THE KINGDOM – ITS MORAL IMPLICATIONS
by Bob Wheeler
To return to the subject of the end times (“The Reign of Messiah,” June 13) as we have seen biblical prophecy calls for a reign of the Messiah over the earth in peace and righteousness. What is often overlooked, however, is what that demands of us in personal conduct. If the Messiah will establish His kingdom “with judgment and justice,” what does that mean for the human race, and for us individually?
The first thing to be observed is that as a reigning monarch the Messiah will administer justice.
“But with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
And decide with equity for the meek of the earth,
He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.”
(Isa. 11:4; NKJV).
When it says “He shall judge the poor” it means that He will ensure that the weak and vulnerable classes of society will receive their just due. In other words, during the reign of the Messiah there will be no more exploitation of the poor and helpless. The primary task of a righteous king is to defend those who are too weak to defend themselves.
It is also important to emphasize that morality originates with God Himself. In a remarkably prophetic passage the Messiah (the Servant of the Lord) is pictured as saying,
“Listen to Me, My people;
And give ear to Me, O My nation:
For law will proceed from Me,
And I will make My justice rest
As a light of the peoples.” (Isa. 51:4)
In other words the Messiah will instruct us on how we should live.
But what exactly does the law (Torah) of God require? Space will not permit a full explanation of biblical ethics, but it is worth mentioning here a few basic principles. Social justice is a major concern, and that has a bearing on how we treat each other.
“‘These are the things you shall do:
Speak each man the truth to his neighbor;
Give judgment in your gates for truth, justice and peace;
Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor;
And do not love a false oath.
For all these are things that I hate,’
Says the Lord.” (Zech. 8:16,17)
In other words, our dealings with each other must be marked by complete honesty. We are not to defraud each other in any way whatsoever. Justice begins with the way we treat others. Significantly the passages emphasizes what goes on in our hearts – our secret thoughts and motives. We are not to “think evil in your heart” or “love a false oath.” And the reason we are not to do these things is that “‘these are the things that I hate,’ says the Lord.” Our conduct is to be governed and regulated by God’s own character, and there are certain things that are just plain obnoxious to Him. He loves justice and compassion and hates cruelty, oppression and inhumanity of every kind.
Isaiah points out how utterly meaningless religion is in the absence of social justice:
“Is not this the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?”
Not only are we not to harm our neighbor in any way, we are positively to help him when we see him in need.
This, then, poses a serious problem for us personally and individually. If the Messianic kingdom is a reign of perfect righteousness and justice, but we are personally sinners by nature, what will come of us? Are not, by the very nature of the case, excluded from the kingdom?
The answer is that we must repent – we must change our attitudes and our ways. There needs to be a real sorrow for sin.
“‘Now, therefore,’ says the Lord,
Turn to Me with all your heart,
With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.’
So rend your hearts and not your garments;
Return to the Lord your God,
For He is gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger, and of great kindness;
And He relents from doing harm.”
This, in turn, requires a new heart, which only God can give. “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jer. 31:33,34).
This is why Jesus said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17).