The Kingdom of Jesus Christ
by Rt. Rev. George deCharms
The Apocalypse was not written, as many have supposed, to foretell the rise and fall of civil governments. Its sole purpose was to reveal the state of the Christian Church at its end, and how then a new church was to be raised up by the Lord at His second advent. When therefore a "kingdom" is mentioned in that book, the reference is to the conscience by which every man governs his religious life. Everyone's conscience is formed by the principles of whatever faith he has accepted as his own. In the course of many centuries the original church of Jesus Christ had been divided into innumerable warring sects, each claiming that its particular interpretation of the Bible was the one Divine and saving faith. Each sect has formulated its own set of doctrines to which its members are required to subscribe, and according to which they agree to live. Such is every religious "kingdom"; and all such religious organizations are meant in the eleventh chapter of Revelation by the "kingdoms of this world."
At the present day these "kingdoms" are a far cry from that simple faith with which Jesus Christ imbued His disciples during His life on earth. The essence of that faith was twofold: it was the acknowledgment from the heart that Jesus Christ was to be loved above all things, and worshiped as the living God of heaven and earth; and it was the acknowledgment that the Word of the Lord is the only source of spiritual truth, that is, of that truth which teaches man how to love his neighbor as himself, and how, therefore, to live a life of charity and mutual love. These two - love to the Lord, and a life of charity as taught in the Word - are meant in the Apocalypse by the "two witnesses" of whom it is said that they were standing "before the God of the whole earth." (Revelation 11: 3, 4) It was foretold that they would "prophesy a thousand and two hundred and three score days, clothed in sackcloth," (v. 3) by which is meant that these two primary principles of religion would be perpetuated in the church only with increasing difficulty. Later it is said that the "beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and shall kill them. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified." (vv. 7,8) This means that these principles were secretly denied, and even ridiculed at heart, although by many they were outwardly professed with the lips. Nevertheless, "after three days and a half the spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them that saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up into heaven in a cloud, and their enemies beheld them." (vv. 11,12) By this is meant that these principles were not totally destroyed. A simple faith in them was preserved by the Lord with some, in order that there might be a remnant to receive the Lord at His second coming.
Then it was, as John testifies, that "the seventh angel sounded his trumpet; and there were great voices in heaven, saying The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever." (v. 15) Obviously the meaning is that although the former church would pass away, a new Christian church would be established by the Lord to take its place, for it is said that all the angels "fell upon their faces and worshiped God, saying, We give Thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come, because Thou hast taken to Thee Thy great power, and hast reigned." (vv. 16,17)
Is not this prophecy even now being fulfilled? That the Christian Church as it has been known in the past is approaching its end is being recognized by an increasing number of religious scholars. Indeed, it has been proclaimed by some that we are already living in a "post-Christian era." Few can doubt that a kind of spiritual lethargy has invaded the minds of men. Everyone has grown weary of fruitless disputations concerning abstract theology. They say, Let us have an end to bickering. Let us search for a common ground of faith in order that we may cooperate with one another in the vitally important task of ministering to the obvious and pressing needs of our modern society. Let us ignore the differences that have divided us, and join in friendship and brotherhood to promote peace, prosperity, freedom and happiness among men everywhere. After all, is not the purpose of religion to cultivate a spirit of charity and mutual love? Does such a spirit really depend upon the profession of any particular theological belief? Cannot charity be practiced with equal zeal and success by a Catholic, a Protestant, a Jew or a Gentile of any religious faith? If so, why waste time and energy in a hopeless attempt to solve the inscrutable mysteries of theology that have always in the past bred mutual hatred and bitterness, when we are confronted with the common and imperative need to seek the solution for enormous problems of immediate concern to human welfare?
Such is the prevailing thought of our day. The deep concern for spiritual truth that was felt by those who became disciples of the Lord, and who founded the primitive Christian Church after His resurrection, no longer touches the hearts of men. This truth has no appeal to the Christians of our age. They feel no need to inquire as to the nature of God, or even as to His existence. Yet the importance of knowing and of worshiping the true God was plainly taught by Jesus Christ, as when He answered the temptation of the Devil in the wilderness by saying: "It is written: Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve." (Matthew 4: 10) Can this be interpreted to mean that it is a matter of no great importance how one thinks of God, as long as he leads what he considers to be a moral life? Elsewhere the Lord said to His disciples, who were concerned about the things of this world: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6: 33) Can this be construed to mean that if men seek first to establish an earthly paradise of their own making, they may rest assured that all the blessings of heaven will be added unto them? Remember how, at His trial before Pilate, Jesus Christ plainly said: "My kingdom is not of this world"? Pilate therefore said unto Him, "Art Thou a king, then?" Jesus answered: "Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Everyone that is of the truth heareth My voice. But Pilate saith unto Him, What is truth?" (John 18: 36-38) This is the very question that is now being asked by modern Christians. Like Pilate, their minds can grasp nothing beyond the testimony of the bodily senses; nothing beyond a morality that is based solely on human experience and on a great variety of human interpretation. They know nothing of a truth that is universal and unchanging. Therefore they no longer have any interest in that heavenly kingdom of which Jesus Christ claimed to be the King. The reason is that in their hearts "the two witnesses that stand before the God of the whole earth," proclaiming His existence and revealing His Divine qualities, these witnesses have been killed, and their bodies "lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified."
But note that when this tragic end of Christian faith was foretold it was immediately prophesied that "the spirit of life from God entered into [the two witnesses], and they stood upon their feet; and a great fear fell upon them which saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up into heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them." Then it was, as John testifies, that "the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever."
But what is the "kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ"? It is the government of the Divine truth, the Heavenly Doctrine now revealed by the Lord Himself at His second advent. This truth can be taught only by the Lord. It can be learned only from His Word. It is the truth concerning the nature of God, and concerning His infinite qualities of love, wisdom and use. It is the truth concerning the immutable laws whereby God governs the entire universe of His creation. It also is the truth concerning man, of whom it is said: "In the image of God created He him," (Genesis 1: 27) and concerning the true relation of man to God, and of man to man. It is the truth concerning the human qualities of love and wisdom and use which men have been created to receive from the Lord. Man is indeed "formed from the dust of the ground," but as far as he receives these human qualities, the Lord "breathes into his nostrils the breath of life, and man becomes a living soul." (Genesis 2: 7)
How man may receive these spiritual qualities into his mind, into his heart, and into his life, this is the subject of the Word from beginning to end. To impart to man this heavenly love, this heavenly wisdom, and the joy of use to others without thought of self, this is the sole purpose for the sake of which the Word was given. This law of Divine truth is universal. It applies equally to all men in all countries, and in all the ages of racial history. Because God is infinite and unchanging, so also is the inner truth of His Word. Man has been created to see this truth, to acknowledge it from the heart, and to learn by progressive stages to understand it ever more perfectly. The Word was not given merely to propound a mystery beyond all human understanding. It was given to reveal a truth, a law, according to which the Lord Himself might form man's conscience, and through which He might govern man's life according to His own Divine will.
The government of this truth is the "kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ." Of this kingdom the Lord said to His disciples: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6: 33) All the natural blessings that men are vainly seeking to achieve for themselves, without the Lord's guidance or instruction - all these will follow if only man willingly submits his mind and his heart to the Divine laws revealed in the Word. By no other means can the loves of self and the world, so deeply embedded in man's hereditary nature, be overcome. Unless they are overcome, all the measures taken to bring peace and harmony to the nations and the peoples of the world will prove to bring no permanent solution for the ills that plague mankind. Only the Lord can form the hearts of men together. He alone can "lay the ax at the root of the trees" (13 Matthew 3: 10) which yield the evil fruit of jealousy, hatred and war. And this the Lord can do only if men acknowledge the inner truth of His Word, and search the Scriptures with humble prayer for spiritual understanding and enlightenment, that they may truly know and keep the Lord's will.
This Divine truth has been the inmost content of the Word from the beginning of time. It is indeed the truth "which was in the beginning with God, and which was God." (John 1: 1) But repeatedly men have either ignored this truth or have openly rejected it. They have focused attention solely upon the literal sense of the Word, and this they have distorted by human reasoning in order that it might seem to promote and excuse their selfish and worldly ambitions. To this end they have concocted man-made doctrines which they have declared to be the very Word of God. By these they have sought to mold the consciences of men in order to gain power over them and bend them to their will. Thus have arisen all the "kingdoms of this world." By this means the kingdom of the Lord has been progressively weakened, undermined, and at last betrayed into the hands of sinful men.
That this would come to pass was the burden of Nebuchadnezzar's dream, as recorded in the second chapter of Daniel. He saw, "and behold a great image . . . his head was of fine gold, his breast and arms of silver, his belly and thighs of brass, his legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out not with hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them in pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver and the gold broken in pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing-floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them; and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth." (Daniel 2: 31-35)
Here, in representative imagery, was described the entire spiritual history of the human race. The successive stages were pictured by which heavenly love and faith were gradually debased until at last they became sensual and worldly, and were deprived of the spiritual qualities with which they had originally been endowed by the Divine Creator. By "the stone cut out not with hands" is meant the Divine truth of the Word revealed anew by the Lord at His second advent. By this truth alone can the "kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ" be re-established in the hearts of men. This is the truth that was first proclaimed throughout the whole spiritual world on the nineteenth day of June in the year 1770. It is the truth which at the same time was made available to men on earth by means of the Heavenly Doctrine of the New Jerusalem. On this truth a new Christian Church is to be founded by the Lord. As the knowledge of this truth is spread to all the lands and peoples of the world, and as the minds of men are opened by the Lord to receive it, the promised "kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ" will indeed come. Then will the "holy city, New Jerusalem," come "down from God out of heaven," and "the tabernacle of God will be with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God." "Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city." (Revelation 21: 2, 3 ; 22: 14)
"...[I]t has now pleased the Lord to reveal various arcana of heaven - especially the internal or spiritual sense of the Word - which have been till now entirely unknown, and He has also taught the genuine truths of doctrine. This revelation is meant by the "Coming of the Lord" in Matthew (xxiv. 3, 30, 37). The reason of this revelation at the end of the church is, as said above, that by means of it the separation of the good from the evil may be accomplished, and also a new church formed, and this not only in the natural world where men are, but also in the spiritual world where spirits and angels are. For the church is in both worlds, and revelation takes place in both, and separation by means of it, as also the formation of a new church. From these things it is evident that by the above words protection from the Lord is signified, lest they should be injured.
"If the successive states of the churches on our earth are considered, it is evident that they have been like the successive states of a man who is being reformed and regenerated; for in order that he may become a spiritual man, he is first conceived, afterwards born, then he grows up, and is subsequently led on further and further into intelligence and wisdom. The church from the most ancient times, even to the end of the Jewish church, increased in the same way as a man who is conceived and born, and who grows up, and is instructed and taught. But the successive states of the church after the end of the Jewish church, or from the Lord's time to the present day, have been like those of a man who grows in intelligence and wisdom, or is being regenerated. For this end the interior things of the Word, of the church, and of worship, were revealed by the Lord when He was in the world; and now, again, things still more interior are [revealed] and in proportion as things interior are revealed, so far a man may become wiser, for to become interior is to become wiser, and to become wiser is to become interior." (AE 641:3, 4)
-New Church Life 1972;92:241-246