This article continues a series of weekly posts originally authored by David Lipscomb, an important figure in the Churches of Christ in the 1800s. Learn more about Lipscomb’s background here and here, and see other references to him on LCI here. The series is titled “The Church of Christ and World-Powers”, and it was also originally published as a series of 18 articles in The Gospel Advocate in 1866. (To read from the beginning of the series, start here.)
Lipscomb now argues that the basis of the relationship of the church established by Jesus, he even terms it the “dispensation” of Jesus, is found in the relationship God established in “prior dispensations.” In other words, the modern Christian cannot maintain an argument that “things were different in Old Testament times, and human governments now are different, so the principles of operation must also be different.” Nope. Lipscomb will have none of this, and uses the prophets as the connection point.
The Church of Christ and World-Powers (5) — David Lipscomb in The Gospel Advocate, Feb. 27, 1866, pp. 129-133.
Has the separation that was established and perpetuated by God through a period of four thousand years, between God’s institutions and subjects and the human institutions of earth and their subjects, been obliterated in the dispensation for which all dispensations were given—the dispensation or reign of the Lord Jesus Christ? It is a universally received idea, we believe, among the students of the Bible, that there is not a lesson taught in God’s dealings with his people under His fleshly dispensations, not a principle vindicated, that was not intended more, for effect upon the perfect, spiritual kingdom of the “fullness of the times” than for immediate effect upon the temporal kingdoms to which they were given. The prime object of all those lessons of separation was to have their permanent effect upon the eternal kingdom of Jesus Christ. Is God less jealous of the sanctity of his eternal kingdom, established and reigned over through his anointed Son, than he was for the mere preparatory ones established and ruled through his frail, weak, sinning, human subjects? Our work, certainly, is sufficient, after having shown this separation, unless authority can be produced for uniting that which God hath sundered. But we again call attention to the positive teachings of the Holy Spirit directly upon the relationship they sustain toward each other. Jeremiah 25:31. “For the Lord hath a controversy with the nations, he will plead with all flesh; he will give them that are wicked to the sword, saith the Lord.” In which the fact is presented of a “controversy between God and the nations.” This controversy is undoubtedly with reference to the question: Who shall govern the world? Who shall rule man? God or the governments of the world? The result of this controversy is, “he will give the wicked,” those who maintain the government of the nations instead of the government of God, “to the sword.”
We next call attention to the teachings of the Holy Spirit through Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar. In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream or vision, the workings of human governments, their history and destiny, and the connection of the Church of Christ with them is plainly foretold by God and revealed by Daniel. In the vision of the image of the man, with a golden head, a chest of silver, belly and thighs of brass, legs of iron and feet of iron and clay, is presented the four kingdoms of earth, that were to attain to universal sway, and rule the world. The head of gold typifies the kingdom of Babylon, of which Nebuchadnezzar was the most powerful and illustrious ruler. It, with all its power, must be destroyed and its golden treasures and exalted honors become the prey of its despoilers. It is succeeded by the Medo-Persian empire, that rises on the ruins of its predecessor, attains universal sway, subjugates the world, and in turn, itself is broken and destroyed, to be succeeded by the third or brazen empire of Greece, whose mighty, conquering head, weeps that other worlds are not within the reach of its destroying and bloody sword. But with all of its mighty power it must soon be stripped of its powers and honors, a lifeless corpse, weltering in the blood of its own children. For the Roman empire strong as iron which “breaketh in pieces and consumeth all things,” commences its work of ruin and destruction. With it the vision of earthly, human empire closes. It indeed is broken in the pride of its strength and the glory of its power.
What human government, then, will be able to stand? No other human government can ever attain to universal dominion, All the governments of earth, to-day, are but the broken, discordant fragments of this once mighty empire. In their iron strength they linger out a lengthened existence even when dissevered, oftentimes exhibiting a mighty prowess that bespeaks them true to their origin, but by continual conflicts and ever worrying strife, are wearing themselves away, wasting their strength and making room for the kingdom which the “God of Heaven set up in the days of these kings.” Their mission, from the prophetic history, was to destroy one another, and under the rulings of God’s providence to give those who upheld them “to the sword.” Their destiny was to be destroyed. The end or the vision was, “a stone cut out of the mountain without hands, smote the image upon the feet, that were of iron and clay, and broke it to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff or the summer’s threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them, and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.” Daniel 2:34-35. The interpretation of this was, that “In the days of these kings (the Roman) shall the God of Heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed, and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.” Daniel 2:44. Here again the mission of these nations is distinctly set forth and their connection with the Church of Christ well defined. They were to be destroyed by the working of this kingdom, which the God of Heaven should set up, and the broken fragments as the chaff of the summer’s threshing floor to be blown away, so that no place for them should be found.
In contrast with the lesson that has been taught with reference to the destruction of the earthly kingdoms, the Kingdom of Heaven, “shall never be destroyed.” “‘The kingdom shall not be left to other people.” Another point of contrast. It has been taught that these earthly kingdoms, with all their riches and honors, should become the prey of their despoilers. Not a kingdom or government of earthly mould but in its overthrow or conquest, has been, with all its powers, possessions and honors, regarded and appropriated as the prey of the despoilers. But not so with the God-ordained kingdom. It was not to be left as a prey to other people, but with all its riches, honors, and priceless treasures, it is to be the perpetual heritage of its own meek and lowly children. No despoiler’s hand can deprive them or their rightful heritage in this kingdom, for God, its founder, is the guardian and protector of all its possessions. But the true omission of the Kingdom of God, with reference to the earthly kingdoms, is expressed in the next clause. “But it shall break in pieces and consume all these,” Its mission then, as distinctly set forth in this prophecy, is to break in pieces, consume and destroy all the kingdoms of earth. A spirit of perpetual antagonism is here developed, between God’s Kingdom and every form of human government. “God has a controversy with the nations.” An irrepressible conflict rages between the Government of God and all the human institutions of earth, which can only cease by the complete triumph of the one and the utter annihilation of the other. God will and can accept no doubtful fealty—no divided allegiance. He reserved to Himself the right to govern man. “To Him every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess.”
The object of God then in establishing his Church or Government was to destroy all the governments and institutions of man, and through his Church, and only through it, rule and control the world. The church’s relationship to the world-powers and institutions of man must be in harmony with this—its chiefest mission. It cannot be one of alliance with and support to any of these institutions. It cannot, at one and the same time, both uphold and destroy an institution. Its first mission is to destroy all authority and power, and rule and bring the world in subjection to its great King. It is only to be remembered in this contest that the “weapons of its warfare are not carnal, but mighty, through God, to the pulling down of strongholds.” The little stone cut out of the mountain without hands was to fill the whole earth, so that no pace could be found for the image or any part of it. The Kingdom of Heaven will destroy all these earthly kingdoms and so engross the feelings, affections, time and labors of the denizens of earth, that no room or place will be found for the service of the earthly kingdoms. They are perishing. “It shall stand forever.”
The obligations and duties of the members of the Church of Christ, can in no manner conflict with this prime work and mission of the church itself. They cannot uphold what it must destroy. In doing this they war against the church, for it is through its members that the church accomplishes her work. If we thwart the workings of God’s church, we fight against God himself. But says one, “This antagonism was predicated only with reference to the kingdoms then in existence, not with reference to those which should afterwards arise.” The four kingdoms of Nebuchadnezzar’s vision are the only human kingdoms that have ever attained to universal sway. They are placed in contrast with the fifth universal kingdom—the Church of God. Evidently these strongest of all earthly kingdoms are made choice of as embracing and typifying all the institutions of human mould in their principles, workings and destiny. We doubt whether there has been brought into existence a single form or principle of government that did not find its first development and application in one of these four universal kingdoms. Indeed all the governments of earth are but the fragments and off-shoots or this last empire. What was true of the nature and destiny of this as a whole, is equally true of each of its different, dissevered parts. It is noteworthy that no two of these universal empires could exist at once in their fully developed power. As the one arose the other gradually decayed, wore away, disappeared and made room for its successor. Since the establishment of the Church of Christ, no human institution has ever made even a respectable effort to attain to universal dominion. The tendency has been to weaken the bonds that bind nations together, to disintegrate and separate. The attrition and friction of perpetual conflict and war will continue to weaken and wear out their strength and vigor, so that as the Church of Christ advances they will vanish away, and when it shall have accomplished its perfect work and attained to its full proportions, they will have been entirely destroyed. So that man owing allegiance only to God’s government, will render no divided service. His Kingdom will fill the whole earth. God will rule in and through it, and thus be all and in all.
But the prophecies of Daniel are even yet more replete with instruction upon these subjects. The dealings of these empires with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and their deliverance from the furnace, the trials of Daniel, and the closing of the Lion’s mouth, the banishing of Nebuchadnezzar from the throne, his seven years of beastly life, and the final complete destruction at once of his kingdom and all were intended to teach one clear, specific truth, that all these human kingdoms were in their very nature opposed to the rule and dominion of God, but that their highest exaltation wrought their deepest humiliation, with all their might they must come to nought. The very divisions that were to take place in this mighty iron empire—the last and strongest of earth, under the types of the heads and horns, are pointed out, their nature and work designated and the destruction of each one plainly foretold. The disposition of those was, to “speak great words against the Most High; to wear out the Saints of the Most High; to think to change times and laws;” but the end, notwithstanding, for a time this power was to be granted to them, was to be “the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion to consume and to destroy it unto the end” or to a complete destruction. “And the kingdom and dominion and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heavens shall be given to the people of the Saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and all dominions shall serve and obey him.” (February 27, 1866)