“The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof….Zion heard and was glad; and the daughters of Judah rejoiced because of thy judgments, O Lord.” (Psa. 97:1-8)
Here the Psalmist speaks prophetically. Taking a standpoint in the future and looking back, he tells how Zion and Judah were made to rejoice by a special message of great joy. What was the message? Was it the tidings of a long promised Messiah for whom the world had been looking for four thousand years, now found in Bethlehem? This was good news, but not the tidings referred to. Was it the message that the sacrifice is accomplished which has procured man’s redemption? That is the foundation of all their hope, but that is not the special cause of rejoicing mentioned here. Was it that the crucified one has been raised from death by the power of the Father? That was indeed glorious news; for by raising Him from the dead, God has given assurance to all men that Jesus’ sacrifice has been accepted as satisfaction for the sins of the whole world, that all who believe may be entitled to everlasting life.
Yet there is another reason for the rejoicing mentioned by the Prophet, and it is the greatest of all. While we are blessed to know how the Plan of God has progressed so far, with the birth, death, and resurrection of the promised Deliverer, we are blessed with the greater message that the Plan has nearly reached its glorious consummation. We are blessed to know that the time is fulfilled for the actual establishment of His Kingdom and the beginning of His reign which will bring mankind into the actual possession of the life and blessings secured by the ransom. This is the message that now comes to us; and those who believe rejoice with unspeakable joy: “The Lord reigneth!” The fulfillment of every foretold sign of His presence bears witness to the fact.
But where is the Zion that rejoices? We see that it is not all who claim to be of Zion; it is not the great nominal church, for they turn away from the message and say, “Where is the promise of His presence? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning.” They have forgotten the foretold sign of His presence, and the object of His coming, and do not desire His appearing. But the true Zion has now been made manifest. They have heard of His presence, have remembered the foretold signs and have realized their fulfillment; they know the accumulated testimony of all the Prophets, and they have learned from the Scriptures that the object of that reign is the restoring and blessing of all the families of the earth, which He purchased from the dominion of death nearly twenty centuries ago.
The Prophet not only foretells Zion’s rejoicing, but he calls upon the earth to rejoice with her: “The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice.” But the earth is not yet prepared to rejoice; for “Clouds and darkness are round about him.” (Psa. 97:2) Those of the world cannot see the coming blessings because they walk only by sight, and not by faith. They do not know the Lord and have neither faith nor interest in His coming. They will only come to realize His presence in the exhibition of His power, under which they will first suffer before they can be blessed; for the powers of this world must either melt or be overthrown in the great time of trouble which accompanies the setting up of the Kingdom of God.
The powers of this world have oppressed mankind and kept them in ignorance, poverty and distress. These powers have gained and retained their mighty influence by injustice, war, and blood-shed. Despite these facts, men fear the overthrow of these powers lest the greater evils of anarchy and confusion prevail. They have come to regard those systems of oppression with a measure of pride, partaking of and manifesting their spirit. Millions have given their lives for the defense of these powers, but the children of God regard them in a very different light.
TWO VISIONS OF EARTH’S GOVERNMENTS
King Nebuchadnezzar and the Prophet Daniel had two strikingly different visions of the kingdoms of this world. In Nebuchadnezzar’s vision (Dan. 2:31-45), they appear as a great image of glory and power with the head of gold, the breast and arms of silver, the thighs of brass, the legs and feet of iron, the feet being partly of iron and partly of clay. These four divisions represent respectively the universal empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome.
These empires have in succession held dominion over the earth since the days of Nebuchadnezzar. We are now living under the decaying power of the Roman dominion as illustrated in the mixture of iron and clay which form the feet of the image. The major governments now in existence, represented in the feet of the image, received their power and authority originally from the Papacy or from some of her protesting daughters and imitators, who crowned them or their ancestors. They still largely claim that they reign “by the grace of God.” Nebuchadnezzar also saw a stone, representing Messiah’s Kingdom, which is to fill the whole earth, smite the image and utterly destroy it. Men dread the destruction of this great image of human power which has awed and deceived them for so many centuries, and they wish to avert its destruction if they can.
But in Daniel’s vision (Dan. 7), these same four universal powers appear as they appear to the children of God: as four dreadful, ferocious wild beasts – a lion, a bear, a leopard, and another beast so terrible as to almost defy description. These beasts represent the same governmental powers as those illustrated in Nebuchadnezzar’s vision. The last and most terrible beast was Rome, and how terrible has been its history of crime and oppression and wickedness! The days of its triumphal march were filled with the groans of martyred saints, with the wails of the widowed and orphaned, with boasts of malice, sanctioned crime and oppression, with high-handed tyranny, and with a brazen-faced impudence which flung defiance in the face of the Almighty. Daniel’s vision also showed that Messiah’s Kingdom will utterly destroy it. (Dan. 7:13,14,26,27) Well may we rejoice that we are witnessing its waning powers!
Although we see that greater liberty and happiness has been enjoyed by mankind as Rome’s power has waned, we also see that full liberty and perfect happiness cannot be enjoyed until the last vestige of its oppressive power is destroyed. Its blasphemous doctrines, though hiding under the name of Protestantism, must be fully exposed. Its pernicious doctrine of the divine right of kings to oppress and impoverish the people must be fully eradicated. Its very memory must become a source of disdain.
It is no wonder that Zion rejoices as she realizes the presence of He who has been consuming this power with the spirit of His mouth (by the manifestation of His Truth), and who is to completely destroy it with the brightness of His presence (parousia). (2 Thess. 2:8)
THE SIGNS OF HIS PRESENCE
Notice the indications of His presence mentioned by the Psalmist now coming to pass: “Clouds and darkness are round about him.” (Psa. 97:2) The storm clouds that are now gathering are visible to all the world, and darkness – ignorance of God’s ways – everywhere prevails. The nominal church, as well as the world in general, is in total ignorance of what the outcome will be.
“His lightnings enlightened the world: the earth saw, and trembled.” (Psa. 97:4) Lightning flashes of truth are coming in the midst of the dark forebodings of the gathering storm. Truth on various subjects is due in this time of His presence and is thus being revealed. Men have ideas never dreamed of before. Everywhere people are beginning to inquire, “What are our natural rights? How did the powerful get the right to rule over their fellow-men and to oppress them for their own advantage? Why do some, with little or no labor, acquire vast wealth while others through ceaseless toil can scarcely get the bare necessities of life? By what means do the few get and keep a monopoly of the blessings of life, while the great mass of mankind lives in want and poverty?"
The masses are coming to see that power is in their grasp if they can only organize. Efforts in this direction are causing those in power to tremble. The lightning flashes of truth are bringing about these changes. The increase of knowledge, the general diffusion of education, the explosion of technology and inventions, the general interchange of thought, the wider range of commercial interests, the rapid modes and cheap rates of travel and the power of the media – all these influences have been waking men up to an appreciation of their rights, and they will not long permit them to be ignored and trampled in the dust for the selfish aggrandizement of the few. Gross ignorance and superstition are rapidly becoming things of the past.
But it is not to be presumed that these efforts of the masses will have an uplifting effect. No: like a pendulum, they will swing to the very opposite extreme of basest behavior. Hence the great trouble, the anarchy and confusion will result. This destructive trouble is represented by fire: “A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about.” (Psa. 97:3) This trouble will destroy the enemies of God and men, the oppressive organizations of both nominal church and state, and thereby liberate the people.
THE RESULTS OF UNRESTRAINED LIBERTY
But mankind will soon discover that the liberty gained is even worse than the oppression escaped. The unrestrained liberty of all men in their present fallen condition will be the worst evil that can befall the world. Men will exhaust their power and only achieve anarchy as a result. None will be able to assume the control needed to direct the world’s affairs satisfactorily. As a result, men will become convinced of their own utter inability to rightly govern themselves.
This is just where God wants to bring them that they may hear Him say, “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” He will communicate this by the manifestation of His power, and then men will be prepared to realize that “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” (Psa. 46:10,11) The new heavens (the new kingdom) will declare His righteousness, and all the people will see His glory. Those who have worshiped the false systems of church and state as idols, will be confounded when they witness their complete destruction. (Psa. 97:6,7)
The Psalmist says prophetically, “The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.” (Psa. 97:5) Mountains and hills are symbols of governments. Some will melt under the fervent heat, while others will be carried forcibly into the midst of the sea (the lawless ungovernable masses). (Psa. 46:2) As Zion sees all these things coming to pass, she recognizes in them the evidences of her Lord’s presence and the preparation for the Kingdom of Heaven. Despite the clouds and darkness that are around for a time, she rejoices because she knows the glorious outcome to shortly take place.
“Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.”
“The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice!” There is great cause for the whole earth to rejoice if only mankind could have the faith to realize it. But we rejoice to know that though their eyes are now so blinded by prejudice and false doctrine that they cannot believe, eventually their blindness will be removed and they will clearly see. “And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.” (Isa. 29:18)
After Zion, fleshly Israel, the daughters of Judah, will be the first to realize that the Lord is reigning: “Zion heard and was glad; and the daughters of Judah rejoiced.” Already we see that Israel’s blindness is beginning to be turned away. Soon all the daughters of Judah will see and rejoice together because of the Lord’s judgments against oppression and tyranny, and because of the return to favor of His Covenant people. “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jer. 31:33; Heb. 8:10)
When the clouds are rolled away, the Sun of Righteousness will shine forth with healing (restitution) in His wings. (Mal. 4:2) “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” (Isa. 40:5)
(Based on Reprint 814)
THE MANIFOLD WISDOM OF GOD (Eph. 3:10)
“For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.” (Rom. 11:15,16)
The Jewish nation was reconciled to God in a typical way, and thus became His peculiar people. (Ex. 19:5; Deu 14:2, 26:18; Psa. 135:4) All His promises belonged to them – no such promises were made to the Gentiles. The Jews had a special covenant relationship with God, but after 1,845 years of special favor, their rejection of Messiah demonstrated them unworthy of continued special privileges. In their time of testing they were found wanting, and were given over to blindness and disruption until their “double,” 1,845 years of disfavor, was accomplished.
Not all were rejected from favor however. A faithful remnant were gathered into the Gospel fold, while the remainder were “scattered and peeled.” (Isa. 18:2) This faithful remnant was the First-fruits class of the Church of Christ. God then sent His message out to the whole world, giving all nations the same opportunity. This does not mean that all individuals of all nations have been given this opportunity; it means that the Lord has selected here and there certain ones of suitable character, who have gladly responded to the message, those with the hearing ear who hungered and thirsted for righteousness. God gave to these the message of reconciliation, and sent them forth to bear the glad tidings to others of the same class.
All who believed that message were reconciled to God through the death of His Son. They have been a company of sacrificers, gladly laying down their lives as followers of the Master’s footsteps. The message of this great salvation has gone forth through all the years of this present Age, and some from every nation have responded and come into the Body of Christ. This could not have been if the Jews had not proven unfaithful as a nation and been turned aside from favor. The faithful Gentiles recognized that the favor of God, the blessing of God, turned to them at the same time that it was withdrawn from the Jews.
“LIFE FROM THE DEAD”
Even though Israel as a nation had been rejected from God’s favor, natural Israelites still had the opportunity as individuals of coming into Christ. Indeed, their rejection of Jesus as their Messiah, and their bitter prejudice and blindness have acted as a great gulf to separate them as a people from the Gospel message; and but very few of them have ever accepted God’s message in Christ. As the Apostle declares, their blindness as a nation will not be removed until “the fulness of the Gentiles be come in;” that is until the Gospel Church is complete. (Rom. 11:25) This time is now about here; the Gospel Church is about complete.
The Scriptures declare that the restoration of Natural Israel is to be brought about through the New Covenant: “For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.” (Rom. 11:27) Messiah will inaugurate this covenant at the establishment of His Kingdom. To the Jews this will mean that their “double” is fulfilled, that their iniquity is pardoned: “Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” (Isa. 40:2) It will mean their resurrection from the dead, both nationally and individually, both symbolically and literally. “For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” (Rom. 11:15)
Here we have another Scriptural teaching of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. The promises are to be fulfilled which were made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, the Prophets and others. Though God cast the nation off for a time, He will re-gather them, according to His promise, when their period of chastisement has ended.
We see that the promise of God to Abraham is yet to be fulfilled. God promised that all nations and families of the earth would be blessed through Abraham’s seed, the heavenly seed and the earthly seed, “the stars of the heaven” and “the sand which is upon the sea shore.” (Gen. 22:15-18) The fulfilment of this promise will necessitate the awakening of the entire human race from the tomb. Thus the munificence of God’s wonderful provision for His human creatures is soon to be manifested to angels and men – to the living and the dead – to all the human family.
FIRST-FRUIT AND AFTER-FRUIT – ALL HOLY
Although the promise to Abraham was given directly to his earthly seed, nevertheless God, who knew the end from the beginning, knew that the First-fruit of this Promise would be Abraham’s spiritual Seed – the Christ, Head and Body. The Apostle shows that as the First-fruit of this great olive tree growing out of the root of the Abrahamic Covenant is holy, so is the entire fruitage.
As this First-fruit class is holy, the Apostle declares, “The lump is also holy.” The word lump here would better be translated mass, for he is speaking of people. The root is holy: it is God’s covenant, confirmed by His oath to Abraham. So all who become joined to this root, and receive their life and their privileges and blessings from it, will also be holy.
Abraham in type represented God, Yahweh; Isaac represented the Son, our Lord Jesus; and Rebecca, the wife of Isaac, represented the Bride of Christ, the members of His Body. All these together – Father, Son and Bride – will bring forth a holy, earthly Israel. This will eventually include all mankind who will come under the terms of the New Covenant. Restored Israel, and the entire restored world – all of the race of Adam who will return to harmony with God – will constitute the holy lump, or mass – the after-fruit.
When we look at the deep workings of God’s Plan in the light of what He tells us is future, as well as of what is past, how wonderful it is! Oh, the rich depths of God’s wisdom and knowledge! How useless for us to try to discover His dealings except as He is pleased to reveal His plans to us. His doings are all mysteries to us except as we are enlightened by His Spirit through the Word of Truth. Who knew this gracious Plan, so much beyond human conception? Who but the Father could arrange such a Plan? This is not human wisdom. God alone must be its Author. A Jew would never have planned to graft in Gentiles to share the chief blessings of the Promise. A Gentile would never have arranged the original stock and branches to be Jewish with he himself a favored graft. No, the Plan is clearly of God, and well illustrates both His goodness and His justice. The Plan is entirely of Him; through His power it is all brought to pass, and to Him be the glory forever.
(Based on Reprint 5533)
QUESTION OF GENERAL INTEREST
Question. The fact that our Lord received worship is claimed by some to be an evidence that while on earth He was God the Father disguised in a body of flesh and not really a man. Was He really worshiped, or is the translation faulty?
Answer. Yes, we believe our Lord Jesus while on earth was really worshiped, and properly so. While He was not the God, Jehovah [Yahweh], He was a God. The word “god” signifies a “mighty one” and our Lord was indeed a mighty one. So it is stated in the first two verses of the gospel of John. It was proper for our Lord to receive worship in view of His having been the only begotten of the Father, and His agent in the creation of all things, including man.
Besides, He had come to earth under the Divine arrangement and accepted the condition of Messiahship, presenting Himself to God as fallen man’s sin-offering. At His baptism He was anointed of the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, and authorized to carry out the great Divine Plan and to receive homage from both angels and men. This alone would have rendered worship proper even aside from His pre-human greatness as “the only begotten of the Father.”(John 1:14)
(Excerpt from Reprint 2337)
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P.O. Box 2246, Kernersville, NC 27285-2246
 See Studies in the Scriptures, Volume II, Chapter VII.