“Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. … When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations” (Matthew 25:13, 31-32)
One aspect of that coming kingdom is the rule by a rod of iron.
“Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel” (Ps. 2:9).
“And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father” (Re. 2:27).
“And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne” (Re. 12:5).
“And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Re. 19:15).
The rule by a rod of iron means that Jesus Christ will be King of kings and Lord of lords over the whole earth and over every nation and over every individual and over every aspect of society. His righteous law will be the law of the world (Isa. 2:3; Mic. 4:2). It will be absolute, unchangeable, unappealable, and it will be enforced throughout the earth with whatever force Christ deems fit through whatever punishments He wills. Disobedience and rebellion will not be overlooked.
The rule by a rod of iron means that Christ will appoint judges and governors throughout the earth to exercise His authority. See Ps. 45:16; 122:5; 149:5-9; Isa. 1:26; Jer. 30:21; Da. 7:22, 27; Mt. 19:28-30; Lu. 22:28-30; Re. 2:26-27; 3:21; 20:4. Saints rather than sinners will sit on the throne of judgment, and they will exercise the authority that will flow from Christ’s throne in Jerusalem. They will be “as a young lion among the flocks of sheep” (Mic. 5:8), meaning that the nations will no more be able to resist Christ’s representatives than sheep can resist a lion. The Lord’s judges will have the authority to do whatever is necessary to bring society into conformity to God’s will. Today, saints are grieved by the wickedness and idolatry and error that surround them, but they have no authority to destroy these things structurally. In the church age, God’s people can’t break idols and bulldoze false churches, tear up unrighteous constitutions and punish heretics and lawbreakers. But things will be different when Christ rules.
In Christ’s kingdom, true justice will prevail. There is a statue of Blind Justice outside of the Albert Bryan Federal Courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia, that signifies true justice. The woman is holding scales to signify the weighing of evidence righteously before the law. She is blindfolded to signify equality before the law. She does not see who is standing before her and therefore does not show favoritism. She is in a posture of running, signifying that she is hastening to do justice. Below the statue are the words “Justice delayed is justice denied.” Equality, righteousness, and swiftness of justice are not found in America today, or anywhere else in this present world, but this will characterize the justice system in Christ’s kingdom. “And in mercy shall the throne be established: and he shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging, and seeking judgment, and hasting righteousness” (Isa. 16:5).
Rule by a rod of iron is the opposite of people’s rule. Christ’s kingdom will be a theocracy. The Son of God will sit on the throne of the world and hold complete and absolute authority. Today is the age of people’s rights, the age of democracy, an age in which every man does that which is right in his own eyes. It is an age of great personal liberty, but it is not a godly age. It is a fulfillment of end-time apostasy with its “me-first” philosophy. “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves ...” (2 Ti. 3:1-2). A democracy, whether a republic or a parliamentary system, deteriorates into mob rule, lawlessness, and tyranny. Man was not made to rule himself; he was made to be ruled by his all-wise Creator, as 6,000 years of human history have demonstrated; and in Christ’s kingdom this will be fulfilled.
The rule by a rod of iron means that evildoers will be destroyed from the earth. “Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. ... For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be. ... But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away” (Ps. 37:1-2, 9-10, 20). “But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it” (Pr. 2:22). “I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed” (Isa. 45:23-24). “For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted” (Isa. 60:12). In Christ’s kingdom, all scorners and all that “watch for iniquity” will be cut off. “For the terrible one is brought to nought, and the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are cut off: That make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of nought” (Isa. 29:20-21). Wickedness will be sought for and rooted out, and the wicked will be rendered powerless. “Break thou the arm of the wicked and the evil man: seek out his wickedness till thou find none. The LORD is King for ever and ever: the heathen are perished out of his land. LORD, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear: To judge the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may no more oppress” (Ps. 10:15-18).
The rule by a rod of iron means the world will be ruled by a righteous king. In that day will the wise Proverbs be fulfilled in perfection. “A divine sentence is in the lips of the king: his mouth transgresseth not in judgment” (Pr. 16:10). “A king that sitteth in the throne of judgment scattereth away all evil with his eyes” (Pr. 20:8). “A wise king scattereth the wicked, and bringeth the wheel over them” (Pr. 20:26).
The rule by the rod of iron means that rulers will do what God has always intended that they do, which is to enforce His holy laws and punish evil doers. “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (Ro. 13:1-4). “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well” (1 Pe. 2:13-14).
Rule by a rod of iron means corruption will not be allowed anywhere in the legal system. There will be no officials taking bribes, no tricky lawyers twisting the law and overturning justice through “technicalities,” no judges confusing humanistic pity with justice, no authorities secretly on the side of wrong. There will be no foolishness, such as prisoners suing their victims. There will be no frivolous lawsuits such as suing over spilt hot coffee. There will be no “insanity” defense for people who commit crimes while drunk or high on drugs. There will be no deluded psychotherapists used as scientific “experts.”
The rule by a rod of iron means that unrighteousness will be punished swiftly. Ecclesiastes 8:11 says, “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” It will not be so in the Millennium. In Christ’s kingdom, evil and corruption will be judged quickly and with perfect justice. See Leviticus 24:11-23 for the case of the blasphemer. See also Numbers 16 for the case of Korah and Joshua 7 for the case of Achan.
Rule by a rod of iron does not mean merciless rule. There will be a large place in God’s righteous kingdom for repentance and mercy, as this is a foundational essence of God’s throne which is established on the atonement that Christ made at Calvary. “Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face” (Ps. 89:14). “And in mercy shall the throne be established: and he shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging, and seeking judgment, and hasting righteousness” (Isa. 16:5). The King of the world will be the same Christ who said to the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (Joh. 8:11). He did not forgive her so that she could continue in her wickedness, but He forgave her so that she would be changed and would be a testimony of His grace. He can forgive the repentant sinner because He paid the price for our crimes.
The rule by the rod of iron is described in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. Many things described therein have never been fulfilled on earth but will be fulfilled during the Millennium. Consider Matthew 5:21-22, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” A person who is angry at someone without a just cause will be in danger of the judgment. This probably refers to punishment administered by local authorities. If a person calls another “Raca,” he will be in danger of the council, which probably refers to a higher level of magistrate. “Raca” is a term that literally means “O empty or worthless one.” It is a term of “utter vilification” (Strong). If, on the other hand, a person calls someone a fool, he will be in danger of hell fire. It is not simply the use of the word “fool” itself that encompasses this great sin, but the use of the word “fool” as an expression of maliciousness. It is the verbal expression of a hating heart. Christ Himself called men fools on occasion (Mt. 23:17, 19; Lu. 11:40; 24:25), and the apostle Paul called certain ones fools who were questioning the bodily resurrection (1 Co. 15:36). The point is that during Christ’s earthly Millennial reign even sinful actions that are deemed relatively harmless in this present time will be dealt with firmly, even severely. It appears that there will be the potential, even, for rebels to be cast into hell fire during the Millennium because of their sinful actions. That is indeed rule by “a rod of iron.” Note that Jesus does not say that a person who does these things “shall be” judged but that he is “in danger of” being judged. There will be a place in God’s righteous kingdom for genuine repentance and mercy. Consider Matthew 5:25-26, “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.” Again, this has never been fulfilled in any context on earth. It was not fulfilled in Israel during Christ’s day and it is not fulfilled in the church age. New Testament churches have no authority to imprison anyone. These verses look ahead to conditions that will exist during Christ’s Millennial kingdom. If an individual does not quickly reconcile with an adversary over an unpaid debt or some other duty, he will be put into prison until the obligation is entirely satisfied. This is rule with a “rod of iron.” In Matthew 5:23-24 and 7:12, Jesus gets to the heart of the matter. “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift,” and, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” In Christ’s kingdom, men are to love one another and maintain good relationships. If a problem arises between individuals, it will not be ignored and allowed to fester. It will be dealt with. The first gift that God wants is the gift of love between brethren.
The rule by a rod of iron means that the law of God will be enforced without interference of human sentimentality. Parents will put their own children to death for preaching lies and rebellion against the Lord. “And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the LORD: and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth” (Zec. 13:3).
The rule by a rod of iron is foreviewed by the covenant that Israel made with God in the days of Asa. “And he gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and the strangers with them out of Ephraim and Manasseh, and out of Simeon: for they fell to him out of Israel in abundance, when they saw that the LORD his God was with him. So they gathered themselves together at Jerusalem in the third month, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa. And they offered unto the LORD the same time, of the spoil which they had brought, seven hundred oxen and seven thousand sheep. And they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul; That whosoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. And they sware unto the LORD with a loud voice, and with shouting, and with trumpets, and with cornets. And all Judah rejoiced at the oath: for they had sworn with all their heart, and sought him with their whole desire; and he was found of them: and the LORD gave them rest round about” (2 Ch. 15:9-15). This is a little glimpse of what will occur when Israel repents and submits to Christ at His return. Note that whosoever would not seek the Lord would be put to death. That is the rod of iron.
Rule by a rod of iron is foreviewed by the covenant that King Josiah made. “And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the door, to bring forth out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them unto Bethel. And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven. And he brought out the grove from the house of the LORD, without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and stamped it small to powder, and cast the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people. And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the grove. And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had burned incense, from Geba to Beersheba, and brake down the high places of the gates that were in the entering in of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on a man's left hand at the gate of the city. Nevertheless the priests of the high places came not up to the altar of the LORD in Jerusalem, but they did eat of the unleavened bread among their brethren. And he defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech. And he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entering in of the house of the LORD, by the chamber of Nathanmelech the chamberlain, which was in the suburbs, and burned the chariots of the sun with fire. And the altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars which Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the LORD, did the king beat down, and brake them down from thence, and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron. And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had builded for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the children of Ammon, did the king defile. And he brake in pieces the images, and cut down the groves, and filled their places with the bones of men. Moreover the altar that was at Bethel, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he brake down, and burned the high place, and stamped it small to powder, and burned the grove. And as Josiah turned himself, he spied the sepulchres that were there in the mount, and sent, and took the bones out of the sepulchres, and burned them upon the altar, and polluted it, according to the word of the LORD which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words. Then he said, What title is that that I see? And the men of the city told him, It is the sepulchre of the man of God, which came from Judah, and proclaimed these things that thou hast done against the altar of Bethel. And he said, Let him alone; let no man move his bones. So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet that came out of Samaria. And all the houses also of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, which the kings of Israel had made to provoke the LORD to anger, Josiah took away, and did to them according to all the acts that he had done in Bethel. And he slew all the priests of the high places that were there upon the altars, and burned men's bones upon them, and returned to Jerusalem. And the king commanded all the people, saying, Keep the passover unto the LORD your God, as it is written in the book of this covenant. Surely there was not holden such a passover from the days of the judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judah; But in the eighteenth year of king Josiah, wherein this passover was holden to the LORD in Jerusalem. Moreover the workers with familiar spirits, and the wizards, and the images, and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, did Josiah put away, that he might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the LORD. And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him” (2 Ki. 23:4-25).
The rule by a rod of iron is foreviewed by the laws issued by the Persian kings in the context of the building of the Second Temple. Darius ordered Israel’s enemies to stop hindering the building of the temple, and he warned them as follows: “Also I have made a decree, that whosoever shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be hanged thereon; and let his house be made a dunghill for this. And the God that hath caused his name to dwell there destroy all kings and people, that shall put to their hand to alter and to destroy this house of God which is at Jerusalem. I Darius have made a decree; let it be done with speed” (Ezr. 6:11-12). In Ezra 7, a similar commandment was given by the Persian king Artaxerxes. “And thou, Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God, that is in thine hand, set magistrates and judges, which may judge all the people that are beyond the river, all such as know the laws of thy God; and teach ye them that know them not. And whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment” (Ezr. 7:25-26). That is how it will be in Christ’s kingdom. His governors will have the authority to do whatever is necessary to enforce Christ’s laws, and they will have all necessary wisdom by God’s Spirit. There will be no waiting for appeals to a “higher authority,” no manipulation of the legal system, no possibility of justice being corrupted by bribes and favoritism, no sympathy with rebellion, no psychological excuses for sin. Rebels will be judged, and they will be judged effectually.
The rule by a rod of iron is foreviewed by Nehemiah’s rule when God gave him authority to lead Israel in the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. For example, some of the Jews were making a profit from their brethren, charging usury, even taking the children of their brethren as slaves (Neh. 5:1-5). When Nehemiah heard this, he was angry and reproached the guilty parties publicly before a large congregation and demanded that they stop this sin (Neh. 5:6-11). When they agreed, Nehemiah didn’t stop there; he warned them that if they didn’t obey, they would suffer serious consequences. “Then said they, We will restore them, and will require nothing of them; so will we do as thou sayest. Then I called the priests, and took an oath of them, that they should do according to this promise. Also I shook my lap, and said, So God shake out every man from his house, and from his labour, that performeth not this promise, even thus be he shaken out, and emptied. And all the congregation said, Amen, and praised the LORD. And the people did according to this promise” (Neh. 5:12-13). This is rule by a rod of iron. On another occasion, some of the Jews were buying and selling on the sabbath and merchants from Tyre were bringing their wares into the city for sale on the sabbath. Nehemiah reproved the Jews and ordered the city gates to be shut on Friday evening at the beginning of the sabbath (Neh. 13:15-18), and when some of the merchants camped outside the gates, still looking for an opportunity to sell their wares in defiance of the order, Nehemiah warned them that if they did not leave he would lay hands on them. “And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the sabbath: and some of my servants set I at the gates, that there should no burden be brought in on the sabbath day. So the merchants and sellers of all kind of ware lodged without Jerusalem once or twice. Then I testified against them, and said unto them, Why lodge ye about the wall? if ye do so again, I will lay hands on you. From that time forth came they no more on the sabbath” (Neh. 13:19-21). This is the type of authority that Christ’s governors will have in His kingdom, and it is how they will act against sin. There will be no hesitation, no delays, no messing around, no pulling the punches because of fear of man, no getting around the law because you are “somebody” or because you know “somebody.”
The rule by a rod of iron is seen in the example of Job. Job describes how that he sat in the gate as a judge and delivered the poor and widows and fatherless from oppressors. He ruled in righteousness, which means he ruled according to God’s law. He assisted the blind and lame. He punished the wicked and recovered the spoils from the thieves. He gave good instruction and counsel to the people and comforted the mourners. “When I went out to the gate through the city, when I prepared my seat in the street! The young men saw me, and hid themselves: and the aged arose, and stood up. The princes refrained talking, and laid their hand on their mouth. The nobles held their peace, and their tongue cleaved to the roof of their mouth. When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me: Because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me: and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me: my judgment was as a robe and a diadem. I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out. And I broke the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth. ... Unto me men gave ear, and waited, and kept silence at my counsel. After my words they spoke not again and my speech dropped upon them. And they waited for me as for the rain; and they opened their mouth wide as for the latter rain. If I laughed on them, they believed it not; and the light of my countenance they cast not down. I chose out their way, and sat chief, and dwelt as a king in the army, as one that comforteth the mourners” (Job 29:7-17, 21-25).
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