A Mustard Tree
IN Evil, Too, Has a Name, I wrote that the goal of Satan is to collapse civilization into his hands, into a structure and system rightly called “a beast.” This is what St. John the Evangelist described in a vision he received where this beast causes “all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave” to be forced into a system whereby they cannot buy or sell anything without a “mark” (Rev 13:16-17). The prophet Daniel also saw a vision of this beast similar to St. John’s (Dan 7:-8) and interpreted a dream of King Nebuchadnezzar in which this beast was seen as a statue made up of different materials, symbolic of different kings who form alliances. The context for all of these dreams and visions, while having dimensions of fulfillment in the prophet’s own time, is also for the future:
Understand, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end. (Dan 8:17)
A time when, after the beast is destroyed, God will establish His spiritual Kingdom to the ends of the earth.
While you looked at the statue, a stone which was hewn from a mountain without a hand being put to it, struck its iron and tile feet, breaking them in pieces… In the lifetime of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed or delivered up to another people; rather, it shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and put an end to them, and it shall stand forever. That is the meaning of the stone you saw hewn from the mountain without a hand being put to it, which broke in pieces the tile, iron, bronze, silver, and gold. (Dan 2:34, 44-45)
Both Daniel and St. John elucidate further on the identity of this beast as a conglomeration of ten kings, which is then divided when another king rises out of them. Several Church Fathers have understood this solitary king to be the Antichrist who emerges from a reformed Roman Empire.
“The Beast”, that is, the Roman empire. —Venerable John Henry Newman, Advent Sermons on Antichrist, Sermon III, The Religion of Antichrist
But again, this beast is defeated…
…his dominion shall be taken away… (Dan 7:26)
…and given to the saints of God:
Then the kingship and dominion and majesty of all the kingdoms under the heavens shall be given to the holy people of the Most High, whose kingdom shall be everlasting: all dominions shall serve and obey him… I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, and who had not worshiped the beast or its image nor had accepted its mark on their foreheads or hands. They came to life and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years. (Dan 7:27; Rev 20:4)
However, if we understand the Early Church Fathers correctly, the vision of these prophets pertains not to the everlasting Kingdom at the end of the world, but to a dominion within time and history, a Kingdom reigning universally in the hearts of men:
We do confess that a kingdom is promised to us upon the earth, although before heaven, only in another state of existence; inasmuch as it will be after the resurrection for a thousand years in the divinely-built city of Jerusalem… —Tertullian (155–240 A.D.), Nicene Church Father; Adversus Marcion, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Henrickson Publishers, 1995, Vol. 3, pp. 342-343)
A man among us named John, one of Christ’s Apostles, received and foretold that the followers of Christ would dwell in Jerusalem for a thousand years, and that afterwards the universal and, in short, everlasting resurrection and judgment would take place. —St. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Ch. 81, The Fathers of the Church, Christian Heritage
THE BLOSSOMING KINGDOM
Through Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven, His Kingdom was inaugurated:
Being seated at the Father’s right hand signifies the inauguration of the Messiah’s kingdom, the fulfillment of the prophet Daniel’s vision concerning the Son of man: “To him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (cf. Dan 7:14). After this event the apostles became witnesses of the “kingdom [that] will have no end”. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 644
And yet, Christ taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven…” That is, the Kingdom has been inaugurated, but not yet fully established throughout the earth. Jesus explains this in parables whereby He compares the Kingdom to a seed planted in the ground, which does not spring up instantly:
…first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. (Mark 4:28)
To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade. (Mark 4:30-32)
HEAD AND BODY
Daniel 7:14 says there came one “like a son of man… to him was given dominion.” This was fulfilled in Christ. But then, in seeming contradiction, Daniel 7:27 says that this dominion was given to “the holy people” or “saints.”
The dignity of all mankind is restored through this son of man’s triumph over the beasts. This figure, as we will discover later, stands for “the people of the saints of the Most High” (7:27), that is, faithful Israel. —The Navarre Bible Texts and Commentaries, The Major Prophets, footnote p. 843
This is not a contradiction in the least. Christ reigns in Heaven, but we are His Body. What the Father bestows upon the Head, He bestows also upon the Body. The Head and the Body form the whole “son of man.” Just as we complete what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ (Col 1:24), so too, we share in the triumph of Christ. He will be our judge, and yet, we will also judge with him (Rev 3:21). Thus, the Body of Christ shares in the establishment of the Kingdom of God to the ends of the earth.
This gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come. (Matt 24:14)
The Catholic Church, which is the kingdom of Christ on earth, [is] destined to be spread among all men and all nations… —POPE PIUS XI, Quas Primas, Encyclical, n. 12, Dec. 11th, 1925
Jesus reminded His Apostles that His Kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36). So how do we understand the coming dominion of the Church during a “thousand year” reign, or Era of Peace as it is more frequently called? It is a spiritual reign in which all nations will obey the Gospel.
Those who on the strength of this passage [Rev 20:1-6], have suspected that the first resurrection is future and bodily, have been moved, among other things, specially by the number of a thousand years, as if it were a fit thing that the saints should thus enjoy a kind of Sabbath-rest during that period, a holy leisure after the labors of six thousand years since man was created… (and) there should follow on the completion of six thousand years, as of six days, a kind of seventh-day Sabbath in the succeeding thousand years… And this opinion would not be objectionable, if it were believed that the joys of the saints, in that Sabbath, shall be spiritual, and consequent on the presence of God… —St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 A.D.; Church Doctor), De Civitate Dei, Bk. XX, Ch. 7, Catholic University of America Press
It is a spiritual era in which the Divine Will of God will reign “on earth as it is in Heaven.”
Here it is foretold that his kingdom will have no limits, and will be enriched with justice and peace: “in his days shall justice spring up, and abundance of peace…And he shall rule from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth”… When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony… for with the spread and the universal extent of the kingdom of Christ men will become more and more conscious of the link that binds them together, and thus many conflicts will be either prevented entirely or at least their bitterness will be diminished. —POPE PIUS XI, Quas Primas, n. 8, 19; Dec. 11th, 1925
…then at length will many evils be cured; then will the law regain its former authority; peace with all its blessings be restored. Men will sheathe their swords and lay down their arms when all freely acknowledge and obey the authority of Christ, and every tongue confesses that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father. —POPE LEO XIII, Annum Sanctum, May 25th, 1899
Pius XI and Leo XIII, speaking in the name of all their predecessors since St. Peter, present a vision long prophesied in Sacred Scripture, promised by Christ, and echoed among the Church Fathers: that a purified Church will one day enjoy a temporal reign of peace and harmony throughout the entire world in…
...the vastness of the regions which have yet to be subjected to the sweet and saving yoke of our King. —POPE PIUS XI, Quas Primas, n. 3; Dec. 11th, 1925
While it will be “a Kingdom that shall never be destroyed or delivered up to another people,” it again is “not of this world”—not a political kingdom. And since it is a reign within the boundaries of time, and men’s freedom to choose evil will remain, it is a period in which its influence, but not its essence, will come to an end.
When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison. He will go out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth… (Rev 20-7-8)
This final upheaval will occur only after the Era has served its primary purpose: to bring the Gospel to the very ends of the earth. Then, and only then, will the everlasting and permanent Kingdom of God reign in a New Heavens and a New Earth.
The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God’s victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven. God’s triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world. —CCC, 677
- Writings dealing with the heresy of Millenarianism.
- The Coming Era of Peace-Part II: Wedding Preparations
- The Coming Era of Peace-Part III: The Naked Baglady
- For an examination of the Era of Peace that summarizes all Mark’s writings in one resource, with supportive quotes from the Catechism, Popes, and Church Fathers, see Mark’s book The Final Confrontation.