The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.
Premillennialism teaches that there are Old Testament passages describing the Millennium, that it is not confined to the Book of Revelation. A holistic overview of both Old and New Testament passages about the Millennium shows that there will be those who resist the Messiah’s rule. Consider the following passages.
And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the LORD will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.
And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.
The Zechariah passage presupposes that the nations will be free to refuse the Lord’s commands from Jerusalem. There will be consequences for disobedience, but disobedience is not removed or rendered impossible. Even in the Millennial Reign, the Lord affords mankind the gift of free will. Indeed, as many Bible teachers (such as David Pawson) have said before, one of the purposes of the Millennium is to show how incurably wicked the natural heart of man is. Even with Satan (and his minions?) bound in the Abyss, mankind still is not fully converted to Christ. The ability of mankind to be seduced by Satan on his release from prison, even following a Golden Age of Christian rule, shows what we truly are. The final war at the end of the Millennium is a recapitulation of the Garden of Eden story: even living in Paradise with God, Adam and Eve were seduced into sin by Satan’s deceit and our own hearts.
This lesson about free will in the Millennium should affect how we pray about matters in this age and the age to come. In seeking, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done,” we must realise that our co-operation is required. No doubt Christ’s law will be enforced strictly in the Millennium, but His true Kingdom is seen in those who willingly and unreservedly submit to Him, not in a subservience that comes from fear of consequences or as a means of fleshly advancement.
Government is needed to protect the rights that God has afforded us. For example, we ought to have laws forbidding abortion, in order to protect the rights of the unborn. A Christian government in the Millennium will be a marked improvement on our current governments when we consider the protection of rights, the punishment of injustice and iniquity, and the public acknowledgement of truth. However, the inward laws of our hearts, and our willing submission to those laws, come from the Spirit of God, from being “born again”, from being given “hearts of flesh” to replace “hearts of stone”. For this reason, I submit that as we pray for revival, for the conversion of souls, as well as for government to be transferred to God’s true people, we should, from time to time, acknowledge again that the ultimate work of conversion is God’s. It is a miracle that anyone comes to know, honour, worship, obey, and love Christ.
And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.
The tension between curbing a nation’s excesses and respecting its citizens’ free will is an important aspect of Kingdom theology. A law that forbids abortion is not excessive, because it protects the rights of an unborn child that already exists. On the other hand, a law compelling two persons to marry is arguably an interference in the private conduct of free individuals, and so cannot be justified on the same basis as a law prohibiting abortion.
If we accept the underlying premises in this political philosophy as derived from Christian respect for free will and for God-given rights, then we might conclude that Kingdom rule is more like 19th century government in the United Kingdom and the United States than it is like the hyper-statism seen in tyrannical governments such as the USSR or Nazi Germany. Even the so-called “moderates” and “centrists” of Western “democracies” reveal in their speech presuppositions about the “right” of the state to interfere in every aspect of a citizen’s life.
We are not called to that kind of government. God’s good purposes cannot be defined by our political philosophies and there is much that He still has to reveal to us. However, the Bible provides us with a firm foundation in “Kingdom theory”, and it shows us how different the principles of the Kingdom are from what we see today.