The End of This Age and the Kingdom
The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation, CFP white covers only, 151-160, by Watchman Nee
We firmly believe that in our day we are nearing the end of this age. Moreover, we are aware of the fact that following this age of the church there is to be the age of the kingdom. The eyes of God have already turned towards the kingdom, which is increasingly receiving His attention. For if our understanding is correct we strongly believe that what God is anxious to bring in, according to His eternal will, is the kingdom. God’s call upon the church is for the sake of the kingdom.
When the servant of the Lord catches a vision of the place the kingdom has in the predestinated will of God, how he then yearns for the soon coming of the kingdom. How he longs for all the children of God to cooperate with the Lord in hastening the arrival of the kingdom. The Bible verse which is especially impressed upon that servant’s heart is more than likely Matthew 24.14, which says: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony unto all the nations; and then shall the end come.”
Here we may discern the relationship between the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom and the coming of the end. Unquestionably this verse is difficult to be understood clearly. In fact, in the past this verse has become an issue causing much contention among God’s children. We ourselves have no intention to join in the arguments, for no matter how one may interpret this passage, it will not bring in a unanimous opinion among His people. We simply wish to present the light on this verse which we have received.
“The end of the age” (see Matt. 24.3 mg.) is a phrase which naturally points to the end of this age. According to a strict interpretation of prophecy, this phrase refers to “the hour of trial” (Rev. 3.10)—the latter also being understood as constituting the short period known as “the Great Tribulation” that will conclude the age in which we now live. Our age is variously termed the age of the Holy Spirit, the age of the church, the dispensation of grace, or the dispensation of the gospel. This age, which bears all these different titles, shall be terminated with the coming of “the end” or the Great Tribulation.
Now we must clearly recognize that the church is responsible to work with God in bringing in the kingdom, as Matthew 24.14 confirms. And in understanding that the kingdom of God can only appear publicly after the end of this age, the church cannot but be interested in the end itself. For though the end of this age has nothing to do with the church herself, it has much to do with the work of the church.
For this reason, the Lord Jesus tells us in Matthew 24.14 that the gospel of the kingdom must first be preached and then the kingdom of the heavens shall come. Here our Lord prophesies concerning the phenomena which shall occur at the approaching end of this age and the soon coming of the kingdom of the heavens. He in addition sets forth the condition for there to be the closing of this age and the introduction of the kingdom. So that from this verse in Matthew we see that for this age to be terminated, the children of God must bear witness to the gospel of the kingdom anew. At the time of the end of this age, we shall truly witness a revival of the gospel of the kingdom.
During the last several decades there seems to have been a gradual recovering of the teaching of the kingdom. Especially in the past few years the Lord has been turning the eyes of His children in China more towards this matter of the kingdom of God. This is indeed a very healthy sign.
But what is the kingdom of God? What is the gospel of the kingdom of the heavens? What is commonly understood is that the kingdom is the age when Christ and the church shall reign. Actually, it is much more than this.
Many try to differentiate between the gospel of the kingdom and the gospel of grace. This is really not necessary. If those in our audience insist on distinguishing them, then may we say that the gospel of grace deals principally with blessing while the gospel of the kingdom is especially directed against the demonic oppression of Satan.
Nowadays there are so many concepts about the kingdom, but let us hear what the Lord Jesus has to say: “If I by the Spirit of God cast out demons, then is the kingdom of God come upon you” (Matt. 12.28). No doubt the kingdom means many things, but what the Lord mentions here may be deemed the most important meaning.
The kingdom is in direct opposition to Hades. The Lord Jesus declares that the kingdom is the casting out of demons—that is to say, that by the energy of the Spirit of God there is the casting out of demons. This is an accurate explanation of the kingdom. There is one basic lack to be found in today’s Bible commentaries, in that their authors usually forget about Hades. The church in its position, work, thought, and speech has generally forgotten her enemy Satan. Know we not that God has chosen the church to resist Satan and to bring in His kingdom? For let us take note that the very first time the New Testament mentions the church it also mentions Hades (see Matt. 16).
We all know that the duration of the age of the kingdom is one thousand years. But what is the connection between this thousand years and Satan? In the opening verses of Revelation 20 we are told that this will be the time when Satan himself shall be chained in the abyss. This is the most shameful time for him.
“Know ye not that we shall judge angels?” (1 Cor. 6.3a) Now only those who have sinned need to be judged, and therefore we see from this verse that the future for the church will include the judging of the sinful angels. These sinful angels rebelled, along with Satan, against God. They are the principalities and powers of today (cf. Eph. 6.12, Col. 2.15), the princes mentioned in Daniel (10.13,20). And God says that we shall judge them. But when? At the time when Christ shall come again to set up His kingdom.
This then is the kingdom—the time when Satan is bound in the abyss. It is the time when all the principalities and powers shall be judged. Oh, the powers of Hades are to be destroyed in the kingdom time! And the beast as the son to Satan, and the spirit who is the false prophet, shall be cast into the lake of fire. Moreover, other countless evil spirits shall be driven away from the world and imprisoned. Satan himself shall be put to shame openly and pass a thousand years of life in darkness in the abyss. It is the time when he and his entire household of evil shall be completely defeated and destroyed. During this same period, the children of God are to be vindicated and the battle of the cross of Christ is to gain complete victory. This is the time when the purpose of God purposed from the ages against Satan finds its complete fulfillment. And what is prophesied in Isaiah 14 (verses 12-20), which is a veiled reference to Satan, is then totally realized. In the kingdom age, Satan shall have no influence at all.
Consequently, the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom of the heavens is nothing less than to declare that God who rules in heaven today shall tomorrow rule the earth by casting out completely the prince of today’s world with all his followers and evil spirits so that the new man (Christ and His church) shall reign instead.
The gospel of the kingdom of the heavens is thus directed against the powers of darkness. So that when the Lord Jesus first proclaimed this gospel, all His works dealt with the powers of darkness: “To this end was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3.8). He both healed the sick and cast out demons. Now it is quite obvious to us that casting out demons is a work that destroys the kingdom of darkness. But how about the healing of the sick? The apostle Peter provides us with an explanation when, in describing Jesus’ earthly ministry, he noted that our Lord went about “healing all that were oppressed of the devil” (Acts 10.38). If we read the Gospels carefully we shall observe that the entire earthly life of our Lord Jesus was set to destroy the work of the devil. Consequently, His work on earth had far greater effect on demons than on men.
Now the Lord Jesus tells us that at the end of this age His children will rise up to bear a similar testimony. We must thank the Lord for the fact that in very recent years not a few among the children of God have been raised up to battle with Satan. Spiritual warfare in the lives of many believers has become a reality, it no longer being merely a matter of terminology.
In order for the kingdom of God to come, in order for God’s sovereignty to be manifested in the world and for Satan and his powers to be cast out, we must stand up to bear witness concerning the gospel of the kingdom of the heavens. In other words, we ought to testify to the victory of the cross of Christ. We should declare that Christ has already judged the prince of this world, that He has gained a total victory, and that the kingdom and glory and power are now entirely His. For Satan has no place in this age; he is merely usurping this time. Everyone who has received the Lord Jesus has been delivered from the power of darkness and been transferred to the kingdom of the Son of God’s love (Col. 1.13). We must proclaim the gospel of the kingdom of the heavens—which is the gospel of the casting out of demons, the gospel of announcing the defeat of Satan and the destruction of Hades. And such testimony will bring this age to its end.
Admittedly, this age is the church age, for the church had her commencement in this age. At the same time, however, let us be aware that the Bible equally calls this age “an evil and adulterous generation” (Matt. 12.39), a “faithless and perverse generation” (Matt. 17.17), and “a crooked and perverse generation” (Phil. 2.15). The purpose of God is to bring such a generation and age to an end. He is pleased to see that the end of this age is coming soon so that His kingdom may be ushered in. But the children of God have their duty to perform. They should work together with God to bring this age to its end. Prayer is one of the ways, but testimony is also required. Let us all stand up for the “majesty” of the Lord Jesus as never before. Let us testify to His “government” more than ever. Although the kingdom of the Antichrist must precede the kingdom of Christ, nevertheless we must testify to the kingdom of Christ before the coming of the kingdom of the Antichrist. We need to bring this age to its end.
Naturally this is not a new gospel, it is only that aspect of the one gospel which has for far too long been neglected by the church. Yet all the apostles had proclaimed this aspect of the gospel. Both Acts 14.22 and 28.23 bear witness to this fact: “Confirming the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God”—“And when they had appointed him a day, they came to him into his lodging in great number; to whom he expounded the matter, testifying the kingdom of God, and persuading them concerning Jesus, both from the law of Moses and from the prophets, from morning till evening.” Furthermore, after His resurrection the Lord Jesus himself spoke to His disciples the things concerning the kingdom of God (Acts 1.3). If we want to continue the work of the apostles we must testify to what they testified. How greatly the church has forgotten the victory, the authority, and the throne of Christ. Whoever dares to testify that “Christ alone is King; Satan is not” is really preaching the gospel of the kingdom of the heavens.
Let us not be people who are behind the times. Today there is but one gospel that is relevant to our times—namely, the gospel of the kingdom of Christ. By this we are not suggesting that we should preach nothing else; we only wish to underline the fact that God desires us to pay special attention to this aspect of the gospel. We must rise up and affirm what God has determined for this age. What He is interested in at the end of this age is the victory of His Son and the exile of Satan. If we are not of one mind with God on this matter, that is to say, if we do not pay attention to what He is now attending to, we will not accomplish the eternal will of God no matter what great work we may do. How far away we are from God’s best if that be the case.
Today’s need is for Christians who know the time. God is looking for a people who sympathize with Him and work with Him in concluding this age and ushering in the next. If Christians view as their greatest responsibility on earth the saving of people for their souls, then they have failed to accomplish the highest will of God. They ought to realize that they have a responsibility even greater than the saving of souls: that they are to bring this age to an end and bring in the kingdom of God. Their highest responsibility is to witness the destruction of God’s archenemy Satan and all his powers of darkness. They ought to view this as the chief objective of all their works. Prayer is not just to pray, but to hurt Satan. Saving souls is not merely to save people, but to damage Satan in the process. Please do not misunderstand here. We do not demean the work of evangelism, for the saving of men and women is a most glorious task which we should never despise; but in the work of saving souls let us not lose sight of the kingdom. We will become most effective workers in the Lord’s hand if we always keep in view the kingdom of God and the things regarding the determinate counsel of God and the settled destiny of God’s enemy.
Why will it be that after the Lord’s children testify to the kingdom of the heavens the end shall arrive? Here we may perceive again the working together of God and men. God desires the end to come. Yet if His children fail to work with Him in opposing this age and in desiring His kingdom to come, He will postpone the kingdom’s arrival. But when God’s children really abhor the sickening phenomena of this closing age and pray for its quick demise as well as pray for the kingdom, He will rise up and work. Whenever God’s children rise up to bear the testimony of the kingdom of the heavens—which means they want what He wants and they hate what He hates at that time—their will is joined to the will of God. And this enables the Lord to rise up and work.
Let us never assume that the end will arrive automatically. No, if we do not desire God’s will, His will shall be hindered. Hence God is waiting patiently today, seeking for those who are of one mind with Him and are willing to work together with Him in bringing in the end of this age. Who among us is willing to do this great work? Who among us is willing to pay the cost?