The Kingdoms of this World, the Lord's Kingdom, and War

There seems to be considerable confusion of thought on the part of many as to the nations of this world and true Christianity. It is supposed that because the nations of Europe, for instance, profess Christianity they are Christian nations, and, being so, that it ought to be possible for them to exist on Christian principles, and to so adjust their relations one towards another as to eliminate for all time all recourse to the sword. Now the fact is that though Christianity is professed as the national religion of these countries, there is no such thing as a truly Christian nation, if we think of Christianity as it is presented to us in the Bible. That Book is our only instructor in these questions, and it nowhere recognizes nations as Christian. Matthew 28:19-20 may be quoted as against this statement, but the commission given to the disciples at the end of Matthew's Gospel has reference to "the gospel of the kingdom" "which shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations" (Matt. 24:14). This will be undertaken by Jewish heralds, after the rapture of the church to heaven, and the result of it is seen in the description of the judgment of the living nations in Matthew 25:31-46.

What is made very clear in the Word is that vital Christianity is individual and not national. The gospel goes forth to men everywhere to take those who are affected by it "out of the nations" to be a people for God (Acts 15:14, N.Tr.). They are translated into another kingdom — "the kingdom of God's dear Son" (Col. 1:13). But theirs is not a profession, merely, they are livingly affected — born again and indwelt by the Spirit of God, they own allegiance to Christ and belong henceforward to His kingdom. It should not be difficult to see the difference between a national profession — one in name only — and this which is veritable and vital, and it is of the utmost importance that it should be understood, otherwise we shall not be able to see things with a clear vision, and much perplexity and doubt will result.

We do not wish to belittle the effects of a national profession of Christianity. Such a profession creates a conscience, and a certain standard of morals and equity; a restraining hand is laid by it, more or less, upon evil; and it gives ideals to rulers and law-makers that must be beneficial to all. Yet all this is very superficial, and it will be found, speaking generally, that political parties, governments, and rulers only go so far in the adoption of Christian precepts as appear to them to fit in with their self-interests; if they clash with these — well, then they are of less account than the now historical "scrap of paper." The history of nations and the Word of God alike prove that in spite of their profession the nations remain the kingdoms of this world; they are not the Lord's kingdom at all; if they were war would certainly cease and His people would pray no more "Thy kingdom come."

We were discussing these things with a friend before the outbreak of the war. He endeavoured to maintain that it was possible for a country like Great Britain to adopt a policy in regard to other nations that would be in entire accord with Christian principles and precepts. We said in reply, "You will admit that the Christian is exhorted to 'resist not evil,' and, 'if thine enemy smite thee on the one cheek turn the other also.' Suppose, then, by way of illustration, that Germany deliberately, and without warning, struck the blow at Britain that she has been preparing for years. If she invaded South Africa, for instance, would you say, 'Take India also, we shall not resist'"? Or if she sunk a battleship would you say, "You may sink another, we shall only return good for evil, and love for hatred"? "Certainly not," he answered, "I should be for striking back swiftly and hard." And his own answer proved to him that his view of things had been entirely wrong. The United States is professedly Christian. Yet when the Maine was sunk by a Spanish mine off Havanah in 1898, "Remember the Maine" became the cry that roused the whole country to war with Spain.

If a nation acted upon Christian principles it could not strike back when stricken; it would possess neither battleships nor sword to strike back with, and it does not require a very keen intellect to discern what the result of such a policy would be in the world as it is. It is possible for the individual Christian to willingly and joyfully carry out these precepts, but for a nation it is impossible, for, as we have said, Christianity is an individual and not a national matter. In the present state of the world force is necessary for the maintenance of authority and of the measure of righteousness which is maintained, whether internationally or nationally. The policeman, magistrate, army and navy are indispensable, and these are permitted of God, and so far have His sanction, for the punishment of evildoers, and for His people's sake. But these would not be necessary if the kingdoms of this world were the Lord's kingdoms.

When arraigned before Pilate the Lord said, "IF MY KINGDOM WERE OF THIS WORLD, THEN WOULD MY SERVANTS FIGHT" (John 18:36). And that statement from the lips of Eternal Truth should be sufficient to show how great is the gulf that lies between the kingdoms of this world and His kingdom who was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and who forbade the valiant Peter to draw the sword on His behalf. To the kingdoms of this world war is an unhappy necessity. They have been founded mainly by blood; they maintain their place in the sun, and hold what they possess mainly by the power of the sword; and they will go down to an ignominious and terrible destruction together in one last, frenzied struggle for the mastery of the world, and thus shall it be that room shall be made for the kingdom of the Lord, which kingdom shall be established according to inflexible righteousness, and so shall universal peace prevail. Thus it is written in the sure word of prophecy, and for this the Christian waits.

The loveless doctrine of "the survival of the fittest" permeates the policy of every nation; it is modified somewhat, perhaps, in such countries as Britain and America, who, by the way, possess all the territory they desire; nevertheless it is there, and only awaits the translation of the church to heaven to show itself in all its naked horridness. The philosophy of Nietzsche will be the gospel of the Beast and Antichrist (Rev. 13); when they appear, the devil's supermen, in whom will be fully expressed all the evil intentions of the devil, might will then be right, and only that will be thought worthy of applause which is strong and ruthless. To this the nations of the world are moving both surely and swiftly.

But the devil is the prince of this world now (John 12:21), and the whole world lies in him (1 John 5:19, N.Tr.), and though God restrains his machinations in measure, for the gospel's sake, yet it is not difficult to discern them in the policies of the nations of the world. The iron that God has put into the hills, to be won from them for the manufacture of ploughshares and pruning-hooks, is forged into guns and swords; and the latest discoveries of science and the cleverest brains, given for the benefit of man, are employed in the production of diabolical engines for the maiming and destruction of thousands; and money invested in armament firms yields the biggest dividends, a most important consideration. And all this not in far-off pagan lands, but in the great civilized and, so-called, "Christian nations." Righteousness and peace are not to spring from such as these, they are the kingdoms of the world and not the kingdoms of the Lord.

Notice, further, who they are who occupy the greatest space in the histories of nations, not the martyrs of the Lord, nor they who were meek and lowly in heart — such have no record here — nor yet the philanthropists who have laboured for the good of men, but the great conquerors who have carried fire and sword into peaceful lands, and established kingdoms at the cost of much blood; and the more ruthless they were the more famous they are.

Now the bed-rock principle for the Lord's kingdom is SELF-SACRIFICING LOVE (Matt. 18). Note well the record of the Lord's arrest in the garden in Matthew's Gospel, the Gospel of the King. Peter believed that the hour had come in which to strike a blow for the Lord, but he was rebuked for having thoughts so contrary to the spirit of his Master. Jesus said, "Put up again thy sword into his place: for all who take the sword shall perish by the sword (chap. 26:52). That saying was not addressed to the world in general, nor did it refer to nations quarrelling one with another, it was addressed to the thought in the hearts of His disciples, that His kingdom was to be established by the sword. Others of the Lord's people have had the same thought since that memorable night, and have perished by the sword as the Lord said they would, Zwingle of Switzerland being an example.

The Lord might have called for His protection more than twelve legions of angels, for the whole power of heaven was at His command; but had He done so what had been written of Him would not have been accomplished. By the world He was a rejected and suffering King, but He did not assert His rights; He was willing to suffer and to give His life a ransom for all. It was by weakness that He was to be victorious. By yielding up His life in obedience to the will of God and in love to men He was to lay the foundation of a kingdom that should never be shaken for ever.

In Himself the principles and character of His kingdom found full and perfect expression. His kingdom is to be a transcript of Himself. It is established in the same world in which He suffered, and so it must suffer also. For it, this is the time of submission, tribulation, patience, and faith. It is hated by the world in which it is (John 15:18-27); and it is by suffering that it succeeds. This comes out strikingly in Romans 8:36-37, "As it is written, For Thy sake we are killed all the day long (not killing, mark you, but killed); we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us."

Those who are great in this suffering kingdom are not the arrogant and proud and independent and self-assertive, but those who are like the little child, gentle, meek, trustful, and dependent; but such a character as that can only be produced by conversion (Matt. 18). "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3).

The difference between the kingdoms of this world and the Lord's kingdom are so radical that reconciliation between them is an impossibility. The former are material and worldly, the latter spiritual and heavenly; the former are under the control of Satan, and their goal is the absolute refusal of any interference from God; the latter is the sphere of complete and willing submission to the will of God. In principles, spirit, and character they are in perfect opposition. The former in their final phase will adopt in toto Nietzsche's doctrine that "Christianity is an immortal blot upon humanity," and that the passive virtues — meekness, patience, and gentleness, and those beautifully active ones — pity, forgiveness, and self-sacrificing love — impede the progress of mankind and so must be utterly suppressed. While in the Lord's kingdom, when it comes into full manifestation, every fierce passion of man will be quelled, and that which characterized the Lord when He was here will reign supreme, for "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; AND A LITTLE CHILD SHALL LEAD THEM" (Isa. 11:6).

As the Lord's servants, disciples, and friends we need to weigh well these things, and to learn deeply and truly the character of that kingdom to which we belong, so that we may order our ways in accordance with it and in subjection to Him until He comes. So shall we be His witnesses here, who came not to be ministered to but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for all.