“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” (Isa. 52:7)
The following is from Chapter V of Epiphany Studies in the Scriptures, Volume 17, written by Brother Paul S.L. Johnson. It has been condensed and edited to fit the space and the paper format. Readers are encouraged to read the original in its entirety if it is available to them.
The establishment of God’s Kingdom throughout the earth is one of the main purposes of our Lord’s Return. The Kingdom of God is a subject of unusual prominence in the Scriptures, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. The expressions “Kingdom of God” and “Kingdom of Heaven,” occur nearly 150 times in the New Testament alone. Its prominence in the Scriptures is a proof of its importance in God’s Plan.
THE EMBRYO KINGDOM
When our Lord Jesus commissioned the Apostles to preach, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 10:7), He evidently did not mean that they were to announce that He and the Church were about to reign over the earth; for over 19 centuries have passed since the charge was given, and the Kingdom is not yet fully established in the earth in the sense of their reigning over the earth. Surely His thought was that the disciples should preach that the embryo Kingdom, the Church, which was about to undergo preparation to become rulers in the next Age, was about to step upon the stage of human history, and there perform in this life the earlier Acts of her part in the drama of the Ages.
Thus He instructed them to preach that a change of dispensation had come, that instead of preaching Moses and the Prophets any longer, they were to preach the Kingdom of God, the embryonic Church. And it was at hand; it was begun by Jesus in His ministry; it was continued by the Apostles at Pentecost; it was advanced further at the home of Cornelius as it went forth to the Gentiles; and throughout the Jewish Harvest it was advanced still more. It was now open to anyone, whether Jew or Gentile; and all through the Gospel Age the star-members, their helpers, and those who looked upon them as such, have preached, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand,” and have thus given those who desired to enter this embryo Kingdom an opportunity to do so, and, on entering, to have God’s special favor and to rejoice in it.
Similarly, when Jesus assures us that from the time of John the Baptist the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and that the violent forcibly seize it (Matt. 11:12), He would not have us understand Him as referring to the Kingdom class while reigning in the earth; for then they will be clothed with almighty power, and none will be able to resist them, much less cause them to suffer, and, least of all, violently seize them! Rather, as the experience of the Kingdom class from the beginning proves, Jesus here refers to the embryo Kingdom, the Faithful in their earthly lifetime, the Church Militant, as suffering while they through obedience to the Word and Spirit of God amid trials and tribulations are being fitted to reign with Jesus as the glorified Kingdom in the next Age. (Acts 14:22; 2 Tim. 3:12)
It was a fact that John the Baptist, who proclaimed that the Kingdom was coming, suffered violence, being beheaded by Herod for the sake of Herodias and Salome. The Kingdom of Heaven suffered violence in the person of our Lord Jesus; for certainly He was fearfully persecuted by the Scribes and Pharisees, while He was in the flesh; and the Sanhedrin added to that persecution, when it condemned Him, the Innocent One, to death, under the alleged charge that He was a blasphemer. They brought Him to Pilate and had Pilate enforce, as it were, their sentence against Him. He was first terribly scourged, then crowned with thorns and mocked; on Him was laid the heavy cross, under whose weight He fainted; He was nailed to that cross and suffered violence; and the most terrible imprecations and curses and threats and blasphemies and evil accusations were hurled into His teeth; He, the Innocent One, bore it all in the spirit of meekness, in the spirit of love, in the spirit of loyalty to God; and though the violent took Him by force and shamefully mistreated Him, He nevertheless maintained His loyalty to the end.
The same treatment was given to His followers. The Apostles suffered similarly, beginning at Pentecost and continuing in the work toward Cornelius and his family and throughout the whole Harvest of the Jewish Age. Violence was offered to these holy men and they endured it, being forcibly, violently and vilely treated and cruelly misjudged and misrepresented and in every possible way given injustice. The same is true of the brethren all through the Age.
When the Apostle spoke of God’s translating the saints out of darkness into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son (Col. 1:13), surely none would think that he meant that during their earthly lifetime they would be the Kingdom of Glory; for the context, as well as the verse itself, shows that the passage refers to the suffering condition of their earthly pilgrimage, hence St. Paul here refers to the embryo Kingdom.
The Bible is very explicit on the point that the earthly career of the faithful members of the Kingdom of God would not be one of reigning, but one of labor, toil, suffering, trial and persecution, culminating in death; the experiences of the faithful also attest to this; and only as any of these proved faithful amid these experiences unto death could they inherit Kingship as their portion, and actually reign in the earth in the future. St. Paul’s statement is clear: “I endure all things for the elect’s sakes … It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.” (2 Tim. 2:10-12) To die with Him means to lay down life as He did, as a sacrifice on behalf of God’s plan, in the same form, for the same causes, from the same spirit; it results in attaining the same glorious end. To suffer with Him means to endure similar physical exhaustion, mental sorrow and physical violence for similar reasons. Thus, according to the Scriptures, only those who would faithfully suffer unto death with our Lord would have the privilege of reigning with Him. Hence none could reign with Him in their earthly lifetime.
Again, the promise of the crown of life, the Divine nature and joint-heirship with Christ, is expressly stated in Rev. 2:10 as being conditional on one’s faithfulness unto death as a member of the Body of Christ. It reads: “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” The Lord Jesus is here in the book of Revelation addressing the second phase, the Smyrna phase, of the Church. He tells the brethren that the Roman empire, which He here calls the devil, would cast some of them into prison – would greatly restrain them in their work and persecute them most fiendishly and most outrageously; for the Smyrna Church and the Philadelphia Church were the two most persecuted by violence of any of the seven churches of the Gospel Age. Their tribulation of ten symbolic days was especially the ten years’ persecution they endured under Diocletian. The Lord exhorted them to be faithful unto death in spite of those terrible persecutions and He would give them a crown of life – immortality, the Divine nature.
Some of the Corinthian brethren, losing sight of this fact, acted as though the time of reigning had already come; therefore with irony the Apostle reproves them, saying: “Ye have reigned as kings without us.” (1 Cor. 4:8) This irony was used to bring them the more quickly to their senses, in harmony with what he had taught as to the Church suffering throughout this life before it could reign in harmony with the Divine Plan. Then, realizing how desirable the reigning time was in contrast with the suffering of the earthly life for the Church, he cried out, “I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you.” Accordingly, in this verse the Apostle shows that the time for the Kingdom of God to reign in the earth is not during the Gospel Age. It will be during the Millennium, when the sufferings of the earthly lifetime are swallowed up in the glories then attained. (Rom. 8:17-19; Rev. 20:4, 6)
This fact, that the Kingdom class during the Gospel Age would be in a suffering and humiliated condition, undergoing untoward experiences to train her in fitness to reign with the Lord in the next Age, is an all-important one, and must ever be kept in mind by all of the Elect classes, to help them to keep from falling from their steadfastness. It is because early in this Age many forgot this that they in the great Apostasy fell from the primitive truths and practices of the Church and developed the great Antichrist, which claimed that the earthly life is the time for the Church to convert the world and to reign over the earth. And through this fundamental error the gates were thrown wide open for a thousand false doctrines and wrong practices to enter the Church, resulting in that perversion of truth and righteousness which we now see in great papacy. (2 Thess. 2:3-12) The true hope of the Kingdom to come into power at our Lord’s Return always kept the Church pure in faith and practice, as the loss of that hope and the adoption of the false hope of converting the world and reigning over the race before our Lord’s Return occasioned the loss of that purity of faith and practice, and the introduction of almost every evil word and work that became current during the Dark Ages.
THE REIGNING KINGDOM
If the Kingdom had been set up in royal power at Pentecost, as some of our dear Heavenly Father’s children mistakenly affirm, often with great self-confidence, it would no longer be appropriate to pray, “Thy Kingdom come.” (Matt 6:10) Amid such circumstances we should cease to pray for the Kingdom to come, and instead thank God that the Kingdom has already come and that, as a result, His will is being done in earth as in Heaven – a thing that all know is not now being done. Hence this passage refers to Christ and the Church entering into their reign at His Second Advent.
Luke 21:31 uses the expression, “the Kingdom of God,” in the same sense. Jesus there tells us that when we see the signs of the times connected with His Second Advent enacting before our eyes, we should recognize that the Kingdom of God is nigh at hand – that He and His faithful ones shortly will enter into their office as Kings in the earth. Certainly this passage could not refer to the embryo Kingdom, for that has been here ever since Pentecost. When the Lord assured the Apostles (Luke 22:29-30) that they would share with Him in His Heavenly privileges – eating and drinking at His table in His Kingdom – and would occupy thrones, ruling over Israel, He thereby certainly did not mean an activity that the Apostles would exercise in this life while still part of the embryo Kingdom; for instead of ruling over Israel in this life they were by Jews and Gentiles greatly persecuted, even unto death. Nor have they yet ruled over Israel. Hence this passage refers to the Millennial Kingdom. (Matt. 19:28)
Again, in Rev. 2:26-27; Rev. 3:21; Rev. 5:10 we hear Jesus through the Apostle John speak of the Kingdom in the sense of its reigning in this earth after all the Faithful have left the world; for all of these passages show that those who would reign with the Lord would first have to prove overcomers – a thing not completed in any case until death. (Rev. 2:10) Hence these passages refer to the reigning time as following the deliverance of the last member of the Church. Indisputably clear is Rev. 20:4, 6 as proving that this reign is yet future; for it shows that it is the privilege of those only who share in the First Resurrection – a thing that follows our Lord’s Second Advent. (1 Cor. 15:23-26, 42-44, 51-54; 1 Thess. 4:16-17)
The Old Testament has much to say on this point and abundantly proves that the Kingdom of God comes after our Lord’s Return. Hence these passages cannot refer to the embryo Kingdom. They must refer to the Kingdom in power and glory reigning in the earth. On this point we suggest that our readers look up the following references: Dan. 7:13-14, 18, 22, 26-27; Dan. 2:44; Psa. 22:27-29; Psa. 72:1-20; Isa. 2:2-4; Mic. 4:1-4; Isa. 11:1-11; Isa. 25:6-9; Isa. 35:1-10; Isa. 60:2-22; Isa. 61:4-11; Isa. 62:1-12; Isa. 65:17-25; Jer. 23:5-6; Jer. 33:14-16; Ezek. 37:23-25; Joel 2:28, 32; Ob. 21; Zeph. 3:8-9; Hag. 2:6-9; Zech. 8:20-23; Mal. 4:1-3.
From the Scriptures discussed above we see that the Bible treats of the Kingdom class from two standpoints: (1) the embryo Kingdom – the Church in the flesh, being fitted to reign in the next Age; and (2) the born Kingdom – the Church in great power and glory reigning in the earth after Christ’s Return.
It would also be in order to mention the fact that the expression, “Kingdom of God,” is sometimes used of the typical Kingdom of God (Fleshly Israel), because Fleshly Israel was typical of the Church, the real Kingdom of God. (Matt. 8:12; 1 Chron. 17:14; 1 Chron. 28:5; 2 Chron. 13:8) So, too, this expression is used of nominal Spiritual Israel as God’s nominal Kingdom. (Matt. 13:31-33)
THE CREATION OF THE KINGDOM
The Scriptures mention seven steps in the creation of the Kingdom class:
(1) The begettal of the Spirit in its individual members made them embryo New Creatures. (John 1:12-13; John 3:31; 1 Cor. 4:15; Jas. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:3, 231; 1 John 5:11; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15; Eph. 2:10; Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10)
(7) They were then ready to experience Spirit birth in the First Resurrection, by which they were to obtain the Divine nature, through obtaining immortality. (John 3:5-8; Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5; 1 Cor. 15:20, 23; Jas. 1:18; 2 Pet. 1:4; 1 Cor. 15:50, 52-54)
All who proved faithful as such underwent these seven processes which, beginning with the begettal of the Spirit and ending in the birth of the Spirit, constitute the creative Acts whereby God brings to completion the creation of a new order of beings on the Divine plane of existence. This New Creation consists of Jesus and all His Body members.
The means which God uses to produce this New Creation are His Spirit (1 Pet. 1:22; 1 Cor. 6:11), His Word (1 Pet. 1: 22-24; 1 Pet. 2:2; John 17:17) and His providences. (Rom. 8:28, 35-39; Heb. 12:5-13) The Scriptures teach that each member of the Kingdom class would have his part in this creative process by consecrating himself to God, becoming dead to self and the world and alive to God, that he might receive the begettal. (Rom. 12:1; Col. 3:3) Then in his various experiences he was to remain dead to self and the world and alive to God. (Rom. 12:2; Rom. 6:2-11; Col. 3:1-2; 1 Pet. 1:14-16; 1 Pet. 2:11; 1 Pet. 4:1-3) By the grace of God this resulted, in the case of those who proved faithful as members of His Body, in the birth of the Spirit in the First Resurrection.
The subject of bringing the New Creation into existence is Scripturally set forth under the figure of the generation of a human being; hence in harmony with this figure God is set forth as the Father who would beget the New Creation as His children. (Jas. 1:18) The Sarah Covenant is set forth in this figure as their mother, in whose womb (representing the promises) their begetting, quickening, growth, strengthening, balancing and perfecting as embryo New Creatures would take place (Rom. 9:7-9; Gal. 4:22-31); and finally, they are set forth in this figure as born from this mother in the First Resurrection. (Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5; John 3:5-8)
The birth of the Spirit made those who experienced it spirit beings. Jesus states this in John 3:6: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” St. Paul likewise assures us that human beings – flesh and blood – as such cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 15:50) Hence he teaches that the saints are changed from the human nature, which was inherited from Adam (Gen. 2:7; 1 Cor. 15:45-49) to the Divine nature, which God and our Lord Jesus have, by receiving Divine, immortal bodies. (1 Cor. 15:42-54; 2 Pet. 1:4; 2 Cor. 4:16-5:4; Phil. 3:20-21; Col. 3:4; 1 John 3:2) Thus they are born of the Spirit in the First Resurrection, no longer with human bodies, but with spirit bodies, and that of the highest nature in existence – the Divine nature! Accordingly, when the Faithful reign in the earth they will be Divine beings, like our Heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
This great salvation to the Divine nature had not been made known until our Lord came and brought it to light. (2 Tim. 1:9-10; Heb. 2:3-4; 1 Pet. 1:10-12; Luke 16:16) It was an entirely new and unheard of thing to Nicodemus, who failed to understand it. (John 3:1-13) However, it is the glorious hope that during the Gospel Age God has offered “the called according to His purpose.” (Rom 8:28; Rom. 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:9-10; Col. 1:25-27; 2 Pet. 1:3-4)
THE INVISIBILITY OF THE KINGDOM
The fact that the Kingdom class become spirit beings, spirit beings of the highest of spirit natures (the Divine nature), proves that they will be invisible while reigning over the earth. We know that angels are spirits (Heb. 1:7), and that as such they are invisible; for our guardian angels are about us, but we cannot see their bodies with our natural eyes. (Heb. 1:14; Matt. 18:10; Psa. 34:7; Psa. 91:11-12) The only way that they could manifest themselves to our physical eyes would be by their creating for themselves natural bodies and showing these to us, as they did to various ones during the time that God’s Word was in process of revelation. (Gen. 18:1-8; Gen. 19:1-3; Heb. 13:2; Josh. 5:13-15; Judg. 6:11-22; Judg. 13:3-21; Luke 1:11-20, 26-38; Luke 2:9-15; Matt. 28:2-7; Acts 12:7-10, etc.) But in every case the bodies which were seen were not the spirit bodies of the angels, but those which they materialized. We may be sure that if the bodies of the lower orders of spirit beings, like those of the angels, are invisible to us, the bodies of the highest order of spirit beings (Divine beings) must be invisible. Hence no human being ever saw God’s body. (John 1:18; John 5:37; 1 Tim. 1:17; Col. 1:15) Nor can any man see Christ’s present body which is a Divine body. (1 Tim. 6:16)
Jesus, by comparing them to the wind, told Nicodemus that those who would be born of the Spirit would be invisible. He said that as the wind comes and goes invisibly to us, we know of its presence not by our sight but by other senses and by its visible effects; so also, He said, are all those born of the Spirit. (John 3:8) He told the Pharisees that the Kingdom class would be invisible when they come to reign over the earth, for He said that the Kingdom would come “not with observation” – not with outward show or visibly. Nor would anyone be able to point out these Rulers to the sight of others, saying, “Lo, here! or, lo, there!” (Luke 17:20-21) They would be invisible, “within you,” (literally “in your midst,” see Luke 17:21, NIV).
Thus no human being will ever be able to see the Kingdom class who, glorified as spirit beings of the Divine nature, are thoroughly invisible, just as the angels of God are invisible. But someone may ask concerning this Kingdom, How can there be such things as invisible rulers? We answer: There is now an invisible kingdom ruling over this world – Satan and his angels. (Matt. 12:24-28; Luke 4:5-7; John 14:30; John 16:11; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2; Eph. 6:11-12) We know, not only from the Bible, but also from the works of the World-Empire that Satan and his angels are now the kingdom over this present evil world. (Col. 1:13; Gal. 1:4) As subjects he has mankind in general, whom he controls politically through the political rulers, socially through the rulers in society, and financially through the trusts, corporations, mergers, etc. He despotically rules over them as a tyrant, as the executioner of God’s sentence, not that God has appointed him to be the ruler, but he has taken this rulership by usurpation and he uses this rulership invisibly.
We can only see from the effects of his reign what he is doing; for we know that he ruthlessly destroys the political, the social, the financial rulers, the trusts, the corporations, the mergers and the like, when they no longer serve his purpose. He does this, not by making himself seen visibly, but by acts that are seen among the children of men. For that reason Satan’s invisible empire, usurped over the children of men during the time of the curse and particularly in the second evil world (from the flood until Christ’s Second Advent) illustrates in its invisibility what the Kingdom of God will be like when it rules over the earth.
The Christ, Head and Body, will be present, but invisible in the Divine nature, as such having immortality and incorruptibility. They will not be seen by the children of men, either before the Millennium or during the Millennium or forever afterwards, even as Jesus says of Himself: “Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more.” (John 14:19) So it is not an impossible or an improbable thing that God’s Kingdom – Jesus and the Church – should be invisible while reigning over the earth.
As assistants of Jesus and the Little Flock, the Lamb’s Wife, in the spiritual or invisible phase of the Kingdom, will be the Great Multitude described in Rev. 7:9-17 and Rev. 19:1-9. This class consists of those who were called to be members of Christ’s Bride, but who more or less came short of the prize of the high calling. They are nevertheless rewarded for their measurable faithfulness by being invited to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. (Rev. 19:9) They are not of the world of mankind to be given life as children of the Second Adam and the Second Eve in the thousand-year Day of Judgment, the Restitution time, the Day of Regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of His glory (Matt. 19:28), for they will be present at the Marriage Supper, prior to the begetting and birth of the world of mankind in their regeneration unto life. They are of the Gospel-Age salvation, justified by faith, the imperfections of their flesh being covered by Christ’s robe of righteousness, which through carelessness they allowed to become soiled or spotted by contamination with the world, etc., and which they wash as a class during the great tribulation. (Rev. 7:14)
They are not given a place in the throne, but before it (Rev. 7:15), as antitypical Levites (who have no inheritance in the land – Deut. 18:1-2) and Noblemen, hence not of the Restitution class, typified by the twelve tribes of Israel exclusive of the Levites. The Great Multitude as antitypical Levites are “before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple.” (Rev. 7:15) They are included in Abraham’s seed among “the stars of heaven” for multitude (Gen. 15:5; Gen. 22:17), as a part of the spiritual phase of the Kingdom, which will be invisible to mankind.
THE KINGDOM’S EARTHLY REPRESENTATIVES
While the Kingdom class proper – Jesus and the Church – will during their reign be invisible to mankind, they will be visibly represented throughout the earth by certain human beings – the Ancient Worthies and the Youthful Worthies – even as Satan and his angels have during their reign been visibly represented by certain human beings, such as oppressive rulers, false religious teachers and predatory aristocrats, who through Satanic deception have more or less claimed to exercise their authority by Divine Right. Satan manipulated such persons through their selfish and sinful desires and through their errors and ignorance to do what he wished accomplished, by making it profitable for them to do so, and hindered them from doing what he did not want done by making it disastrous for them to do it. Hence he controlled them through selfishness, ignorance, error and wrong. Accordingly, they have been fitting representatives of his empire.
But the Ancient and Youthful Worthies, before being made the visible representatives of the reigning Kingdom of Heaven in this earth (Gen. 13:14-15; Acts 7:5; Heb. 11:39-40), will have demonstrated, through their faithfulness while on trial in this life, their loyalty to truth and righteousness. Hence they will be suitable and dependable representatives of the invisible Rulers in the next Age. The Ancient Worthies will be the princes (not kings) throughout the earth that will rule in judgment – truth and righteousness. (Isa. 32:1; Psa. 45:16) They will have as their associates the Youthful Worthies. (Joel 2:28) They will experience a better resurrection than the world (Heb. 11:35) – better because they will be awakened perfect at the beginning of Christ’s Reign.
These Ancient and Youthful Worthies will be the subordinate rulers under Christ; the world will then be subject to these Worthies, and will become perfect gradually during the Millennium and will attain perfection completely only at its end. The Ancient and Youthful Worthies will stand before the world as the latter’s visible rulers, and as such will be recognized and obeyed by the world. All these things make their resurrection better than the world’s.
To be continued in our February 2018 paper.
The date of our Lord’s Memorial is March 29, 2018 after six p.m.
 The subject of the begettal and birth of the Spirit has been somewhat darkened by the incorrect translation of the Greek word gennao, which means to beget when a male is the active agent, and to bear or give birth when a female is the active agent. See Matt. 1:16 where this word appears twice and is correctly translated in the first instance as “begat” and in the second instance as “was born.” God is always regarded as masculine; hence gennao, when used in connection with God as in these instances, should be rendered as some form of the word “beget” and not as “born.”