[Table of Contents]
Robert H. Boll|
The Kingdom of God, 3rd Edition, Revised (2000)
The Kingdom in "Revelation"
The "Book of Revelation," perhaps better called "the Apocalypse," is the capstone of the Bible. What is begun in Genesis is finished here. In this book we find the consummation of every covenant and the final realization of every promise and purpose of God. Here also does the whole kingdom-doctrine of the Bible come to a climax. Here center all the various lines of the kingdom-promise, and here is seen the last focus of God's finished kingdom plan, in which all the rays of previous revelation converge.
THE THREE PARTS OF REVELATION
First of all it is needful to note the threefold division of this book. In a special vision of the Son of man, John receives solemn commission to--"Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later." (Revelation 1:19).
I. "What you saw"
II. "What is now"
III. "What will take place later."
This is the Lord's own subdivision of His book of Revelation.
The first can have reference only to that which John had just seen: the vision recorded in chapter one.
The second, therefore, comprises what follows in the next two chapters, treating on things existing at that time (existing even now, for that matter)--namely the church conditions dealt with in the messages to the seven churches in Asia. 
The third division has to do with things future--future, to say the least, from the time when John wrote the book. This latter portion of Revelation is unmistakably marked. After the church messages are ended, John hears again the original voice which had summoned him to the first vision (1:10, 11); and now it says: "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this" (Revelation 4:1). This part of the book of Revelation comprises the bulk of it. It extends from the beginning of chapter 4 down through 22:5. It deals exclusively with that which was yet to come. We will follow this natural and God-made division of the book in our study of the kingdom-teaching.
I. KINGDOM-TEACHING IN REVELATION ONE
This is very brief. In verse 5 three titles, marking three successive epochs in the career of our Lord Jesus Christ, are given Him:
(1) The faithful witness;
(2) The first-born of the dead;
(3) The ruler of the kings of the earth.
The first, He was first and, of course, evermore will be.
The second, He became next, when He rose from the dead.
The third, He is de jure now, and will be de facto when He actually asserts His power over the potentates of the world. (11:15).
"To him who loves us," John continues, "and freed us from our sins by his blood; and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father" (Verses 5 and 6). This is that kingdom of priests--that "royal priesthood," that "holy nation," that "people for God's own possession," who in a higher and spiritual sense fulfill the office and calling from which fleshly Israel was rejected. (Exodus 19:5, 6; 1 Peter 2:9). The true people of the Lord do constitute such a kingdom, and that now and here. "I, John your brother, and partaker with you in the tribulation, and kingdom, and patience, which are in Jesus" (verse 9). Whether the reference here is to the kingdom as we now belong to it (verse 6) or whether to the future promise (for "through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God," Acts 14:22) the language is equally appropriate. This exhausts the kingdom-reference of the first chapter of Revelation.
II. THE KINGDOM IN THE CHURCH-MESSAGES
(Revelation 2, 3).
In this second division of Revelation, comprising the things that are now, the kingdom is presented exclusively as a promise to be realized in the future.
In Pergamum Satan rules--there was Satan's very throne. It must not be overlooked that despite the present super-exaltation of Christ, Satan is for the time left in rule and power--"the prince of the world;" the "god of this age." So long as Satan's throne is on the earth Christ is not exercising the government, except by His providential over-rule, as God has been doing through all time. 
To Thyatira, the Lord Jesus makes the following promise: "Only hold on to what you have until I come. To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations--He will rule them with an iron sceptre; he will dash them to pieces like pottery--just as I have receive authority from my Father. I will also give him the morning star."
The promise is to be realized at the Lord's second coming. It is then that the Lord Jesus shall exercise the authority of the sceptre of iron in the earth; and will share that authority with His faithful church. The very idea may run counter to the whole scheme of things as some have supposed it to be. But before we reject it, let us look carefully and see whether the Lord really said these things. If He did, then so will it be and none otherwise, regardless of all objections, and the Day will declare it.
|"To inflict vengeance on the nations
and punishment on the peoples,
to bind their kings with fetters,
their nobles with shackles of iron,
to carry out the sentence written against them.
This is the glory of all his saints.
Praise the LORD."
The promise to Laodicea is of like nature. "To him who overcomes"--when he has overcome, and at the time when the Lord shall reward His saints--"I will give the right to sit with me on my throne; just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne" (Revelation 3:21). It is not said that we shall sit down with Him in the throne He now occupies. That is the Father's throne--the eternal, universal, absolute rule over all, which no created being can exercise or share. Only He who was God from the beginning, who divested Himself of His Divine glory to become Man (Philippians 2:5-11) who as Man merited all things by the fullest loving obedience to the Father; who having overcome, as the perfected God-Man reassumed the glory which He had had with the Father before the world was (John 17:5)--only He could sit down in that Throne with the Father. But his own throne, the Messianic throne of promise, which is peculiarly His as the Son of Man, the Son of Abraham, the Son of David--that He shares with His overcoming church. To sum it up--as He overcame and sat down with His Father on the Father's throne, so shall those of His church who have overcome sit down with the Lord Jesus on His own throne. That is the promised future reign of the saints with Christ; and that describes the kingdom they shall inherit, which God promised to them that love Him, however many the tribulations through which they may have to enter it. This concludes the kingdom-teaching of the second part of Revelation. The third and chief portion of the book, treating upon "things future," raises a most wonderful vision of the kingdom.
III. THE KINGDOM IN THE "THINGS FUTURE"
The heavenly scene portrayed in chapters four and five of Revelation must not be thought of as merely a view of heaven as it always was and always will be. What is pictured here is a special event, an epoch and a crisis in the affairs of heaven; a thing that had not yet occurred at the time when John saw it, but was destined to  transpire on a future occasion. For we are plainly and emphatically told at the outset that the things which John was now about to see and tell belong to the future (4:1). That is no one's "view" or "opinion"; God says it.
"A throne set in heaven" there always was, of course; but that Throne now appears in a new relation, in circumstances never seen before. "He has established His throne for judgment" (Psalm 9:7). It is a solemn occasion. Four and twenty thrones occupied by four and twenty elders encompass the throne of the Divine Majesty. Four living creatures are seen in the inner circle. A countless throng of angels stand about. In the hand of Him who sits on the Throne is seen a seven-sealed roll of a book; and a mighty angel utters a challenge to all the universe if anyone were able to take that book from the hand of the Almighty. And none responded to that challenge nor dared. That a vast issue was wrapped up in that book, and that infinite consequences hinged upon someone's taking and opening it is certain.
But when none presented himself as able and worthy to do this great thing, John wept. It was indeed a cause for weeping.
But one of the four and twenty elders spoke to John, consoling him with the assurance that the LION OF THE TRIBE OF JUDAH, the ROOT OF DAVID, had overcome to open the book and the seven seals thereof. Then John became aware of the figure of a Lamb standing in the very midst of the throne--a Lamb with its death-marks upon it; having seven horns--that is plentitude of power; and seven eyes--that is fullness of the Spirit. Without a word this Lion-Lamb stepped forth and took from the hand of Him who sits upon the Throne that awful book--and all the universe breaks forth in thunders of applause and praise. It is a new song they sing then in heaven, one that never had been sung before nor could have been.
"You are worthy to take the scroll and to open the seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth" (Revelation 5:9, 10).
THE KINGDOM OF THE WORLD BECOME THE KINGDOM OF OUR LORD
Out of the seven-sealed book as the seals are broken comes forth a series of judgments, culminating in a general catastrophe at the opening of the sixth seal. When the seventh seal is opened, seven angels appear with seven trumpets, which, as they are sounded one by one, call out a second series of judgments upon the impenitent world. Of these things we cannot here speak severally. But after the sixth trumpet a majestic angel, his feet planted the one on the earth the other on the sea, raises his hand to heaven and swears by Him who lives for ever and ever "There will be no more delay! But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets" (Revelation 10:6, 7). 
Our attention is therefore especially directed to the great significance of the seventh trumpet and the momentous issue of which it is to be the signal. So we turn at once to 11:15--"The seventh angel sounded." And what follows? An announcement is made from heaven: "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever." This then is the great climax which is introduced by the sounding of the seventh trumpet. It is yet future. Not only does this whole section of Revelation treat of things future (4:1); but this event deals with the last of the trumpet-judgments, which heralds the finishing of "the mystery of God." The thanksgiving of the four and twenty elders which follows is very instructive upon this point: "We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the one who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign." Clearly the power had been His always; but now he has taken it and asserted it. "The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great--and for destroying those who destroy the earth" (11:17, 18). It surely needs no argument to show that all this is tied in with the coming of Christ: for certainly not until then do the saints receive their reward, or are the dead judged, or are the destroyers of the earth destroyed. Therefore not until then does the kingdom of this world become the kingdom of the Lord and His Christ.
THE WORLD KINGDOM OF THE BEAST
"The kingdom (singular) of the world"--not "kingdoms", (plural) as in the Old Version (KJV)--"is become the kingdom of our Lord." The "kingdoms of the world," therefore, at the time here spoken of, are consolidated into one great world-kingdom, which falls into the hands of the Christ. This fact, underlying the announcement of Revelation 11:15, calls for an explanation. And to furnish that explanation is in part the purpose of the following chapters (12, 13, 14). These chapters interrupt the run of the story (as will be shown) and deal with certain circumstances and the agents through which the situation was brought about. A woman, a child, a great red dragon, a beast and another, a subordinate beast, figure upon the scene. For none of these have we time and space just here except the great Beast of Revelation 13.
First, however, we must note a strange and wonderful occurrence. There was war in heaven! Michael (the "archangel") with his angels goes forth to war with the Dragon--"that ancient serpent called the devil and Satan, who leads the whole world astray"--and his angels.1 
This rising up of Michael marks a predicted crisis. Throughout scripture this Michael is the angelic prince who administrates the interests of Israel in the superterrestrial sphere. Rising up and ousting Satan from his heavenly position, and casting him down to the earth, he precipitates a tribulation on the earth like of which has never been known nor shall be. For Satan, cast down to the earth, hath great wrath, knowing that his time is short; and it is "woe to the earth and the sea, for the devil has gone down to you." These facts are accurately given in Revelation 12:7-12 and Daniel 12:1, 2. From the latter passage we learn that this crisis issues in the deliverance of the faithful remnant of Israel, and in a resurrection. Clearly then, we have here to do with events occurring at the very end of the age. But it is at that time, when Michael rises up and Satan is cast down to the earth that the cry goes forth again in heaven: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ" (Revelation 12:10). Thus again the coming of the kingdom is made contingent upon the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
That beast (like the four of Daniel) is a kingdom or a king, according to the context (Daniel 7:17-23). It stands for the world-empire, and for the person of the world-emperor himself, as the head and representative of the empire. He arises out of the sea and he comes out of the abyss. The dragon (who in 12:9 is shown to be the Devil himself) gives to the Beast that which once he had offered to the Lord Jesus on condition that Jesus worship him; which proposition the Lord Jesus of course rejected. But this one accepts it. "The dragon gave the beast his power, and his throne, and great authority . . . And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation" (Revelation 13:2, 7). This therefore is a world-power, and its personal head (His is a world-wide dominion, as was Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome in Daniel 2 and 7). He is one of those four beasts that Daniel saw (for there were never to be but the four--then comes the kingdom of God). The ten horns identify him with Daniel's fourth beast--the most terrible  one of the four, the one which was to come to his end by direct Divine judgment from above, not by human agency. Moreover we detect in him the features of all the four: he is himself the fourth world-power; but he has a mouth like the first (the lion); feet like the second (the bear); the general appearance of the third (the leopard). As the great Image of Daniel 2 had in it all four parts when it was felled from on High, so this fourth beast, ripe for God's judgment embodies and represents in itself all the four forms which the world-power had successively assumed. But the fourth beast of Daniel's vision is unquestionably and admittedly Rome, which is thought to have long since passed away. What then is that beast doing here again among the "things future"? The answer (as was shown in preceding pages) lies in the fact that this fourth beast was to pass out and revive and return.2
The destruction of the Beast is from above. In a last insane attempt to hold the sovereignty of the earth the Beast gathers together his armies and the kings of the earth with their armies, to war against Him who comes with His saints to take possession. The Beast musters his armies at Armageddon (Revelation 16:13-16). "They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings--and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers" (Revelation 17:14). There is not any struggle in this conflict. The Son of man, coming down out of the opened heaven with the white army of His saints following, but speaks the sentence, and they fall slain by the sword that proceeds out of His mouth. There and then it is that the little Stone smites and destroys the Gentile world-power. But the Beast--the Satanic man at  the head of the world-power--and the false prophet are taken alive, and are cast into the lake of fire--so far as the record shows the first, and up to that time, the only occupants of that dreadful place (Revelation 19:11-21). Then is fully fulfilled what under the seventh trumpet was announced: "The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of the Lord and of His Christ."
THE ONE THOUSAND YEARS
Now begins the thousand-years' reign. First Satan, hitherto prince and god of the world, having lost his last stake, is seized, bound, imprisoned in the abyss, and the same sealed over him (Revelation 20:1-3). By this is not merely meant that Satan's efforts among men are thenceforth fruitless, or that (as some have strangely fancied) the earth will be emptied of men and Satan can find no one to seduce--but Satan himself, personally, is fettered, shut up in prison (as, compare Jude 6) and entirely removed from off the scene and from among men. It is not said that the men still living on the earth could not be deceived by Satan any more: the contrary is implied: Satan is bound and removed that he "should deceive the nations no more." There are evidently nations left on the earth; but they shall now no more be exposed to the activities of Satan for a thousand years.
"I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years." (Revelation 20:4-6.)
Thrones are set. "They" sit upon them. ["And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them . . ." Revelation 20:4, KJV.]
This "they" has no other logical antecedent than those saints who came down with Christ (Revelation 17:14; 19:14). He also specifies two particular classes in addition, namely, those who had suffered martyrdom under the Beast's reign, and those who refused the Beast's orders, to wear his mark and his name. All these "came to life," and shared in the reign of Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years should be finished.3 
AFTER THE THOUSAND YEARS
"Reigning" necessarily implies subjects to be reigned over. There are nations left on the earth--people as yet in the flesh and under probation. Over these Christ and His glorified saints reign (Daniel 7:27; Revelation 2:26, 27). After the thousand years these nations who have so long seen and enjoyed the righteous rule of the Messiah, must be submitted to a final test. For this purpose Satan is loosed out of his prison--but only for a little season. Once more he goes forth to deceive the nations--and finds only too many willing to be blinded by him. These rise up in revolt against the righteous Rule. In vast hordes they come across the breadth of the earth and encompass the camp of the saints and the beloved city (both evidently located upon the earth). Half of a sentence tells of their quick destruction. That is the last work of Satan and the last manifestation of evil, and the final removal of all that offends. Satan is cast into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, from which place no one ever returns (Revelation 20:10).
THE JUDGMENT OF THE GREAT WHITE THRONE
A great white Throne appears. From before the face of Him who sits on it the heaven and earth flees away, and no place is found for them. The dead, the small and great, all that have not hitherto been raised appear before that Throne. The records are opened, and all not found in the book of life are cast into the lake of fire. That is the second death. There is a first resurrection and another resurrection. There is death and a second death. The Devil himself is cast into the lake of fire. "The last enemy to be destroyed is death . . . When he has done this,  then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, that God may be all in all" (1 Corinthians 15:26-28).
THE NEW HEAVEN AND NEW EARTH
A new heaven and a new earth replace the old which has fled away. The New Jerusalem, the city of the living God, hitherto reserved in heaven, now comes down out of heaven from God unto the new earth. All things are new. There is no more sighing and crying, no more pain or death. Upon the new earth are nations still, but nations now of men redeemed, resurrected, living in a blissful social organization and intercourse of which we are not able to conceive. The Holy City is their Sanctuary. Thither they come continuously, and they bring the glory and honor of the nations into it. The nations walk in the radiant glory of the city's light. There they have access forever to the Tree of life, now become a forest, lining the Banks of the River of life, clear as a crystal, which proceeds from the throne of God. And as for His servants--they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. They need no light of lamp neither light of sun, for the Lord God shall give them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.
Such is the final picture given us of the kingdom of God, in the Book of Revelation. We who have believed, shall never know the virtue and the power of the Cross on which our Saviour died, till with tearless eyes we behold the full final fruit of blessing, purchased by the sufferings of Him who gave Himself for us.
* * * *
Having traced the great theme of the Kingdom through the scriptures as I was able, I now commend these studies to the reader, to examine and test them for himself in the light of Holy Writ. These pages themselves will, I trust, bear witness that these studies represent only a simple, honest effort to bring out the teaching of the Bible on this worthy subject. If in any point I should be found at fault, may my reader generously grant me credit for sincere endeavor; and may he be the stronger for having independently weighed and compared these words with the word of God. In conclusion I can say nothing more fitting than the following words of Augustine's:
"Whoever reads these writings, wherein he is equally convinced, let him go on with me; wherein he equally hesitated, let him investigate with me; wherein he finds himself in error, let him return to me; wherein he finds me in error, let him call me back to him. So let us go on together in the way of charity, pressing on toward Him of whom it is said, Seek ye his face evermore." 
[Table of Contents]
Robert H. Boll|
The Kingdom of God, 3rd Edition, Revised (2000)