πας ο μισων τον αδελφον αυτου ανθρωποκτονος εστιν και οιδατε οτι πας ανθρωποκτονος ουκ εχει ζωην αιωνιον εν εαυτω μενουσαν εν – τουτω εγνωκαμεν την αγαπην οτι εκεινος υπερ υμων την ψυχην αυτου εθηκεν και ημεις οφειλομεν υπερ των αδελφων τας ψυχας θειναι 1 John 3:15-16
There can be little doubt that the reign of Christ in our lives is the most crucial consideration anyone can undertake. Coming to a knowledge of Christ marks the beginning of this process, yet the reality that lies at the back of this personal journey concerns Christ Himself, therefore, to understand the journey, one must firstly understand Christ. The many things which are focused on by believers are no doubt correct areas of understanding, yet it seems to me that having our sight fixed on Christ will settle all other matters whether we understand them wholly or not. Accepting that Christ is both Lord and King makes confident the necessity of Christ having reign in our lives if we are to be fully accounted, faithful servants. It is not only a heart consenting to Christ, but must be more fully Christ living in and through us by the Holy Spirit. Salvation must be experience as well as knowledge. Knowledge and experience are worked out in a living relationship with Christ. It is a crucified life hidden in Christ in the first instance, and a life of good works evidences it. In speaking practically, we could say that the reign of Christ or the dominion of His Lordship takes account of who He is, as well as His Kingdom. If we live before the King, we will both know the King and find a secure entrance into His Kingdom.
There are two most basic truths which we need to understand and accept if we are to press on without additional concern when looking at this subject of the Kingdom of Heaven. The first wonderful truth we must take hold of is that the Father in heaven has delighted to give us the Kingdom (Luke 12:32). We don’t have to struggle to receive the Kingdom; neither do we have to seek to take it by force. It has been given to those who are called by God and chosen in Christ. The second wonderful truth is that the Kingdom of Heaven was prepared from the foundation of the earth. It is not a new thing as far as God is concerned. No doubt to one who is newly saved, Christ is the focus, yet very soon after that, every new believer will be faced with the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven, of which Kingdom they have become citizens. This actuality should be first evidenced by knowing Christ as Lord and King, yet we cannot overlook its power. For the Kingdom of Heaven is not a matter of words, but a matter of power. What is happening today, however, is that the power of the Kingdom of Heaven has become the focus and the King is declining in men’s hearts and minds. This decline is leading to a day of apostasy, giving rise to sorcerers as well as increasing self-interest.
When speaking about the Gospel of the Kingdom, we are talking about the reign of Christ; not only in individual lives, but it must be evident that the scope of Christ’s reign must include all things. The Scriptures tell us plainly that all things both in heaven and on the earth have been given into Christ’s hands and that all authority has been granted to Christ also. In this understanding, there can be no part of the heavens or the earth which are excluded; else all things can have no real meaning. Moreover, in thinking in this way, it is also clear that it is Christ who is at the centre of all things in His person, and that the elements are but secondary considerations to Christ. With this in mind, we could say that the Kingdom of Heaven is a dominion in the first place because it is the dominion over which Christ reigns. Included in this dominion are many things. These are heaven, the earth, hell & death, nations, tribes, angels, men and all living creatures. Yet central too, and far more important than these many things, even heaven itself, is the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. To understand this is as simple as comprehending that the heavens and the earth are passing away and there will be a new heaven and a new earth, yet Christ lives forever, and His Kingdom will have no end.
Today we very definitely believe that Christ is Lord, and we are trusting that He has saved us from the consequences of our sins. We are also trusting that He is keeping us from the continued effect of the power of sin working in us, and will one day completely deliver us from this power of sin working in our bodies. This very deliverance is called our adoption as sons. So while we believe into Christ and believe in His person and work on the Cross, and that He was raised from the dead, we also believe that He is going to come again in His resurrected physical body and reign over the earth. This moment of Christ’s second advent will be the time that men will see Him with their eyes, and correspondingly those who believe in Him will become like Him. It is at this time that we will receive a new physical body and so at least in this sense; personal salvation will be more fully worked out. However, it is at this same time that the world itself becomes the Kingdom of Heaven.
We also have to ask what the Scripture teaches us about this physical reality of the Kingdom come on earth. If we can answer that question, then we will also understand this same Kingdom now. There is an inseparable connection between the person of the Lord Jesus, salvation and the Kingdom of Heaven. In seeking to understand salvation and the Kingdom of Heaven, we must, of necessity, know Christ. If we do not follow Christ, we will never understand salvation beyond new birth, and we will never understand the true meaning of the Kingdom of Heaven beyond the fact of its existence.
The King & the Kingdom
At the root of this ambition lies one clear point of understanding. This understanding can be summed up in the saying – Where the King is, there is the Kingdom. To examine this saying, one needs to ask only one simple question. Does anyone who believes in Christ Jesus by faith not comprehend that were the Lord to appear in their lives this very hour physically, their lives would be changed completely? Such an appearing of the Lord would compel a change in attitude, focus, understanding and determination, to serve the Lord. All that which is necessary to serve the Lord Jesus faithfully and obediently would be made full by simply knowing, seeing and comprehending the Lord’s presence. Likewise, we could ask another simple question. In such a circumstance does anyone doubt, that so long as the Lord remained physically present, He could not only command all men but the very elements themselves?
These may seem like strange questions, but this was a reality for the apostles chosen by the Lord Jesus. They witnessed with their own eyes such things and were often astonished by what they saw and heard. Time and again, when men wanted to take Christ and murder Him, He walked away from them. All men were powerless to kill Him. On the night of His betrayal, the Lord could not be arrested by force. In the first instance, those who came to take him fell to the ground. Jesus had to yield Himself willingly to them; else they could not have taken Him no matter how they tried. Jesus also commanded the wind and the waves. The disciples had to ask themselves the question who is this man that He even commands the wind and the waves? Jesus stated clearly that all power and authority in heaven and on the earth had been given to Him. The Risen Lord, seated at the right hand of the Father in the majesty of the heavens can have no less authority and power. Therefore, if Christ were to appear this hour, how could any man not call Him Lord? By what power would men disobey Him?
These few ideas sum up in simplicity the meaning of the Kingdom. Further, because Christ is become our Saviour by faith, those who believe in Him will be benefitted by knowing Christ more fully. Yet to know Christ more fully, we first have to be willing to draw near to Him, and this itself is only possible through obedience to Him. It cannot be achieved by acquiring knowledge. There are implicit in these few ideas many doctrines of truth and theological perspectives. I have to say that I have no interest in theological perspectives. As to doctrines of truth, my concern is not so much to make a form of them but to comprehend them. As touching upon the issue of the person of Christ and the question of Eternal Life, there can be no other doctrine than that which was delivered to the Apostles by Christ.
Dominion & Power
Exodus chapter nineteen begins with the words “In the third month after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. When they set out from Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai and camped in the wilderness; and there Israel camped in front of the mountain. Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. ‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.” (Exodus 19:1–6)
In these few verses, we find the meaning of the Kingdom of Heaven set out in simple and clear terms. We might say that the Kingdom means the dominion and power of God over the whole earth. God works in power, He works in people, and those people bear His name and His character because they are called to be His priests and kings over the nations. God is good, full of truth and full of light. He is Love, and His mercy will be restored forever, even to a rebellious house (Hosea 2:19). As God Himself is so full of character, then so must His workman be of the same character if they are to represent His name. In this purpose of God, from the fall of man into sin and death, this kingdom work of God has been characterised in a few chosen men. Today all may be His workman if they call upon Him and receive His life and the power of His Kingdom into themselves for that purpose. ‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’
The Kingdom of Heaven extends over the whole earth, yet it is always visible in a chosen people. “And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered them, “To you; it has been granted to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but to them, it has not been granted. “For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him” (Matthew 13:10–12). Both at the beginning of Israel as a nation, separated from God at the foot of Mount Sinai, as well, the disciples called out and chosen from amongst the sons of Israel to become the foundation of the living church (Ephesians 2:20), the meaning and purpose of God is always to have a people for His own possession.
‘Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.” God works in power both for His own name and through those whom He chooses.
The Scripture tells us that the Kingdom was prepared from the foundation of the world (Matthew 25:34). So when the Lord tells Moses that the whole earth “is Mine” we can see at once a tension between two realities. On the one hand, it is that the entire earth belongs to the Lord, and yet at the same time the Lord always chooses just a few from the whole earth to make Himself known to the many. The Kingdom is the entire earth, and yet it is only seen and comprehended in a few people chosen in each day. Revelation tells us that at the end of the age “the kingdoms of the earth shall become the Kingdom of Heaven” (Revelation 11:15).
How can the Kingdom have been prepared from the foundation of the world, and yet the world does not become the visible Kingdom until the end of the age? How can we explain this seeming anomalous circumstance? Also, what manner of man ought one to be fitted to labour in this enterprise of God? Understanding these few questions will give us a basis for understanding the Kingdom of God and the heavens. In this, we will understand why it is, that the Kingdom of Heaven has suffered violence, and why violent men take it by force (Matthew 11:12). Also, why it is possible for the Kingdom of Heaven to be likened to a field in which grows wheat and tares side by side; and which field is the world. (Matthew 13:25-30 & 36:43).
The start of this account is the beginning of the world itself (Proverbs 8:12-31). From the very outset, the Kingdom was evident. Adam had dominion over the whole earth to subdue it and to keep it (Genesis 1:28). In this, Adam was given the character (mind) and the power to labour effectually. Otherwise, the command would have been meaningless. Yet these are the very first things of God when everything the Lord had made was good. Therefore it cannot be less than accurate to speak of Adam as a man of considerable powers and abilities. When he first saw the woman God had fashioned from his body, he immediately understood that she was “bone of [his] bone and flesh of [his] flesh.” (Genesis 2:23). He was not taught this; he knew it in himself. Adam named all of the creatures in an exercise of comprehending their nature (Genesis 2:19). Adam walked with God face to face and stood on his own two feet before the Almighty. There is, therefore, no sense that Adam could have been lacking in any way. He had everything in himself for the purpose of God in creating him.
“The Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will come to you in a thick cloud, so that the people may hear when I speak with you and may also believe in you forever.” Then Moses spoke the words of the people to the Lord.” (Exodus 19:9)
The Lord does not call His people to Himself and leave them unequipped for His purposes. After the fall of Adam, we see a significant change take place. Now it is God who proves His power and Kingdom, and the men He chooses in that purpose, are those who are themselves weak and who comprehend that God is Almighty. (2 Corinthians 14:4) When the disciples came back from their commission to preach the Kingdom of Heaven to Israel, the thing which they marvelled at was that the power of God was invested in the name of Jesus. That they could cast out demons in the Lord’s name was the real evidence of the Kingdom. One could say more fully, that all of the works of the Lord Jesus were proof of the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 15:31). The power of God is a singular characteristic of the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 6:13). This power is the very power which the apostles were commanded to wait for in Jerusalem. His name is the Lord.
There is another important reality about the Kingdom of Heaven, which we must comprehend. This reality is the scope of the Kingdom, or else the dominion of the Kingdom. We know that Christ is the King, and the Kingdom is His Kingdom. We are aware that it was the Lord’s name the disciples named, that produced an effective outcome for the benefit of those for whose sake they were sent. We know that eventually, the disciples were sent to preach the gospel, and to make disciples of all men, even unto the ends of the earth; such is the power of the Kingdom. What these things all agree about is that there is nowhere in the whole earth that the Kingdom of Heaven cannot become visible by the outworking of its power. If we look again at Israel at the foot of Mount Sinai, we will see that it is the power of God that makes for restraint on the people. “Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin” (Exodus 20:20). Why does God cause His people to fear Him in this way? It is so that they might not sin. In this instance, the sin would have been to set foot on the mountain in an attempt to come into God’s presence.
Today, through Christ’s own body, we can enter into the Holy place with confidence. In seeking to understand the Kingdom of God and Christ we will quickly realise that the circumstance between the Lord’s day in Israel, and this day is the same – as far as the Kingdom is concerned, nothing has changed outwardly, and today we find that those who are without the Kingdom still seek to take the Kingdom by the violence of their works, because they will not embrace the Cross, and come in by the narrow way which is given to those who seek it. And when we speak of the narrow way, it is essential to realise what this saying means. The narrow way not only means by Christ, but it also means Christ Himself. It also means as Christ, in conduct. In speaking about the Kingdom of heaven, we have been focusing on its power. We have talked of Christ, and we have said that unless we know Christ, it is not possible to know the Kingdom of heaven.