‘And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed’, Daniel 2. 44a.
Throughout history, God has been reaching out to man, in the hope that man might seek the Lord, Acts 17. 27. When man has failed to do this, God has periodically changed his modus operandum, to make it easier for man to find Him. We call the different ways in which God expects man to respond to Him, ‘dispensations’.
The Greek word for dispensation literally means house-law. It is like the world is a great house of which God is the owner, and He has appointed man as the manager or steward of His affairs. But whatever house-rules God has set, the stewards have persistently failed.
Today, we are living under the management system of grace, Eph. 3. 2. But, in the future, God will introduce a new administration – the dispensation of the kingdom.
Daniel prophesied that God would establish His kingdom in the world, and even foretold the date of its commencement, Dan. 9. 24-27. Christ, the King, came just a few years before the due date, and offered the kingdom to Israel, announcing, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’, Matt 4. 17.
But when the King was rejected, the offer was withdrawn, Matt 21. 42, 43, with seven years still on the clock. The kingdom has been postponed until such a time as Israel will recognize Jesus for who He is. In the intervening period, God is reaching out to the whole world through the gospel of grace, Col. 1. 5, 6.
The arrival of the kingdom has been delayed, but God has not forgotten. After the church has been caught up to heaven, and the final seven years have run their course,1 Christ will return to inaugurate the kingdom.
The Lord Jesus Christ will be physically present on earth, reigning as King of kings. If Jeremiah chapter 30 verse 9 is to be understood literally, David will be resurrected to be king over Israel, other nations having their own kings.
In the kingdom, Israel will have special pre-eminence as the head of the nations, Deut. 28. 10, 13. In fulfilment of the promises to Abraham, Gen. 12. 3, blessing for Gentile nations will be contingent on their deference to Israel and submission to God, Zech. 8. 20-23.
God’s law will again be in force, Isa. 2. 3, although, unlike how the law was – an unbearable burden – in Old Testament times, in the kingdom it will be a law of liberty. God will change the hearts of believers and put His Spirit within them empowering them to live righteously, Jer. 31. 31-34; Ezek. 36. 26, 27.
The earth itself will be restored to Eden-like conditions, Isa. 11. 1-12, and there will be worldwide peace and prosperity, Isa. 2. 4. The kingdom will last for 1,000 years, which is why it is sometimes called the Millennium. Satan will be imprisoned, so evil will be greatly diminished, Rev. 20. 1-6.
The kingdom will work better than the other dispensations because Christ will be reigning on the earth, and people will either choose, or be forced, to submit to Him, Ps. 2. 6-12.
However, man’s heart will still be sinful, and even this dispensation will end in failure.
After 1,000 years, God will release Satan from prison, and he will be allowed to try and deceive the world, just as he deceived Eve in Eden. He will gather the nations to attack the Lord and His people in Jerusalem. Just like Adam, right at the start, people will still want independence from God. But God will destroy these rebels, and Satan will be cast into the lake of fire, Rev. 20. 7-10.
After this, the final Great White Throne judgement of unbelievers will take place, and they will also be consigned to the lake of fire, Rev. 20. 11-15.
With this, the seven dispensations will have run their course. The present heavens and earth will be dissolved, and God will establish a new heavens and earth, the home of righteousness, 2 Pet. 3. 10, 13. The whole universe will be subject to Christ, and God’s great plan for the ages will be complete at last, 1 Cor. 15. 28!