“Behold, you will…bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:31-33).
Imagine the thrill in the heart of the astonished Jewish maiden when she heard those words directly from the angel Gabriel: “You will bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great”! She was to be the mother of the Son of the Highest? The promised Messiah to be her baby?! Then think of the impact of those other words, “The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David … of His kingdom there will be no end.” How was all this to be? Yet, those were the very words of that shining angel. Mary could only ponder these things in her heart.
Mary, like all faithful Jews, knew the Scriptures that foretold a Redeemer, a Deliverer, a King. With a thrill the promises of old must have flashed through her mind. What Mary may not have realized, however, was that many centuries would intervene before her Son’s kingdom would come.
The entire plan of God focuses on the Messiah, the King who would come and redeem His people. This promise of a coming King and Savior is repeated again and again from Genesis to Revelation. The Jews looked and longed for this Messiah. When Jesus was born, some recognized Him as the fulfillment of this promise. But when He didn’t immediately claim the throne, they were disappointed and gave up hope. Even His own disciples, just before He ascended to heaven, were still asking, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). In other words, Lord, isn’t this the time? And once again Jesus explained that that was not the time, that many events had to come between.
Why were the promises so hard to comprehend? Why did so many misunderstand them and abandon hope? One reason is that very often those promises were bundled together. Many times the same prophecy spoke of His lineage and birth as well as His future, eternal kingdom. In Genesis, the very first book of the Bible, the Patriarch Jacob, as he blessed his son Judah, was inspired to speak prophetically about this King.
“The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants, until the coming of the one to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will obey” (Gen. 49:10 NLT).
Jesus was born from the family of Judah, but the second part of the promise, that He would be “the one to whom [the scepter] belongs,” “the one whom all nations will obey,” is still unfulfilled. He has not yet taken His throne.
A few hundred years later, another man inspired by God foretold His birth and His kingly mission. “A Star [a shining one] shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter [one having authority] shall rise out of Israel, and batter the brow of Moab, and destroy all the sons of tumult” (Numbers 24:17). Again, this prophecy spans centuries to reach a complete fulfillment. The child was born. But the major part is still unfulfilled: He has yet to take “the scepter,” the symbol of authority, and “destroy all the sons of tumult.”
God’s prophet Isaiah also combined the promise of the birth of the child with His kingly destiny. “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. And the government will rest on his shoulders….His ever expanding, peaceful government will never end. He will rule forever with fairness and justice…” (Isa. 9:6-7 NLT). Here again is a prophecy only partly fulfilled. The child was born, but He has not yet taken the reins of government. For once He takes that government, it will “never end.”
God’s prophet Micah foretold the child’s birth and also that He would be a “future ruler.” “But you (Bethlehem) Ephrathah,…from you will come for me a future ruler of Israel whose origins go back to the distant past, to the days of old” (Micah 5:2 NJB). Again, only part of the prophecy has been fulfilled. The child was born, from the ancient Davidic line, but He is not yet a “ruler.”
The prophet Jeremiah also foretold that a righteous ruler, even a King, would come from the family of David. “Behold the days are coming, says the Lord, that I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth” (Jer. 23:5; see also 33:14-15). Even today this prophecy is only partly fulfilled. The child was born, but He is not yet a king administering justice.
What must we conclude? Will God leave all these prophecies only partly fulfilled? Never! The fact that Jesus has been born is proof positive that the remainder of the prophecies will also be fulfilled. Jesus Christ will be King! This earth will yet have one worldwide government of peace and justice. In the words of God’s prophet Zechariah, “The Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day there will be one Lord—his name alone will be worshiped” (Zech. 14:9 NLT).
When Jesus started preaching that He was the Messiah, the fulfillment of the words of Israel’s prophets, Jewish people grew hopeful. Here was the Redeemer! Here was their King! Here was the one who would oust the hated Roman overlords, take the reins of government, and do away with injustice, poverty and oppression.
But then, as they watched, the tide turned against Him. The Jewish rulers, who had been watching with jealous eye as the crowds followed Him, started to plot and scheme. Before long Jesus was in their hands, condemned, and crucified. If He was the promised Messiah as He claimed, what now? What about the Kingdom He had been preaching? The words of two of His disciples after the crucifixion expressed the disappointment many felt. “We were hoping,” they said, “that it was He who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). Their hopes died with the crucified One.
What was the problem? The problem was not with the prophecies but with their understanding of those prophecies. They could not comprehend the timeline of those prophecies. They failed to understand that Jesus had to be born, be tested and tried (Heb. 2:9-10), had to “suffer many things, and be rejected,… and be killed, and be raised the third day” (Luke 9:22), be taken to heaven, and then in the far future return to set up His kingdom. Jesus had said it, but they did not comprehend the time.
In His parable of the Pounds Jesus tried again to explain. “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return” (Luke 19:12). Matthew’s account adds “after a long time…” (Matt. 25:19). But they could not see beyond what they were expecting. They missed the picture of all that was to intervene before Jesus could set up His kingdom. They even missed Jesus’ careful explanation because they heard only what they expected (or wanted) to hear: that eventually He would redeem them from their oppressors!
Yet the promise was firm. When Jesus was standing before Pilate, He said again that He was a King, also explaining that His Kingdom was yet future. Pilate asked him, “Are you a king?” Jesus’ answer was solidly affirmative. “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world” (John 18:37). He even explained to Pilate that the time for His kingdom was future. But “My kingdom is not of this world” [this cosmos, this present arrangement] (v. 36). If He were to have taken His kingly role at that time, “then My servants would fight,” He said, “so that I should not be delivered to the Jews”—His servants would not have allowed Him to be crucified. The time of His coronation was yet future.
When Will Jesus Take the Throne?
If the people in Jesus’ day had understood the Old Testament book of Daniel, they could have known why Jesus was not taking the steps at that time to make Himself king. The book of Daniel contains prophecies that give amazing details of the events that would intervene before Jesus would set up His kingdom. These prophecies span centuries, reaching from the time of Daniel (about 600 BC) to our day and beyond. They also help us by setting Jesus’ kingdom into a timeline we can comprehend because we can recognize the prophecies fulfilled. And just as these events came to pass as foretold, so we can know with certainty that the rest will as surely be fulfilled.
Two prophetic visions recorded in the book of Daniel, chapters 2 and 7, tell of the rise and fall of four world-dominating kingdoms, to be followed by a fifth, the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. A third vision in Daniel 8 gives us additional details of those kingdoms. The territories of these four kingdoms deal with those parts of the world where the people lived who, through their faith in God and their knowledge of the Bible, could benefit most from the prophecies.