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Premillennialism in the Old Testament (Part 2)

Written by: Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum    Posted on: 10/06/2006

Category: Prophecy


III. The Government of the Messianic Kingdom

The Messianic Kingdom will be administered through an absolute monarchy with a definite chain of command and lines of authority. The absolute monarch will be the Person of Jesus the Messiah. The delegated authority will be split into two branches: a Jewish branch of government and a Gentile branch, each in turn having a chain of command.

This section will be concerned with various Scriptures that speak of the system of government in the Kingdom as far as the Old Testament is concerned.

A. The King: The Lord Jesus the Messiah

That the Messiah is to sit upon the Throne of David and rule in a kingdom over Israel with a dominion extending over all the Gentiles is the clear teaching of the Old and New Testaments. The Davidic Covenant upon which the physical reign of the Messiah is based will be discussed in the next chapter. In this chapter, only those passages that develop the Davidic Covenant and those that speak of the Messiah as king over a literal kingdom will be dealt with.

1. The Establishment of the Throne

That it is in the program of God to set up His Son as the King in Jerusalem is the clear teaching of Psalm 2:6-8. Although the Throne of Messiah will be established in Jerusalem, His dominion will not stop at the border of Israel, but will extend throughout the entire earth with every Gentile nation falling under His domain.

The Messiah's ruling upon the reestablished Throne of David and ruling over a kingdom is the theme of Isaiah 9:6-7. A child is born into the Jewish world Who is a Son of the House of David upon Whom the reins of government will rest (v. 6a). Yet names are given to this child that can only be true of God Himself (v. 6b). The eternality of the Davidic Dynasty, Throne, and Kingdom is assured, for it rests in the God-Man. As to His humanity, He is a descendant of David. As to His deity, He is eternal and so is His Throne. With these facts clearly established, Isaiah proceeds to describe the establishment of the rule of the Messianic King. The government that will be set up will increase in authority and in peace, and there will be no end to the Throne of David or of the rule of the Messiah, for it is the God-Man Who will establish it and Who will uphold it. It will be characterized by justice and righteousness forever. The guarantee that it will be so established is the burning zeal of God, a zeal that will continue to burn until the Kingdom is realized. Because God's zeal intends to perform it, it will surely come about.

To this statement, Isaiah 16:5 adds:

And a throne shall be established in lovingkindness; and one shall sit thereon in truth, in the tent of David, judging, and seeking justice, and swift to do righteousness.

As if to reiterate his previous statement, Isaiah declares again that a throne will surely be established on the basis of God's loyal love. The One sitting on the Throne will be a member of the House of David Who will be characterized by truth. He will be the King and Judge, ensuring that justice is carried out--a justice springing from the righteousness of the King.

Very similar to Isaiah are two prophecies found in Jeremiah. The first is Jeremiah 23:5-6. Again, there is a descendant of David Who will sit on David's Throne. Yet this descendant is called Jehovah our righteousness, so the One sitting on David's Throne is none other than the God-Man. And because it is the God-Man, His reign will be characterized by wisdom, justice, and righteousness. It is in Him that the security of Israel will lie.

The second passage is Jeremiah 33:14-17. Beginning with the reaffirmation of God's intention to fulfill His covenant with David (v. 14), Jeremiah restates the basic points of his statements in 23:5-6 (vv. 15-16). Under no circumstances will the House of David be allowed to become extinct (v. 17). The rest of Jeremiah 33 continues to reaffirm God's intention to fulfill all the conditions of the Davidic Covenant, and these passages will be dealt with in the next chapter.

Though the Throne of the Messiah is to be established in Jerusalem, the reign of the Messianic King will extend over the entire earth, according to Zechariah 14:9. In that day, Zechariah points out, the Messiah will be the head of the world and will be considered by all humanity to be the one God.

2. The Character of His Reign

A number of passages portray the characteristics of the reign of the Messianic King. One major characteristic, stemming from the absolute monarchy that will exist, is that He will rule with a rod of iron. This iron-handed rule is rooted in Psalm 2:9 and will be a necessity due to the fact that nations will exist and the people populating them will still have their sin nature. It has already been pointed out in the previous chapter that, after the first generation, there will be unbelievers present in the Kingdom. The natural outworking of this sin nature will have to be restrained. The Kingdom will not be a democracy, but an absolute monarchy. The reign of the Messianic King will be a strict one, and the righteous and just laws emanating from Jerusalem will have to be obeyed.

The beginning of His reign will be marked by a procession of the King into the millennial Jerusalem described in Psalm 24:7-10.

An extended treatment of the character of His reign is in Psalm 72:1-19. This entire Psalm describes the reign of the righteous King. His reign will be characterized by justice, holiness, and righteousness so that the innocent will receive justice, while the guilty will be condemned (vv. 1-7). The extent of His domain will clearly be universal and international (vv. 8-11). It will extend from sea to sea, a reference to the western (Mediterranean Sea) and eastern (Dead Sea) boundaries of the millennial Israel. Furthermore, it will extend from the River, that is, the Euphrates, which is the prophesied northern boundary of the restored Jewish State. One would expect the next phrase to describe the southern boundary as the "brook of Egypt," but instead, the Psalmist writes unto the ends of the earth. The point being made is that although the Throne is set up in the Land of Israel, as seen by the mention of the western, eastern, and northern boundaries, the rule will not be confined to Israel alone. It will overflow the boundaries of Israel, reaching to the ends of the earth (v. 8). His friends and enemies alike will do obeisance to Him (v. 9), and all other kings among the nations will subject themselves to His authority (vv. 10-11). Because He will rule with a rod of iron and in justice, holiness and righteousness, any and all injustices against the righteous will be severely rectified, and the righteous will be exalted (vv. 12-15). His reign will be further characterized with an abundance of productivity (v. 16). All will be blessed in the King and they will bless Him, for He is the eternal God-Man (vv. 17-19).

Isaiah 11:1-5 provides yet another description of the character of His reign. Isaiah begins by describing the origin of the King, namely that of the House of David (v. 1). He is endowed with the fullness of the Holy Spirit depicted by the sevenfold manifestations of the Spirit of God (v. 2). This endowment of the fullness of the Holy Spirit is demonstrated in the five results mentioned in verses 3-4. Finally, the King and His reign are characterized by righteousness and faithfulness (v. 5).

So, the Lord Jesus will be both the King of Israel and the King of the world. Under His absolute authority and monarchy there will be two branches of government established, the Gentile branch and the Jewish branch.

B. The Jewish Branch of Government

1. David: The King and Prince

The absolute monarchy of the Messiah will extend to Israel as well as to the Gentile nations. But directly under the Messianic King, having authority over all Israel, will be the resurrected David, who is given both titles of king and prince. He will be a king because he will rule over Israel, but he will be a prince in that he will be under the authority of the Messiah. Just as all the Gentile nations will have kings, so will Israel. The difference is that the Gentile kings will all have their natural bodies, while David will have his resurrected body.

There are several passages that speak of David as being king over Israel and prince under King Messiah, such as Jeremiah 30:9. Not only will Israel in the future serve Jehovah their God, but they will also serve David their king.

Another passage is Ezekiel 34:23-24. When the restoration of Israel comes, it will no longer be in the form of two kingdoms with each one having their own king. They will be a reunited nation with only one head, and that head will be the resurrected David, who will serve as their prince. So while Jehovah will serve as their God and absolute King, David will serve under Him as God's prince over Israel.

Later, in Ezekiel 37:24-25, Ezekiel reiterates the fact that they will have David to function as the king of Israel. He is to be their prince and shepherd. Under his guidance, Israel will be able to keep the righteous commandments of God. The Land will be restored to them as well as David their king.

One final passage that points to this aspect of the government of the Millennium is Hosea 3:5. Making the same points as Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Hosea states that in the future restoration, Israel will not only be subservient to Jehovah their God, but also to David their king.

While all these passages are often explained as actually referring to David's greater Son, nothing in the text indicates that David is to be taken symbolically. If the prophets wanted to refer to the Messiah in connection with David, they used terms such as "Root of Jesse," "Branch of David," "Son of David," or "Seed of David." None of these expressions are used here. The text simply states, David. In keeping with literal interpretation, it is best to take the text as it reads, meaning the literal David, who, in his resurrected form, will function as the king over Israel and as a prince in subjection to the King of the world. It is in this sense that David will serve both as king and prince. From the viewpoint of Israel, David will be their king ruling over them. But from the viewpoint of the Messiah, David will be a prince.

2. Princes

In addition to the already-specified positions of government, there is the mention of other rulers simply entitled as princes. One such passage is found in Isaiah 32:1. The king reigning in righteousness will be the Lord Jesus. Along with Him there is the mention of princes who will be in positions of authority and just in character.

A second passage is Ezekiel 45:8. The entire context of this passage (Ezek. 40-48) will be discussed in the next chapter. But for now, it should be noted that, once again, there is the mention of princes who are in positions of authority in the Millennium. Unlike princes in the past, these will not be characterized by oppression. Involved in their authority will be the partitioning of the Land of Israel into its twelve tribal divisions.

The resurrected Zerubbabel, mentioned in Haggai 2:20-23, will very likely be among these princes. The time of Zerubbabel's exalted position will be after the shaking of the heavens and the earth (vv. 20-21) and the destruction of the invading armies (v. 22). Both of these will occur at the Second Coming. It is after these events that Zerubbabel is promised an exalted position (v. 23) which will make him as close to God as a signet ring is to a king. Zerubbabel has been chosen for an exalted position in the Kingdom and will apparently be among the princes mentioned by the other two prophets. Zerubbabel is also of the House of David.

3. Judges and Counselors

Another group of rulers in the Kingdom will be the judges and counselors mentioned in Isaiah 1:26. This position of authority will be particularly related to the City of Jerusalem. These rulers will be responsible for the dispensing of justice in a judicial sense, and there will be no perversion of this justice.

4. Israel Over the Gentiles

The final link in this chain of command in the Jewish branch of government is that Israel is to become the head over the Gentiles. More will be said on this in the next chapter, but mention of it must be made here.

The fact that Israel is to become the head of the Gentiles was part of God's promises to Israel in the Book of Deuteronomy. One such passage is Deuteronomy 15:6.

The leadership over the Gentiles is to be part of Israel's reward for obedience in Deuteronomy 28:1.

Such obedience and headship awaits Israel's national regeneration. This promise is reiterated in Deuteronomy 28:13.

Besides the statements found in the Law of Moses, the Prophets also described Israel's future headship over the Gentiles. One such passage is Isaiah 14:1-2.

For Jehovah will have compassion on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land: and the sojourner shall join himself with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob. And the peoples shall take them, and bring them to their place; and the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of Jehovah for servants and for handmaids: and they shall take them captive whose captives they were; and they shall rule over their oppressors.

The Gentiles will not only conduct the Jews back to the Land of Israel, but they will be possessed by Israel. They will become servants to Israel. Similar passages are found in Isaiah 49:22-23 and 61:6-7.

The rod of iron that will characterize the rule of the government in the Kingdom will be implemented through various spheres and positions of authority.

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