He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. (Is. 42:2, 3)
A principal theme of the Old Testament prophets relating to Messiah's glorious kingdom is the manner in which it was to contrast with merely human kingdoms. The kingdoms of man arrive with and feature great pomp, pride, and power, crushing all who dare oppose them. They constitute visible manifestations of man's glory, and are usually attended by an arrogance toward both God and man.
Alternatively, Christ's kingdom was predicted to arrive in humility, far from the centers of human power (Mic. 5:2). When we examine the gospel accounts of Christ's birth, life, and death, we discover that the Old Testament prophecies were infallibly fulfilled: Christ was born in poverty and humility, attended not by royal heralds but humble shepherds. The kings of the earth did not hail him; the principal ruler in Israel at the time tried to murder him. Our Lord was reared by a humble, God-fearing family in relative obscurity. His adult teaching and healing ministry, while attended by thousands, did not bear the character of earthly royalty. His ignominious and cruel death in punishment as a common criminal was the most humiliating execution known in the ancient world.
Truly, if we consider his life on earth, the kingdom of Christ bears little resemblance to human kingdoms.
There is a good reason for this. The kingdom of Christ is not chiefly a political kingdom. Nationalist Jews at Christ's first Advent expected that this Man who claimed to be King and Messiah would fulfill the old covenant Scriptures which prophesied that God's Chosen would break the yoke of Israel's Gentile oppressors (Jer. 23:5-9; Ez. 34:24-31 Mic. 5:5,6). In this assumption they were absolutely correct. They were grossly mistaken, however, in their assumption of the manner in which Messiah would do this. They presumed—like the dispensationalists of the modern era—that Christ's is a cataclysmically induced, centrally enforced political kingdom. They somehow missed those old covenant Scriptures which foretold that the Messiah-King would accomplish his will through regenerative, humble, non-coercive means (Is. 15:14, 15; 42:1-7; 52:13-53:12; Zech. 9:9). Christ indeed will crush his opponents (Ps. 2); but he will not crush them in the manner of a merely human king.
The principal amillennial error is in holding that Christ's kingdom is limited to the Christian family, church, or the intermediate or eternal state. It does not recognize all the promises of the Messianic kingdom which pertain to the Godly Golden Age of the entire earth, including politics and the state (e.g., Ps. 2; 22:27; 47:2, 3, 7; 72; Is. 2:2-4; 11:1-10; 42:1-4; 65:17-25; Mic. 4:1-5).
A central error of all dispensationalists, most premillennialists, and even some postmillennialists, on the other hand, is in supposing that Christ's kingdom is a fundamentally political phenomenon. The first two foresee Christ returning physically to earth accompanied by the deceased saints with, as it were, guns firing and eyes blazing, intent on mowing down the Antichrist and his wicked disciples in cold blood. Some mistaken postmillennialists, though, trip into a similar error. They seem to think that if Christians can just capture state power they will be poised to usher in an intensified millennium by imposing Biblical law, punishing God's enemies, and creating a Christian state. While their sincerity may be impeccable, their agenda is unthinkable.
The earthy Kingdom of Christ begins in the hearts of regenerate man (Lk. 17:21; Col. 1:13). Under the power of the Holy Spirit, as the Christian reorders his life, family and all other areas he influences in terms of the Christian Faith and Biblical law, God gradually rolls back evil and its effects in all of human life and society. Politics is one such—but never the chief—area. It is a fatal flaw of those suckled on the heresy of the ultimacy of political solutions to suppose that Christ's kingdom will progress mainly by means of politics. It will not. It will advance mainly by the operation of the Spirit in the lives of increasingly sanctified, law-keeping Christians who practice their Faith in family, work, school, church, and all areas of their lives.
Fathers inculcate the orthodox Christian Faith into their families. Pastors lead their flock into greater obedience. Educators instruct their pupils in terms of a comprehensive Christian life-system. Churches revive the diaconate and care for the sick, the needy, the widow, the orphan. Christian doctors practice the godly craft of natural (sometimes, perhaps, supernatural) healing by following God's law and the products of God's common grace. Entrepreneurs create wealth by starting new businesses that benefit others. And on and on in all spheres.
Make no mistake: politics (like medicine, the arts, the media, technology, economics, etc.) is a legitimate area of principled Christian action. To surrender politics, or any other legitimate sphere of Christian activity, to the Devil and his disciples is an evil tack. But establishment of an explicitly Christian state will be the effect of broadly based Christian faithfulness beginning with the regenerated individual and family and reformed church. It will not be the effect of electing a few Christian politicians (though they are needed), nor even a Christian President (as beneficial as such an election would be). Elect a Christian President and Congress in November, 2000, and appoint an all-Christian Judiciary, and the nation's most vexing moral problems would not evaporate. It is as Christ's kingdom progresses among men—by means of Christ's gospel and individual submission and obedience to the law-word of God—that politics and the state will enjoy Christian redemption.
Christ's kingdom is less externally spectacular than earthly kingdoms, just as his birth was less externally spectacular than merely human kings' births. But the small mustard seed and pinch of leaven of Christ's kingdom (Mt. 13:31-33) will not fail ultimately to dwarf other kingdoms in its profound efficacy in the earth.
Christ's is a quietly and unobtrusively advancing kingdom.
But it cannot fail.
- P. Andrew Sandlin
P. Andrew Sandlin is a Christian minister, theologian, and author. He is the founder and president of the Center for Cultural Leadership in Coulterville, California. He was formerly president of the National Reform Association and executive vice president of the Chalcedon Foundation. He is a minister in the Fellowship of Mere Christianity.. He was formerly a pastor at Church of the Word in Painesville, Ohio (1984-1995) and Cornerstone Bible Church in Scotts Valley, California (2004-2014).