The Great Promise

What Promise?

Scripture promises that one day, the kingdom of God will reign upon the earth with Christ as king, and that this kingdom shall last forever.

  • This promise has been made numerous times throughout the Bible, going all the way back to Genesis, and all through the Old Testament prophets.
  • This promise was the main topic spoken about by Jesus when He visited earth 2000 years ago.
  • Jesus taught His disciples to pray for the coming kingdom: “…Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…“.
  • It was the subject of Christ’s last conversation with His disciples (including John) just before His ascension.
  • This promise is frequently mentioned by the Apostles in their writings.
  • Even the Pharisees were expecting the coming of the kingdom of God to earth (Luke 17:20).

To give this promise a name, I’ve called it the “Great Promise“.

Isn’t Christ Already King?

Some Christians may balk at the assertion that Christ does not already reign upon the earth. It’s true that Christ reigns over his kingdom, but He said himself, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

Christ does reign in a limited sense on earth, because there are many people upon the earth who are, by faith, citizens of the kingdom of God, and they acknowledge Christ as their king. However, while these people are on earth, they are in a sense foreigners (1 Pet 2:11, Heb 11:13-16, 2 Cor 5:20), and even they are still corrupted by sin. This surely doesn’t fully describe the promised righteous kingdom of God (Isa 9:7).

When Jesus said to the Pharisees, “the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:21), he was not saying that the kingdom had come to earth. He meant that there were some on earth (most notably, Himself), who represent God’s kingdom. Even some of the Pharisees were, by faith, in the kingdom. However, most of them hated Jesus and were surely not part of God’s kingdom (Matt 23:13).

The idea that the kingdom of God does not yet reign on earth is evident, based on the following:

  • The world is obviously a desperately sinful place, including many people who openly mock God. Is this really what it looks like to have a perfectly Holy and omnipotent God fully exerting His reign as king? I think not. When Christ reigns, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Christ is Lord (Phil 2:10).
  • When Christ taught the disciples how to pray, part of the prayer included the supplication, “Thy kingdom come” (Matt 6:10 KJV). Surely, Jesus would not tell them to pray for a situation that already existed.
  • Scripture makes it clear that Satan currently exercises dominion over the earth. He is called the “ruler of this world” (John 12:31, John 14:30), the “god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4), and the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2). Jesus also made it clear that Satan has his own kingdom (Matt 12:26), which will be destroyed when the end comes (1 Cor 15:24). How can Christ be reigning fully on earth while there is another who also rules on earth in opposition to Christ?
  • Jesus made it clear that His kingdom would come to earth upon His return to earth (Acts 1:6-8).

So, why would God be willing to delay His full reign on the earth? Why does God tolerate this kingdom of Satan? Why should He endure the sinfulness and the mocking of men?

The answer, of course, is that God endures such wickedness for our sakes, as an act of love. How could he not endure those things if He was willing to endure having His own sinless Son brutally suffer and die for our transgressions? He continues to endure it out of patience, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9).

However, the scriptures make it clear that God’s patience will not endure forever. If He did allow wickedness to remain forever, it wouldn’t even be patience at all; it would be neglect.

The Great Promise in Scripture

Some of the references to this promise are given below, as examples:

  • Genesis: We see the earliest indications of the Great Promise in Genesis, where Jacob prophesied concerning the descendants of his son Judah: The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples (Gen 49:10 ESV). This is saying that the “scepter” (a symbol of a king) will remain with Judah, and that ultimately it shall come to a descendant of Judah who is worthy of the tribute and obedience of the peoples. The fulfillment of this prophecy began when David, a descendant of Judah, became king of Israel. As prophesied, the scepter passed on to David’s descendants (note that “between his feet” means “his descendants”). The last rightful heir to this scepter was Jesus. Jesus had no descendants, but since he lives, the scepter remains with him as the rightful heir to David’s throne. The prophecy will be completely fulfilled when Jesus finally receives the tribute and obedience He deserves when He comes as king (Isa 45:23, Phil 2:10, Rev 5:9-12, Rev 19:15-16).
  • Old Testament Prophets: Here are some examples of the Great Promise of God’s kingdom coming to earth in the writings of the prophets: Isa 9:6-7; Isa 24:23; Dan 2:44; Dan 7:13-14; Mic 4:6-7; Joel 2:32; and Zech 14:5-9.
  • Jesus: In the gospels, there are over eighty instances where Jesus spoke using the phrase “kingdom of God” or “kingdom of heaven” or “my kingdom”. Most of His parables made reference to this coming kingdom. Importantly, Jesus at times spoke of his kingdom as being “near”. Jesus always spoke of the kingdom of God on earth as something that was “coming”, i.e. a future event (e.g. Matt 25:34, Luke 22:18, Rev 12:10). Jesus spoke about the kingdom even after His resurrection (Acts 1:3).
  • The Last Conversation: In Acts 1:6, the disciples asked the resurrected Jesus, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”. They understood that the Great Promise was still an unfulfilled future event, and Jesus affirmed their understanding.
  • The Apostles: Here are some examples where the Apostles spoke of the coming kingdom of God: Acts 14:22, Acts 28:23, 1 Cor 15:24, Col 1:13, 2 Tim 4:18, Heb 12:28, James 2:5, 1 Pet 2:9, 2 Pet 1:11, Jude 1:25, Rev 1:9.

Why is this Promise Great?

In a nutshell, God’s relationship with the earth can be summarized in four steps:

  1. God created the earth and mankind, and initially it was good. The earth was part of God’s kingdom.
  2. Man, deceived by Satan, fell into temptation and sin. This constituted a rebellion against God, and effectively created a new ungodly kingdom on earth in which Satan has usurped the role as ruler of this world.
  3. Rather than destroy this rebellious kingdom immediately, which would condemn all of mankind, God demonstrated His love and mercy by offering a way for people to be saved. This required God to endure wickedness on earth for a period of time, and it required God’s own Son to receive the punishment for the world’s sin onto Himself. Jesus Christ accomplished this by coming to earth as a man, and receiving God’s wrath on the Cross.
  4. At some point, when all who are willing to repent and be saved are accounted for, God will indeed destroy that rebellious kingdom, including Satan and all people who neglected the salvation that God offered. At that time, the kingdom of God will once again reign upon the earth. All things will be made new and righteous, with every vestige of sin and corruption swept away.

Steps 1, 2, and 3 are done. Scripture assures us that Step 4 shall happen, and this assurance is the Great Promise.

Therefore, this promise is great because it culminates all things for God and His people:

  • The undoing of the works of Satan (1 John 3:8)
  • The restoration of all things (Acts 3:21)
  • The end of death (1 Cor 15:26)
  • The administration of justice for God’s people (Rev 6:10-11)
  • The removal of all effects of sin (Rom 8:21)
  • The new creation where only righteousness exists (2 Pet 3:13)

Those who love God recognize this promise as God’s victory over Satan, sin, corruption, and death. They recognize it as the immeasurable and unthinkable gift, whereby God not only spares them from receiving the condemnation they deserve, but He also accepts them as His own children, making them heirs with Christ His Son. The unimaginable glory and splendor of God’s perfect kingdom shall actually belong to God’s people.

It will probably be impossible for us to fully comprehend the wonders of this promise until it is fulfilled. Until then, we should understand that this promise must happen. If our Lord is indeed the sovereign, righteous and eternal God, then unrighteousness cannot also be eternal.

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