Jesus died nearly 2,000 years ago. The question naturally arises, Why the long delay before setting up his Kingdom for the blessing of all mankind? One thing is clear throughout the Bible: God has not been attempting to convert the world since Jesus’ death and resurrection.
The Scriptures speak of God dealing with only a few for a specific purpose. Christ’s followers are spoken of as a little flock. “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). God is only calling a few; a representative of every type of the human race is being called into the church of Christ.
The Greek word for church is ecclesia which literally means “called out ones.” These called out ones, the little flock, will share with Christ when he establishes his Kingdom for the blessing of all mankind. Thus Paul says, “Know you not that the saints shall judge the world?” (I Corinthians 6:2).
The Revelator discloses that the followers of Jesus will live and reign with him during his Kingdom, during the time that the benefits of Jesus’ death are bestowed upon the world of mankind (Rev. 20:4).
Jesus’ words in Mark 4:12 show that God is not presently interested in converting even the majority of mankind. “Unto you it is given to know the mystery [secret] of the Kingdom of God, but unto them that are without all these things are done in parables: that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.” This scripture might seem strange to some, but it gives us an insight into what God has been doing between the death of Jesus and the return of Jesus to set up his Kingdom upon the earth.
Have you ever wondered why the Bible is difficult to understand? By divine intent it has been written in parables, dark sayings and symbols so that it would not be easily understood. Why? So that the majority would not bother and consequently would not be converted. During the Christian Age, the Lord is only converting a few, a “little flock,” “who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory, honor and immortality”—Rom. 2:7. These are elsewhere symbolically referred to as the bride of Christ.
After Christ returns, these believers will be united with him and then the conversion of the world will begin. Revelation 22:17 prophesied of that time: “And the Spirit [the returned Christ] and the bride [the true church] say, Come. And let him that hears say, Come. And let him that thirsts come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”
This sequence of the call of the church, the establishment of the kingdom, then the blessing of the remainder of mankind is also corroborated by Acts 15:14-17. “God for the first time did visit the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name [the true church]. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, after this I will return and will build the tabernacle of David which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: that the residue [remainder] of men might seek after the Lord.…”
Note these points: A small group, “a people for His name” is first selected out of the Gentiles. Then the tabernacle of David, which was an Old Testament type or illustration of the Kingdom of Christ, is set up again. Why is the church first called? Why is the Kingdom (tabernacle of David) then set up? “That the residue [all that remain] of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles.” First a choice group is called out of the Gentile nations so that afterwards, by it the rest of the Gentiles—the vast majority—may learn to call upon God’s name.
Remember 1 Timothy 2:6, speaking of Jesus, said, “Who gave himself a ransom for all to be testified in due time.” The “due time” for the true church to learn of the ransom is now during the Christian Age, but the “due time” for the rest of mankind to understand the ransom is yet future. Mankind will be re-educated by the church.
Since the vast majority of the human race went into its graves without hearing or understanding the “ransom for all,” the Kingdom will require the raising of the dead. This is just what Jesus tells us in John 5:28.“Marvel not at this, for the hour is coming in the which all that are in their graves shall hear his voice and shall come forth; they that have done good to a resurrection of life and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of judgment” (RSV).
Note again the same pattern of sequence we have seen in other scriptures. All will be raised from the dead—first, “they that have done good.” This refers to the true church. During Christ’s return they will be raised to spiritual life and united with their heavenly Lord. Then will follow the resurrection of the “evil class,” all the remainder of men.
They will come forth to a “resurrection of judgment.” The King James Bible, translated in A.D. 1611, grossly mistranslated the word “judgment” with the word “damnation.” The American Revised Version in 1881 used the word “judgment,” and no translation since has used the word “damnation.”
The Greek word in the text is krisis and it actually denotes “a crucial testing time.” This Greek word is the source of our English word “crisis.” And it has the same meaning. A doctor might say, “The patient will reach his crisis tomorrow morning.” This does not mean that the patient will die tomorrow morning. Rather, the crisis of an illness is that period when the patient will take a turn for the better or for the worse.
The “crisis” or trial time for the church is in this present life, but the “crisis” or trial time of the remainder of mankind will be at the resurrection in the Kingdom. Billions of mankind before and after Jesus’ earthly ministry died without receiving the light of Jesus. Yet John 1:9 states that Jesus is the light that “lights every man that comes into the world.”
A further Scriptural confirmation that, for most, truth enlightenment will require an awakening from the dead. The world has yet to come to this momentous experience.
Why the Church Is Called First
Why is the true church first selected to share with Christ in the Kingdom work of blessing mankind? There are a number of reasons given in the Scriptures.
One reason can be illustrated by the noble work of Alcoholics Anonymous. An essential step of AA therapy is to assign a former alcoholic to each alcoholic that comes for help. The victim being driven by alcohol will not readily accept help or advice from just anyone. How could anyone know his agony, his depression, his desperation if he has not shared the same experience? But the alcoholic will accept help from a former alcoholic because he knows that this person can understand his agony. And this former alcoholic stands ready at any time to come to his side, to plead with him. It requires a former alcoholic to rehabilitate an alcoholic.
When mankind comes forth from the grave in Christ’s Kingdom, they will be informed they have been purchased with the precious blood of Christ and they will be made aware of the fact that they are now under the reign of Jesus Christ and his church (I Corinthians 6:2). What confidence they will have that the church will know just how to enter into their problems! Why? Because the church also were once sinners. This plan for rehabilitation will work. The majority will gladly receive the instruction, the disciplining, the nurturing necessary to pass their trial for eternal life.
The world, for whom Christ died (John 3:16), is about to embark on an Age which will realize all humanity’s deepest longings (Rom. 8:20, 22; Isa. 25:9).