In Federalist no. 51 James Madison wrote, “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature. If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” Madison is right, in part, to note that in a fallen world government must reckon with the reality of fallen human natures. Madison goes on to say, “In forming a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
But is Madison correct to say that “no government would be necessary” if humans were not fallen? I would argue that the biblical answer to that question is, “no.” In Revelation, the eternal state still has government. In the New Jerusalem there remains a throne of God and the Lamb (Rev. 22:3). Kingship continues into eternity, and the reign of the Messiah is not simply the reign of God but is also the reign of man. When Jesus was born he was declared to be both the heir of the Davidic throne and to receive an eternal kingdom (Luke 1:32-33). When Isaiah declared, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder,” he is speaking of a real government. This is why the prophets look forward to the Messiah’s rule to bring about justice in the earth.
The kingdom the Messiah rules over for eternity is not ruled over by he alone. Under him others rule. Revelation 22:5 says of the saints, “and they will reign forever.” There is also a structure to this rule. Revelation 21:24 speak of the kings of the earth bringing their glory in to the New Jerusalem. Jesus said to the apostles, “In the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28). Government persists for all eternity.
There is good reason for this. Government was part of God’s created order from the beginning. In Genesis 1:26-28 God promised mankind dominion over the world. The promises of a Messianic king are rooted in God’s purpose to restore the dominion of all mankind that was corrupted by the Fall. Government is not a necessary evil. It is a structure that God built into his creation from the beginning.