That the Messiah would have His own government was a belief with which every good Jew was enthralled from nearly the beginning of the Torah. It’s no wonder why. The Hebrew nation began after a couple of hundred years of slavery. After that, they were subjugated by nearly every wandering tribe, city-state, and empire. After one and a half millennia, it would be nice to be on top for once. The Messiah’s government promised to grant just that.
“There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over His Kingdom…” (Isa. 9:7). “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever” (Dan. 2:44). These prophecies and many more promised that God’s people would never be on the bottom again. Imagine the shock and anger, then, when Jesus the widely favored Messiah came and said that He was going to die instead. “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die. The crowd then answered Him, “We have heard out of the Law that the Christ is to remain forever; and how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?”
Who indeed. The people did not understand the role of the Messiah and His government. But it wasn’t for Jesus not trying. He told everyone that His kingdom was not an earthly one (John 18:33-37). If it was, we could extrapolate that it would have a standing army, strict immigration laws, and so forth. It doesn’t work that way. On earth, God’s people are always going to be on the bottom; the offscouring of all things (1 Cor. 4:13, 2 Tim. 3:12). It was not His design that there would be a physical Christian nation (Jer. 22:30).
At this point, many will say “But government is a minister of God to do good and not evil (Rom. 13:1-7), and that means that God wants a physical Christian nation.” What is true is that God wants all people to do the right thing and be converted (1 Tim. 2:1-7), but Paul said those things of his current (“is”, not will be) government as well as any other. Nero the Christian killer, of course, was the minister of which he spoke to his Roman audience. It also fails to take into account that all governments are established by God, including the Babylonians (Jer. 27:6), the Assyrians, the Greeks, Persians, Romans, Third Reich, USSR, USA, and so many others (Rom. 13:1). Whether it looks like it or not.
Isn’t it a blessing then, that we are not expected to aspire to power (1 Thess. 4:11-12) or to anticipate some future national victory? We already serve the King of kings in His undying, otherworldly Kingdom (Rev. 11:15-18, Col. 1:13 14).