“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB).
1) “What About the Kingdom?” (Tom Edwards)
“What About the Kingdom?”
In last week’s bulletin we saw that when Christ returns, several major events will take place – and all on what is referred to as the “last day.” For on that day, all will be raised from the dead (Jn. 5:28,29; Acts 24:15; Jn. 6:39,40,44,54; 11:24); all will be judged (Acts 17:30,31; Jn. 12:48); the earth and all the universe, along with time itself, will cease to be (2 Pet. 3:4, 10-12; Gen. 1:14-19); and every person, from the first man Adam on down, will end up at one of two destinations where to spend an eternity.
So some might wonder, “What about the kingdom that Christ is supposed to set up here on earth?” This question is asked because the kingdom is what many premillennialists are still waiting for. They believe that because of the Lord’s rejection by the Jews, He was not able to establish His kingdom; so the church was then set up as a “substitute” until the kingdom would come; and that the church was not a part of God’s eternal, predetermined plan; but, rather, a mere afterthought in the mind of God. This is also referred to as the “Parenthesis Theory,” with the church being the “Parenthesis” that fills the gap.
The Bible, however, shows that not only was the establishment of the church a part of God’s plan before the world began, but that it is also that “kingdom” that was to come! Notice, for instance, in Ephesians 3 that Paul says: “To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be MADE KNOWN THROUGH THE CHURCH to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. THIS WAS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE ETERNAL PURPOSE which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord…” (vv. 8-11, emphasis mine). So the church was a part of God’s “eternal purpose” and, therefore, that which had been in His mind before there was even a universe — and not a mere afterthought or last-minute substitution for the kingdom!
The coming kingdom is first seen in prophecy, way back during Old Testament Times. Daniel, for instance, shows a succession of world-ruling empires in Daniel 2, as he interprets King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. These kingdoms are Babylon (vv. 37,38 – which reigned as a world-ruling empire for 70 years), the Medes and the Persians (v. 39 – about 200 years), Greece (v. 39 – about 130 years), and Rome (vv. 40-43 – about 500 years as an undivided kingdom). All these kingdoms ruled in succession as world-ruling empires, but it would be during the days of the Roman Empire that God would set up His spiritual kingdom on earth (vv. 44, 45).
Jesus was born into this world during the time of the Roman Empire, and His message was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). John the Baptist also preached the same (cf. Matt. 3:2). That coming kingdom was so near that Jesus was able to say in Mark 9:1, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.” Though some folks today would say the kingdom has not yet come, should we believe them or what Jesus and John the Baptist said about it?
Though Isaiah does not use the word “kingdom” in Isaiah 2:2-4, yet he is referring to it and shows that it will be in the “last days” that it would be established. Note here that he does not say the “last day” (when Christ comes the second time), but the “last days,” which is referring to the Gospel Age that began after the Lord’s death on the cross (cf. Acts 2:15-17). For His death did away with the Old Covenant and established the New Covenant of the Gospel Age (cf. Col. 2:14; Heb. 8:6-13; 2 Cor. 3:6-18; Heb. 9:15-17; Heb. 10:1-10, 16-22). Isaiah declares:
“Now it will come about that
In the last days
The mountain of the house of the LORD
Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
And will be raised above the hills;
And all the nations will stream to it.
And many peoples will come and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
That He may teach us concerning His ways
And that we may walk in His paths.’
For the law will go forth from Zion
And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem”
That prophecy came to pass in Acts 2 on the day that the church (kingdom) was established. For it was there in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit fell upon the apostles, and they miraculously preached (with the gift of tongues) in the languages of those Jews who were “from every nation under heaven” (v. 5). For they were in Jerusalem to observe the annual feast of Pentecost, and what they heard was “of the mighty deeds of God” (v. 11). As a result, 3,000 souls were converted that day when they believed and obeyed the gospel plan of salvation (vv. 36-38, 41). In their doing so, the Lord Himself then added them to His church (v. 47).
“Mountain” is sometimes used in the Bible to figuratively refer to a “kingdom” (cf. Dan. 2:35,44-45). So here in Isaiah 2:2, God’s kingdom is shown as being superior to all other kingdoms. For it is a “mountain” that is “chief of the mountains.” The word “kingdom” in the New Testament, from the Greek word “basileia,” refers primarily to “1) royal power, kingship, dominion, rule 1a) not to be confused with an actual kingdom but rather the right or authority to rule over a kingdom” (Thayer). But Thayer also goes on to show that it can mean in addition: “1b) of the royal power of Jesus as the triumphant Messiah” and “1c) of the royal power and dignity conferred on Christians in the Messiah’s kingdom.” And, secondarily, “2) a kingdom, the territory subject to the rule of a king.” And “3) used in the N.T. to refer to the reign of the Messiah.” So we see God’s kingdom first of all pertains to His royal power and rule, and then of those whom He is ruling over who have become a part of His kingdom. With these thoughts in mind, notice, too, that upon the Lord’s “mountain” there is also a “house of the LORD” (Isa. 2:2). So the Lord’s house is built upon God’s mountain and identified with it — rather than with any of those inferior mountains of the world. And just as Isaiah refers to “the house of the LORD” that is on “the chief of the mountains,” God’s church is also referred to as being “the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15); and it has been built by Christ and is established upon Him who is the foundation of it (cf. Matt. 16:16-18; 1 Cor. 3:11).
The church is also referred to as God’s “kingdom,” for those in it are those who have submitted to God’s rule. And while Acts 2:47 shows that “…the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved,” Paul also speaks of God being the One who has “rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13,14). So the terms “kingdom” and “church” can be used interchangeably when referring to that body of God’s people during the Gospel Age. The apostle John also refers to himself as having been a “fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus…” (Rev. 1:9).
So, obviously, God’s kingdom has come — and it came almost 2,000 years ago — and still is! It, therefore, has been around much longer than 1,000 years, and Christ has been reigning over it all the while (cf. Eph. 1:20-23; Col. 1:18; 2:10). In His preaching to those on that day of Pentecost, Peter also declared, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ — this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36). “Lord” literally means “ruler”; and “Christ,” the “anointed” or “anointed one.” Therefore, when we put the two together, we see Jesus as being an “anointed Ruler”; and, thus, reminding us of the anointing of kings long ago. So this reference to God having sworn to David “to seat one of his descendants on his throne” is now being fulfilled by Christ whom David had looked forward to as being the fulfiller (cf. Acts 2:29-36).
So when Christ returns, it will not be to set up a kingdom; but, rather, to deliver God’s kingdom, that has long been on this earth, up to His Father in heaven: “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death” (1 Cor. 15:22-26).
Now is the time to become a part of God’s kingdom. The instructions of how to become a member of the Lord’s church and live as a Christian are also the same for how one is to enter the kingdom and live as a member of that—since they refer to the same.
In addition, if Christ’s kingdom has not yet come, then how could we acceptably serve and worship God? For are we not to do that from in His kingdom — or can we remain in Satan’s domain of darkness and worship God from there? When Jesus ascended back to the right hand of God (following His death, burial, resurrection, and the 40 days He spent on earth, proving His resurrection and Deity), that ascension had already been prophesied by Daniel centuries prior, as seen in the following:
“…He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him.
And to Him was given dominion,
Glory and a kingdom,
THAT ALL THE PEOPLES, NATIONS AND MEN OF EVERY LANGUAGE
MIGHT SERVE HIM.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
Which will not pass away;
And His kingdom is one
Which will not be destroyed”
(Dan. 7:13,14, emphasis mine).
Notice one of the purposes for that kingdom: “THAT ALL… MIGHT SERVE HIM”! Unlike the Law of Moses, which was for only the Jews, the gospel is for all people of every nation; and all the redeemed become a part of the one body, the church, the kingdom; and, as a member, can serve and worship God acceptably.
So Christ is not a king without a kingdom. For, as we have seen, God’s kingdom has come; and the concern of each of us should, therefore, always be to live in God’s kingdom as His loyal subjects, by living unto Jesus Christ as our great “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16).
(All Scripture from the NASB, unless otherwise indicated.)
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith, living for the Lord; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA 31501
Sunday services: 9:00 a.m. (Bible class); 10 a.m. & 5 p.m. (worship)
Wednesday: 7 p.m. (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 281-9917
http://thomastedwards.com/go (Older version of Gospel Observer website without pictures, but back to March 1990)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)