"Rod of Iron": A User's Guide

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"Rod of Iron"

A User's Guide

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Many of Christ's followers are familiar with the scriptures that reveal their destiny to have rulership over this world. In Revelation 5:10 Christians are described as being made "kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth."

The prophecies of Daniel describe the time when "the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High" (Daniel 7:27). Jesus indicated to His disciples in the parable of the pounds that some are to have rule over 10 cities, some five, etc. (Luke 19:17-19).

One of the most dramatic scriptures, however, is that found in the message to the Thyatiran church. "And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations—'He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter's vessels'—as I also have received from My Father" (Revelation 2:26-27, emphasis added).

Is the Kingdom of God to be a time when those still living out physical lives on the earth will be kept in subjection by a divine dictatorship? First notice an interesting point from the Greek text. The verb translated "rule" in Revelation 2:27 is poimanei, derived from the word for a shepherd (poimen). It is the same word used by the apostle Paul in Acts 20:28 to describe the care that overseers are to show toward the Church of God.

The Concordant Literal Translation renders Revelation 2:27 as: "He shall shepherd them with an iron club." The rod or club carried by a shepherd was, of course, primarily for the protection of his sheep, not to frighten or punish them.

In Zechariah 14:16 we read that God will issue an edict commanding all nations to send representatives to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. What if a nation refuses to heed the command? Is such disobedience conceivable or even possible in a world of immortal saints each armed with an iron rod? The answer may be surprising.

"And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, on them there will be no rain" (Zechariah 14:17). There will be a response from Jesus Christ and His saints to this stubbornness, but it will be a measured and merciful response that will allow time for carnal attitudes to change.

Jesus Christ is a kind, loving, patient God who reveals Himself in these terms: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:20, Revised Standard Version).

He has no desire to smash the door down and force His will on us, even though He has that power. He prefers us to willingly open the door and welcome Him into our lives. He wants the obedience that comes from our love and gratitude for what He has done for us, and from our unshakable conviction that He knows what is best for us, not from the fear of punishment if we do not obey. And He wants just the same from all the billions on the face of this earth.

Although the Kingdom of God will certainly have to be ushered in with a terrifying show of divine power, this is not how God intends to rule the earth for the next thousand years. In the Millennium, the new world leader, Jesus Christ, "will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young" (Isaiah 40:11).

He says of the people living at that time: "I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild beasts from the land, so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods... They shall dwell securely, and none shall make them afraid" (Ezekiel 34:25-28, RSV).

If God just needed people to wield iron rods, He would have no need of His saints. There is no shortage of thugs and bullies—people accustomed to dominating and terrorizing others—who would qualify for that job.

What He needs are those who have spent their lives developing the character of Jesus Christ—those who can be trusted to exercise great power with love and mercy as well as firmness and justice.

The "rod of iron" will come with a warning label: "Use only as directed by the Holy Spirit."