus out and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, ‘Behold your King!’ But they cried out, ‘Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar!’” (John 19:12-15) Wow. The chief priests had just denied Yahweh in favor of a mortal human king. They were willing to throw out all those scriptural references to God as King in order to pressure Pilate into doing what he knew wasn’t right. They were declaring themselves to be “better Romans” than the Roman whom the emperor had placed in charge of them.
The irony was that in order to get the procurator to do their bidding (since they themselves no longer had the legal prerogative of capital punishment), they themselves had to declare Yahshua to be the King of the Jews. If there were no royal credentials, there would be no execution. “Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified.” (Matthew 27:27-31) “Now it was the third hour, and they crucified Him. And the inscription of His accusation was written above: THE KING OF THE JEWS.” (Mark 15:25-26)
So the chief priests, Pharisees, and Sanhedrin finally got their way. Yahshua was dead, and they could all relax. “It wasn’t as if—oh, wait! This troublemaker had told His disciples on numerous occasions that He would rise from the dead on the third day. I guess we ought to have the tomb guarded, just in case.” (See Matthew 27:62-65.) They thought Yahshua was a crackpot, a fraud. They also thought they knew the scriptures backward and forward, and there was no reference to the Messiah being murdered and then being resurrected, right?
Actually, this issue is a case study in prophetic fulfillment. Yahweh had foretold of Messiah’s resurrection, but not in so many words: you had to work the jigsaw puzzle to see it. The first three Feasts of Yahweh, Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the Feast of Firstfruits had revealed (if you knew what to look for) what Messiah would do—and when. Passover (Nisan 14, the day of the crucifixion) was when the Lamb was to be slain. Unleavened Bread (the Sabbath, Nisan 15, when Christ lay entombed, resting in His finished work) spoke of leaven—symbolic of sin—being removed from our lives. And Firstfruits (Nisan 16) predicted the first of the harvest being lifted up in thanks to God. In retrospect, all of those things spoke eloquently of Christ’s passion—including His resurrection—on the very days they actually happened.
And speaking of the Feasts of Yahweh, the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:7-10) had specified two goats, one of which was to be offered up on the altar as a sin offering; while the other one was to be set free in the wilderness. Why two goats? Because in order to atone for our sins, the Messiah must die and live—both of two mutually exclusive options, fulfilled through the same holy appointment.
It is instructive to consider why God wasn’t clearer with the prophecies. I look at it this way: if Satan had known that the Messiah was supposed to be crucified and then rise from the dead—in the process atoning for the sins of all mankind—then I believe he would have done everything in his power to make sure Yahshua didn’t go to the cross. He would have tried like crazy to make Him the first-century version of a rock star: popular, beloved, entertaining—even a king—and consequently of no practical use to anyone. So yes, Yahweh’s prophecies concerning Christ’s resurrection are a bit esoteric. But they had to be: God was playing Satan like a cheap fiddle, for our eternal benefit.
The King’s reign will never end.
As king, Christ would presumably be a very hard act to follow. Fortunately, no one will follow him, for He will reign forever. This, needless to say, is unique in the annals of government. All kings eventually die, and even dynasties (so far) have life cycles—they begin, progress, and then fade away. At one time, it was considered “good manners” to greet a king by asking him to live and reign forever. These three examples are from Daniel: “Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic, ‘O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will give the interpretation.’” (Daniel 2:4) “So these governors and satraps thronged before the king, and said thus to him: ‘King Darius, live forever!’” (Daniel 6:6) “Then Daniel said to the king, ‘O king, live forever!’” (Daniel 6:21) Nehemiah is said to have exclaimed (when his sad countenance betrayed him to Artaxerxes): “May the king live forever!” (Nehemiah 2:3) It was understood, of course, that they would do no such thing, but go the way of all mortal men.
Solomon says, “The king who judges the poor with truth, His throne will be established forever.” (Proverbs 29:14) Was he speaking in generalities, of Himself, or of his royal dynasty (a.k.a. his “throne”)? Solomon did well in his youth, but as he grew older his taxes grew onerous (which didn’t do the poor any favors), and his grasp on God’s truth became more tenuous as well. Perhaps we can reverse engineer this to determine whose throne, in particular, was promised to endure forever.
The answer to that one is both David’s and Solomon’s. First, the prophet Nathan reported to David: “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I [Yahweh] will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever….” This is definitely speaking of Solomon, the one who built the first temple, patterned on the wilderness tabernacle. But here, it all goes sideways (in the English, anyway).
Based on the way the prophecy was delivered, it would appear that Solomon is still the subject, but if we examine its historical fulfillment, something’s off. “I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you….” If I may quote from my own commentary on this passage in The End of the Beginning, “The phrase ‘If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him…’ makes no sense. Solomon did commit iniquity, but most certainly did not receive the ‘blows of the sons of men.’ Rather, God’s mercy stayed with him, as the passage clearly predicts. So is the prophet talking about the Messiah? Christ committed no iniquity. What’s going on here? The key is in the little word ‘If.’ The Hebrew word ‘asher is a primitive and rarely used relative pronoun that can mean almost anything: when, who, which, what, if, how, because, in order that, etc. Strong’s notes that ‘As it is indeclinable, it is often accompanied by the personal pronoun expletively, used to show the connection.’ Right. So the phrase really means, ‘If—or when—He is associated with iniquity….’ The prophet is predicting the suffering of Christ as He bore our sins!” Solomon is seen standing in for David’s ultimate heir—King Yahshua. Nathan finishes by telling David, “And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your [David’s] throne shall be established forever.” (II Samuel 7:12-16) This explains why the Messiah is so often referred to as the “Son of David.”
Why is He never referred to as “the Son of Solomon”? Because He’s not, technically speaking. As David explained things to his son Solomon, he related what had been told to him by Nathan: “He [Solomon] shall build a house for My [i.e., Yahweh’s] name, and he shall be My son, and I will be his Father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.” (I Chronicles 22:10) So Solomon’s throne will be established forever, just like David’s. So what’s the problem? My commentary from The End of the Beginning continues:
“Everything rolls along nicely until we get to the last few years of the kingdom of Judah. God has finally had enough, and allows Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, to haul the flower of Judean society off into captivity. The king that broke the camel’s back, so to speak, was Jehoiachin, also known as Jeconiah, or simply Coniah. Jeremiah prophesied, ‘As I live,’ says Yahweh, ‘though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, were the signet on My right hand, yet I would pluck you off; and I will give you into the hand of those who seek your life, and into the hand of those whose face you fear—the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and the hand of the Chaldeans. So I will cast you out, and your mother who bore you, into another country where you were not born; and there you shall die. But to the land to which they desire to return, there they shall not return. Is this man Coniah a despised, broken idol—a vessel in which is no pleasure? Why are they cast out, he and his descendants, and cast into a land which they do not know?’ (Jeremiah 22:24-28) The prophet says that both Jeconiah and his descendants are cast out. The inference is that neither he nor anyone in his line will ever prosper on the throne of David—and certainly not in the land of Israel.
“Nathan just got through telling us that Solomon’s throne will be established forever. But Solomon’s royal line ran right through Jeconiah, who is toast, prophetically speaking. Oops. Now the only way the Messiah can ever reign is if he legally occupies the throne of Solomon through the line of Jeconiah—all of whose descendants have been disqualified. And He still has to be a physical descendant of David—we aren’t allowed to ‘spiritualize’ any of this away. This whole Messiah thing isn’t looking too promising. Has God blown it?
“There are two genealogies of Yahshua in the New Testament. The first is in Matthew, and sure enough, there’s Jeconiah, ugly as sin, right between Josiah and Shealtiel. This lineage runs through Joseph, the legal father of Yahshua. But Yahshua was born of a virgin; the prophets predicted it, and the gospels reported it. Mary’s genealogy, recorded in Luke, proves that Yahshua was indeed a descendent of David, but not of Solomon. Mary’s line went through David’s son Nathan (named, no doubt, in honor of the prophet). Thus while it looked for a moment like the coming of Messiah was impossible, a careful examination of prophecy points to one man, to the exclusion of all others: Yahshua of Nazareth.
“By the way, there are a few big American denominations who have officially rejected the doctrine of the virgin birth as just too weird. Sorry, folks: no virgin birth, no salvation. Don’t blame me. Blame Jeconiah.”
We already saw how the prophet Daniel, in exile in Babylon, was given the ability to read and interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream revealing an everlasting kingdom: “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.” (Daniel 2:44) Many years later—after the Babylonian government had fallen to the Medes and Persians (as revealed in Neb’s dream)—the new king Darius came to a very similar conclusion.
The circumstances, as before, had put Daniel in peril. The king’s governors and satraps, jealous of Daniel’s favor with the king (the result of his wisdom and distinguished service, resulting in turn from his reverence for Yahweh) set a trap for him. They convinced Darius to sign a very flattering (and seemingly harmless) decree stating that no one could petition any god or man except Darius for thirty days. They knew (though Darius had forgotten) that Daniel would ignore such a decree and continue praying to Yahweh. Having “caught him in the act,” they then accused him before the king, who had no choice but to carry out the prescribed punishment—being cast into a den of lions to be eaten alive. Darius kicked himself for having been so foolish as to fall for this ploy, but (as in the case with Esther’s King Ahasuerus) it was a “law of the Medes and Persians,” which could not be rescinded, even by the king who had signed it.
Darius dutifully consigned Daniel to the lion’s den, hopefully assuring him that his God would protect him. The record says he fasted that night, though it doesn’t specifically mention any petitions or prayers to Daniel’s God—which would have been pretty ironic, you must admit. We all know the story: Yahweh shut the lions’ mouths, and Daniel was released unharmed the following morning. The relieved and chastised king did what he could to atone for his blunder: “I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom men must tremble and fear before the God of Daniel. For He is the living God, and steadfast forever. His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed, and His dominion shall endure to the end. He delivers and rescues, and He works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.” (Daniel 6:26-27) Meanwhile, the lions broke their own little fast, dining sumptuously on Daniel’s accusers—no doubt praising God as well.
I find it fascinating that the same truth that had been revealed to Nebuchadnezzar was repeated by Darius—that God’s kingdom will never be destroyed. We aren’t told whether he knew of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, though it’s certainly possible. But Yahweh’s whole demonstration of power and protection for his servant Daniel had brought the majesty of God into clear, sharp focus for Darius. And it should have the same effect upon us, even though we’re getting the story second hand.
It is telling of Yahweh’s character that He went out of His way to make sure the kings under whom Judah had been exiled were aware of His power. It helped to keep the Jews safe: even if these kings didn’t worship Yahweh exclusively, they respected His power. Much of this phenomenon is due to the work of Daniel, who served for many decades under both Babylonian and Medo-Persian kings while Israel was in exile. Long before the “lion’s-den” affair, Daniel had seen some visions of his own—disturbing, earth-shaking revelations that gave the prophet unique insight into the plan and power of the Almighty.
One of these fleshed out the dream of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue: it described the king and kingdom in power on the earth during the final period—the toes of the great image, made of iron mixed with clay. The king during this period will be a man we’ve come to know as the Antichrist, the Man of Sin. He will be the primary target of the “stone cut without hands” that Nebuchadnezzar saw destroying the entire gentile power structure of the earth. Although much of the vision concerns the character, deeds, and destiny of the Antichrist, Daniel’s angelic guide in the vision was careful to focus on the “stone cut without hands”—for He is the One who will triumph in the end. “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him….” Here we see Christ (Yahweh’s human manifestation) standing before Yahweh Himself.
A transfer of power (of sorts) was about to take place: “Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him….” This is exactly what Yahshua had told His disciples about Himself—after His resurrection from the dead—when He said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” (Matthew 28:18) Of course, Yahshua is Yahweh, though diminished in form so that we might be able to walk in His presence. So no real transfer of power has taken place. It’s all symbolic—authority being wielded at last over the human race by the visible King of kings, instead of the invisible God.
Nebuchadnezzar’s dream had revealed the permanence of the kingdom of God: “And it shall stand forever.” (Daniel 2:44) Daniel’s dream said the same thing, albeit with slightly different imagery. “His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14) Again, we are told of the permanence of the kingdom, setting it apart from all of its predecessors.
But amid all this talk of power, authority, and service to the King, Daniel’s vision also made it clear that the people, the King’s subjects, are to be the ultimate beneficiaries of His rule. “Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High….” Unlike earthly kings, whose rules benefit mostly themselves, Christ’s reign will be a blessing to all of His citizens. In “serving and obeying Him,” we (the saints of the Most High) will participate in the very ownership of the kingdom of God. We, as children of God, will be “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (as Paul points out in Romans 8:17).
And as if we hadn’t gotten the message yet, we are told once again that “His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.” (Daniel 7:27) Something worth noting about the Millennial reign of Christ: when it first begins (on the definitive Feast of Tabernacles), every single citizen will be a believer (or at least this will be the case after the Matthew 25 separation of the sheep from the goats—which, if my observations are correct, will take the first forty-five days of the kingdom age to accomplish). There will be no rebels, no fence-sitters, and no disinterested parties amid the mortal population of the earth. Between the gentiles who refused to buy into the Antichrist’s lies, and the Jews who received their blinding spiritual epiphany during the darkest days of the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, everyone on Planet Earth will honor Yahweh and bow before His Messiah.
But as time goes on, as children are born and the world is repopulated, the earth will once again be a mixed bag of believers and people who have not yet crossed that bridge. It will once again be possible to rebel against the King. But with Satan locked up, with King Yahshua so obviously in charge, and with the whole world celebrating His glorious goodness, it will take intellectual suicide to refuse to “serve and obey Him.” Still, it will happen on occasion, because these mortal offspring of the Tribulation Saints will still have a sin nature, inherited from Adam, just like the rest of us. But the King will never again let free will result in evil running rampant in the world, as it does today. Error will be met with immediate correction.
In response to Israel’s miraculous Red Sea crossing, Moses observed (among other things) “Yahweh shall reign forever and ever.” (Exodus 15:18) There are two fundamental truths here: (1) Yahweh is not only God, He is also the ultimate King, ruler, or monarch. That is, He is not a disinterested god who built the world and then stopped caring about it—as the deists may claim. On the contrary, He is vitally interested in everything that goes on here—even if it suits His purpose to let people make their own choices for a while, at the risk of leaving the mistaken impression that He is either weak or absent. And (2) His reign—this hands-on involvement in our lives—will never end.
Permit me to quote a bit from The Torah Code on the concept of “forever.” “It has been pointed out by some (perhaps in the desperate hope that ‘eternity’ isn’t really eternal) that in neither in Hebrew or Greek does ‘forever’ necessarily demand a time duration without end. It’s true: the Hebrew noun/adjective ‘olam can mean forever, always, a continuous existence, a perpetual, everlasting, indefinite or unending future, in other words, eternity—or it can merely mean a long duration, in antiquity or futurity, an undetermined length of time, one with no anticipated end but one that may nevertheless have limits. In the same way, the Greek word translated ‘forever,’ aion, can mean either eternity—an unbroken age, perpetuity of time, forever—or merely a long period of time, an age or an era. (It can even mean the universe or the world’s system, a definition that stresses its temporary side.)
“So is Yahweh hedging His bets? Is it possible that ‘forever,’ our eternal promises (whether for good or ill) are less than what they seem? No; the problem is in the imperfection of human language, not the intention (or power) of God. Both the context and phrasing make it perfectly clear that Yahweh, His Kingdom, and our destinies are indeed eternal, everlasting, without end. R. C. H. Lenski points out that ‘The strongest expression for our “forever” [in the Greek, as in Revelation 14:11] is eis tous aionan ton aionon, “for the eons of eons”; many eons, each of vast duration, are multiplied by many more, which we imitate by “forever and ever.” Human language is able to use only temporal terms to express what is altogether beyond time and timeless. The Greek takes its greatest term for time, the eon, pluralizes this, and then multiplies it by its own plural, even using articles which make these eons the definite ones.’ If God had meant to convey something less than a permanent and unending afterlife, He couldn’t have chosen more misleading words.
“In Hebrew too, the phrase translated ‘forever and ever’ (as in Psalm 45:6) is ‘olam ‘ad, a compound that’s found 19 times in the Tanakh. That second word denotes perpetuity, forever, a continuous future existence, an unlimited, unending duration of time, the unforeseeable future—in a word, eternity. Again, the two thoughts used in conjunction effectively refute the notion that the Kingdom of God (or the punishment of those who align themselves against it) is anything less than eternal.” So we read, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever [‘olam ‘ad]. A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness….” Note that because the eternal God is also the King, it is His prerogative to define righteousness and wickedness. I know that sounds obvious, but consider this: if Allah were God and King (he’s not, by the way), then “righteousness” would include abusing women and murdering Jews; and conversely, “wickedness” would include being tolerant of “infidels,” or refusing to fight, kill, die, or impoverish yourself in Muhammad’s cause.
In a remarkable confirmation of something we saw previously (i.e., the Messiah being given all the authority of Yahweh on earth) we now see the Psalmist recording a conversation between God the Father and God the Son. (I’ll back up and repeat the lead-in sentence.) “You love righteousness and hate wickedness. Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” (Psalm 45:6-7) The “You” here is Yahshua the Messiah, as we’re about to see in no uncertain terms. The “anointing,” of course, defines Him as the Messiah—it’s what the word means. But if we look closely, it also signals a paradigm shift between His first advent and His second coming. When Yahshua came as the “suffering servant,” He fulfilled what Isaiah had prophesied about Him: He was “a Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.” But here in the Psalms, the Messiah’s anointing is achieved with “the oil of gladness.” That is, when he comes as King, “gladness” will characterize His reign—and this gladness will never end, for Him or for us.
The Psalms are peppered with references to Yahweh reigning as King for all eternity. Though most of them don’t go out of their way to explain the relationship between Father Yahweh and Yahshua the Messiah, they all have information to impart about His reign. For example: “Yahweh is King forever and ever. The nations have perished [or will perish] out of His land.” (Psalm 10:16) The word for “perish” here is abad, which speaks of annihilation or vanishing as much as it does physical death. The word for “nations” means gentiles—non-Israelites. Ever since the Assyrian and Babylonian invasions, gentile nations have controlled the Promised Land. Even since Israel’s independence in 1948, gentiles (mostly the neighboring Muslims) have been trying to impose their will over the Land and its people. But the war of Magog (Ezekiel 38-39) will see the utter destruction of the Muslim invaders; and the “battle” of Armageddon, a few years later, will witness the death of every single gentile within the borders of Israel who seeks to do her harm. During the Millennium, individual redeemed gentiles who wish to will be allowed to settle in the Land, but never again will they make any pretense of owning or controlling it. From that point forward, Yahweh (i.e., Yahshua) “is King forever and ever.”
Another prophetic Psalm along the same lines says, “Yahweh shall reign forever—your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise Yahweh!” (Psalm 146:10) By now we’re quite familiar with the concept of Yahweh reigning forever. But at the moment, unfortunately, Yahweh is not Zion’s God in any recognizable sense. Half of Israel are functional atheists, and of those who practice “Judaism” (a term covering a broad range of religious practice that bears no resemblance to the theocratic society of the exodus), none have come to terms with the fact that the Jesus Christians worship is actually their Messiah as well. Meanwhile, “Messianic” Jews—those who have found and embraced Yahshua as their Messiah—are technically part of the church, just as the first-century Jewish believers were. So while it is still true that Yahweh will be their God and King forever, the “generations” for these Jewish saints will—like all Christians—cease being “generated” at the rapture. Immortals don’t procreate.
This state of affairs (Israel’s estrangement from Yahweh) will change—radically—during the Tribulation in a four-step process: (1) the War of Magog will reawaken Israel to the reality and identity of their God, Yahweh (see Ezekiel 39:22). (2) The persecution of Israel by the Antichrist during the second half of the Tribulation will compel the Jews to rely upon Yahweh, as they are forced to hide in the wilderness for 1,260 days. (3) 144,000 Jews will bear witness among their countrymen in exile, preparing them for the greatest epiphany of all. And (4) the remnant of the nation of Israel will at last repent and respond to their Messiah en masse, as the returning King Yahshua descends onto the Mount of Olives on the definitive Day of Atonement (September 3, 2033, if my observations are correct).
Viewing this from the perspective of Ezekiel’s vision of the Valley of Dry Bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14), we have now reached verse 8, where the bodies have been reassembled and are covered with flesh, sinew, and skin; but we have yet to see verse 9, in which breath (the Spirit of God) reanimates the corpse of Israel. Trust me, that day is coming.
By the way, when the Psalmist says Yahweh will be Zion’s God “to all generations,” he’s hinting that there will be (another) paradigm shift at the end of Christ’s Millennial reign. At that time everyone still inhabiting a mortal body will (like the raptured saints prior to the Tribulation) receive the ultimate upgrade—Human 2.0, the immortal, sinless “resurrection” bodies in which we’ll all live for eternity. As I mentioned above, no new souls will be made via human procreation after the last of the believing mortals have become immortal (See Matthew 22:30). Nor will there be nations anymore, in any sense we’d recognize.
David writes, “Yahweh sat enthroned at the Flood, and Yahweh sits as King forever.” (Psalm 29:10) This whole Psalm is prophetic of the glory of God being manifested in the earth during the Last Days. The mention of the “Flood,” then, emphasizes the fact that just as no one could stand before Yahweh’s wrath in the days of Noah (unless He Himself provided the means of escape), no one will be able to withstand His righteous fury as He purges the world by fire during the Tribulation, either. Nothing about His authority will have changed or diminished.
Another Psalm also mentions “floods,” but in a more general sense. “Yahweh reigns, He is clothed with majesty. Yahweh is clothed, He has girded Himself with strength. Surely the world is established, so that it cannot be moved. Your throne is established from of old. You are from everlasting. The floods have lifted up, O Yahweh, the floods have lifted up their voice. The floods lift up their waves. Yahweh on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, than the mighty waves of the sea. Your testimonies are very sure. Holiness adorns Your house, O Yahweh, forever.” (Psalm 93) “Floods” here seem to refer to the most powerful of earthly forces. We, of course, are well advised to treat natural phenomena with respect. But Yahweh is so powerful, He creates entire galaxies with a spoken word. The eternal God is not intimidated by floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanoes, or the will of rebellious man.
Again: “Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David: His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before Me. It [David’s throne] shall be established forever like the moon, even like the faithful witness in the sky.” (Psalm 89:35-37) We are aware from other scripture that our universe—the sun, moon, and stars—will one day be replaced with “a new heavens and a new earth,” presumably built to accommodate our immortal, spiritual bodies as this present one is our mortal bodies. It never fails to amaze me how Yahweh was willing to invest so much in the creation of the physical universe, just so you and I could have mortal bodies in which we could choose to reciprocate His love. But once everyone has made their choice, for better or for worse, the universe as we know it will have outlived its usefulness. (This “usefulness,” as I see it, is twofold: first, we—our mortal bodies—and our world are constructed from the heavier elements formed in second-generation stars. And second, the awesome majesty of our Creator is revealed, or at least hinted at, in the starry heavens—spread out over some fourteen billion light years of space. But in the eternal state, we immortals will be able to perceive and appreciate Yahweh directly.)
Until that time, however, the universe stands as a ready metaphor for the permanence of Yahshua’s throne. So read “forever as the sun and moon” here as “longer than you can possibly imagine—until time itself is rendered obsolete, and beyond.” (By the way, this appears to be sort of a poke at “young-earth” believers, who insist that the whole physical universe is only six-thousand years old. That, it seems to me, is a pretty pathetic symbolic representation of what “forever” means to God. Our sin goes back six millennia; God’s preparation for dealing with it began many billions of years ago, from our perspective.)
We get the distinct impression that language fails the Psalmists—that the truths they’ve been told to communicate are too wonderful for human comprehension. Still, they give it their best shot: “All Your works shall praise You, O Yahweh, and Your saints shall bless You. They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom, and talk of Your power, to make known to the sons of men His mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of His kingdom.” That, in case you missed it, is what I’ve been trying mightily to do in these writings. Something tells me I haven’t even come close. “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Your dominion endures throughout all generations.” (Psalm 145:10-13) On the other hand, that is all we really need to know, isn’t it?
The Psalmists don’t have a monopoly on this truth, of course. The fact of Yahweh’s eternal reign (through Yahshua) is ubiquitous in the Bible. The prophet Jeremiah writes: “Yahweh is the true God. He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth will tremble, and the nations will not be able to endure His indignation.” (Jeremiah 10:10) Again, we see the roles of God and King overlapping. The message seems to be that we puny humans aren’t sufficiently attuned to God’s presence—too often mistaking Him for mere “nature.” Kings we understand: they (in theory) have the ability to force our compliance. But kings can’t control the earth upon which we live. Time after time in the tribulation prophecies, earthquakes are predicted to play a part in the wrath of God. Even in the lead-up to the Last Days, “earthquakes in various places” are to be expected (see Matthew 24:7). As I write these words, the seismologists are reporting that the Ring of Fire (the seismic zone encircling the Pacific Ocean) experienced 53 major (over magnitude 4.5) earthquakes in a single 24-hour period—144 within the week. And this is not even remotely the only hammer God keeps in His toolbox. In His time, on His schedule, Yahweh will unleash the forces of nature in an effort to get the attention of the human race. Woe to him who chalks up the indignation of God to mere “bad luck.” No, the King is coming: wake up!
Actually, the King has already come—not to reign, but to establish His credentials. “The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.” Joseph was Solomon’s heir, as it turns out. “The virgin’s name was Mary.” She too was of royal lineage—a child of King David through his son Nathan. “And having come in, the angel said to her, ‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!’ But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was….” Mary and Joseph were both poor, working-class folk. She knew she wasn’t particularly “blessed” in any conventional way. She was, after all, just a teenager, betrothed to a local carpenter—about as ordinary as you could get. Yes, she and Joseph were devout worshipers of Yahweh (which would define her as “blessed”), but so were hundreds of their acquaintances.
Then Gabriel got specific, and his explanation wasn’t what anybody was expecting: “Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus….” The angel went on to explain that the Child’s biological father would not be Joseph (though his lineage as a descendant of Solomon would be a crucial element of Yahshua’s royal credentials), but the Holy Spirit of Yahweh, about whom nobody knew much—yet. The name assigned to the Son—even before He was conceived—was incredibly significant. The name Yahshua (whom the English-speaking world knows as Jesus) means “Yahweh is salvation.” Not only do several prominent Old Testament characters (notably, Joshua, the protégé of Moses) have the same name, Yâshuw`ah—phonetically indistinguishable from the name Gabriel specified—is a word translated “salvation” or “deliverance” or something similar seventy-seven times in the Tanakh.
The angel then told Mary who her Son would be. “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.’” (Luke 1:26-33) “Great” is always a possibility, though few in this life achieve greatness. “Son of the Highest” is a whole other thing: everyone in that culture would have understood “the Highest” to be Yahweh Himself. In other words, as the Son of God (in every conceivable way), Yahshua would in fact be God Himself, in identity and power, if not in form. The Hebrew Scriptures had described two parallel Messiahs—a suffering servant (the Lamb of God), and the eternal reigning God-King. It is interesting (if not particularly surprising) that the angel stressed the glorious ultimate Messianic permutation over Yahshua’s brief “servant-sacrifice” role, even though the latter was all Mary would ever see with her mortal eyes.
It has been almost two thousand years since Yahshua’s suffering-servant role was played out to prophetic perfection, establishing His credentials beyond the shadow of a doubt. All that time, we have had to take the reigning-King promises on faith, just as Mary did. But soon, our faith will be rewarded with sight, as Christ fulfills all of the remaining prophecies. The Old Testament prophets saw the raw fact of the matter—God reigning on earth through His Messiah. But John, in his apocalyptic vision, saw the whole divine coronation happening before his very eyes: “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’…” As for the timing, the seventh (and last) trumpet will sound at the end of the Tribulation, so the church-age believers will have long since been raptured when this happens. The Tribulation is the last “seven” (seven schematic-year period) of the remarkable Daniel 9 prophecy describing Yahweh’s program for Israel. The angel had told Mary that her Son would “reign over the house of Jacob forever.” Here, we see that lordship over Israel is only the beginning: Christ will reign over the whole world, and His reign will never end.
Meanwhile, John describes the jubilation in heaven at the coronation of Christ: “And the twenty-four elders [symbolic of all believers of all ages] who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: ‘We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was and who is to come, because You have taken Your great power and reigned.” Once again, we see the roles of God and ultimate King merging. “The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear Your name, small and great, and should destroy those who destroy the earth.” (Revelation 11:15-18) The point of being a monarch is that you can (in theory) do whatever you want. But being the God of the Bible means that Your unlimited power and holiness must be tempered by Your character—in a word, love. As strange as it may seem, the “fruit of the Spirit” listed in Galatians 5 defines Yahweh’s self-imposed limitations, godly attributes that will appear in us if we are filled with His Spirit. He is the personification of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Therefore, since His character includes being patient and having self-control, He can’t (or at least doesn’t) immediately lash out in wrath at every shortcoming we display, even though He alone is worthy to judge us, and even though it is His right as our Creator.
This apparent conundrum (power vs. restraint) is sorted out with one of Yahweh’s first inventions: time. (If you’ll recall, I began this chapter with this same theme.) According to the Sabbath Law (ubiquitous in Scripture, whether we realize it or not) Yahweh has given fallen man six “days” (that is, 6,000 years—see II Peter 3:8) in which to “work things out” with Him. Yahshua once defined precisely what that “work” is: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” (John 6:29) Considering how overtly sinful we humans are, it is amazing how seldom God’s actual wrath falls upon us. In truth, what we perceive as “wrath” is usually nothing more that Yahweh’s refusal to miraculously shelter us from the results of our own folly, the sins of other men, or destructive natural forces (earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes, etc.) that are in turn merely part of living in a fallen world—the curse of Adam.
Indeed, most of the Tribulation’s evil, as bad as it will be, will “merely” be the result of bad men acting badly. Yes, there will be sporadic and limited episodes of God’s fury early in the game—such as His miraculous defense of Israel against the forces of Islam during the Battle of Magog. But as the end approaches, God’s wrath will begin to play a greater and greater role. Why? Because there will be fewer and fewer people who have not yet exercised their privilege of free will—to choose to believe in Yahshua (as stated in John 6:29), or place their faith in the Antichrist’s lies. By the time of the Battle of Armageddon, I’m guessing, every mortal human on earth will have made his or her choice.
And that is when this will happen: God and King will at last be one: “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:11-16)
It should be self-apparent: you can’t really “believe” in One who presents Himself with such awesome, irresistible glory. Why? Because belief requires faith in something you can’t yet see. Put another way, if denial is impossible, then belief is meaningless. When you see the first leaves of autumn begin to turn colors, you may legitimately “believe” that winter weather is on its way. But such “belief” is impossible when you find yourself knee deep in snow. At that point, winter is a fact, and to deny it is to deny reality. It will be the same with the second coming of Christ. When the Sabbath (the seventh Millennium) arrives, we must rest in the reality of His reign, for it will no longer be possible to do the work of God—to “believe in Him whom He sent.”
I’ll give the sons of Korah the last word on this: “Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph! For Yahweh Most High is awesome. He is a great King over all the earth. He will subdue the peoples under us, and the nations under our feet. He will choose our inheritance for us, the excellence of Jacob whom He loves. Selah….” Yes, by all means. Let us pause and reflect—or at least catch our breath.
Doubtlessly the least likely scenario one could possibly imagine—given the current geopolitical state of our world—is that Yahweh (in the form of Yahshua the Messiah) will soon rule over the entire earth from David’s throne, from Israel, from Jerusalem. And yet, that is what we believers believe, based on innumerable promises from Yahweh through His prophets and apostles. He must bring it all to pass, or be called a liar. I, for one, believe He will keep His word.
But before He takes the throne, He will take care of some unfinished business: “God has gone up with a shout, Yahweh with the sound of a trumpet.” That, in case you missed it, is a prophecy of the rapture of the church. (See I Thessalonians 4:16-18 and I Corinthians 15:51-53 for New Testament descriptions of the same thing.) From the rapture, it is just a short walk to this joyous eternal reality: “Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth. Sing praises with understanding. God reigns over the nations. God sits on His holy throne. The princes of the people have gathered together, the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God. He is greatly exalted.” (Psalm 47)
Yes. Yes He is.