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STUDY 14: THE KINGDOM OF GOD

 

Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.

 

OUR subject is very prominent in the Scriptures. The Old Testament is filled with promises and

prophecies of the Kingdom of God; and its King, Messiah, is at its center. Every Israelite had the

hope that God would exalt their nation under Messiah, and when our Lord came, it was as their

King (Luke 3: 15).

 

John the Baptist, the herald of our Lord Jesus, opened his mission by announcing, “Repent ye:

for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3: 2). The Lord opened His ministry with the

same announcement (Matthew 4: 17), and the apostles were sent out with the same message

(Matthew 10: 7) (Luke 9: 2). The Kingdom was our Lord’s main topic (Luke 8: 1) (Luke 4: 43)

(Luke 19: 11), and the majority of His parables were illustrations of the Kingdom.

 

Our Lord’s talks with His followers were given to strengthen and encourage their expectations of

a coming kingdom (Luke 22: 29, 30) (Luke 12: 32). But when He was crucified instead of being

enthroned, His disciples were sorely disappointed. Thinking He was a stranger, two of them

expressed their sad disappointment to Him on the road to Emmaus. Jesus then opened their

understanding, showing them from the Scriptures that His sacrifice was needful first, before the

Kingdom could be established (Luke 24: 21, 25-27).

 

Ransom Precedes Kingdom Blessings

 

Had God given the dominion of earth to Jesus without redeeming man, the blessings would have

been merely temporary, since all mankind were under condemnation to death. But God had a

better design – to ransom the race from death, and make the blessings of His Kingdom

everlasting and complete.

 

Jesus revived the hope of His disciples of a coming Kingdom; as He was about to leave them,

they inquired, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” He responded,

“It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own

power” (Acts 1: 6, 7).

 

The Jewish nation thought that God’s Kingdom was to be exclusively an earthly kingdom, even

as many err today in supposing it to be exclusively a heavenly kingdom. But Jesus always

expressed the idea of a kingdom to be established in the earth and to rule among men. He

inspired them to hope for a share in the Kingdom, and taught them to pray for its establishment –

“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done IN EARTH, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6: 10).

 

The worldly-wise among the Jews thought of our Lord as a fanatic and imposter and His

disciples as mere dupes. To them His claim to establish a kingdom which would rule the world,

and that His followers would be joint-rulers with Him in that kingdom seemed absurd.

 

The Pharisees, hoping to expose the supposed weakness of our Lord asked, “When will this

kingdom appear?” “When will your soldiers arrive?”, etc. (Luke 17: 20-30). He answered that

when His kingdom would come, it would be everywhere present and powerful, yet invisible. He

was describing the spiritual phase of the Kingdom, which would be set up first.

 

Perhaps due to the Pharisees’ critical attitude, Nicodemus, a Pharisee, came to Jesus by night,

anxious for an understanding of this mystery, but ashamed to publicly acknowledge his interest.

Their conversation gives insight into the character of the Kingdom (John 3). Jesus explained that

God requires obedience to the light already possessed before more light is given, and to be

worthy of the Kingdom requires faith.

 

Difference Between Begotten and Born of the Spirit

 

Jesus spoke about being begotten of the spirit, which follows consecration, in verses 3 and 7. (In

both verses, the word born should properly be translated begotten.) He also spoke about being

born of the spirit in verses 5, 6 and 8, which takes place at the resurrection for members of the

Kingdom’s spiritual phase. They will all be as invisible as the wind, and men will neither know

whence they came nor whither they go.

 

In one sense the Church has been the Kingdom of God throughout the Gospel Age, but it has

only been an embryo Kingdom, a work of grace in the hearts of consecrated believers hoping for

a share in the future Kingdom, when the will of God will be done on earth as it is in heaven

(Luke 11: 2). Christ’s Kingdom shall be “from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the

earth” (Psalm 72: 8). All nations “shall serve and obey Him,” and unto Him “every knee should

bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth” (Daniel 7: 27) (Philippians 2: 10).

 

Our Lord’s parables show that the setting up of the Kingdom of God in power is future, and not

until the King comes. The parable of the young nobleman going into a far country to receive a

kingdom and to return, etc. (Luke 19: 11-15), locates its establishment at Christ’s return.

 

Yet even in the apostles’ day some in the Church began appropriating the promises of future

honor and power to the present life, and began acting as though the time had come for the world

to honor, and even obey the Church. The Apostle Paul wrote to correct this error; he perceived

the injurious effect of cultivating pride and leading away from sacrifice. He reminded them that

if the Church’s reign had begun, he would also be reigning, but the fact that he was suffering for

the Truth, proved their reign to be premature and a snare (1 Corinthians 4: 10-17)

(2 Timothy 4: 8).

 

After much persecution, theories began spreading that the Church’s mission was to conquer the

world, establish the Kingdom on earth and reign over the nations before the Lord’s Second

Advent. This laid the foundation for worldly pride, ostentatious show and ceremony in the

Church, designed to impress and captivate the world. The Papacy claimed that as God’s kingdom

on earth, it had a right to command obedience to its laws and officers by every kindred, nation

and people. Under this false claim Papacy for a time crowned and uncrowned the kings of

Europe.

 

This idea was eventually adopted by Protestantism – that somehow the Church’s reign is in

progress – in contrast to the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles, who taught that there can be no

kingdom until the King comes (Revelation 20: 6) (Revelation 3: 21) (2 Timothy 2: 12).

 

Two Phases of the Kingdom of God

 

When God’s Kingdom is fully set up, it will consist of two parts: a spiritual or heavenly phase,

and an earthly or human phase. The spiritual phase will be invisible to men, for those composing

it will be of the divine, spiritual nature, which no man hath seen nor can see (1 Timothy 6: 16)

(John 1: 18). Its presence and power will be manifested chiefly through its human

representatives, who will compose the earthly phase of the Kingdom.

 

The spiritual phase of the Kingdom of God consists of the overcoming saints of the Gospel Age

– the Christ, Head and body. Their resurrection and exaltation precedes all others, because

through this class all others will be blessed (Hebrews 11: 39, 40). Their resurrection is called the

first resurrection (Revelation 20: 5), first in time as well as first in priority. Their work pertains

not only to this world, but to all things in heaven and in earth (Matthew 28: 18)

(Colossians 1: 20) (Ephesians 1: 10) (Philippians 2: 10) (1 Corinthians 6: 3).

 

The earthly phase of God’s Kingdom will be confined to this world and to humanity, and will

consist of those whose judgment day was prior to the Gospel Age. These will receive an

instantaneous resurrection to perfection as men, and will be fully prepared to act as the human

agents of the Christ class, in restoring and blessing the remainder of mankind. Being seen of

men, the glory of their perfection will serve as an example and incentive to other men to attain

the same perfection. That these ancient worthies will be seen by men is proven by Jesus’ words

to the unbelieving Jews: “Ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the

kingdom of God” (Luke 13: 28) – note that Jesus does not mention that He or the Apostles

would be visible with Abraham.

 

Harmonious Operation of Heavenly and Earthly Phases

 

We know not the details as to how the two phases of the Kingdom will operate together

harmoniously, but an illustration of how they may operate, is found in God’s dealings with Israel

through their representatives, such as Moses, Aaron, Joshua, the prophets, etc. The coming

manifestations of divine power, however, will far exceed those of the typical Jewish Age, for the

work of the coming Age will encompass awakening the dead and restoring the obedient to

perfection. That great work will require a perfect government, with perfect men in positions of

control, to rightly order the affairs of state. Proper educational facilities and various

philanthropic measures will be put in place. The Ancient Worthies will be given that noble work

and high honor of elevating the race (under the direction of the Kingdom’s spiritual members),

and soon they will receive the honor and cooperation of all men.

 

When the great restitution work is complete (largely through those human representatives), these

ancient worthies will shine as “the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12: 3), and will be held in

everlasting remembrance (Psalm 112: 6). But the glory of the heavenly phase will excel, for they

will shine forth as the brightness of the firmament – the sun (Daniel 12: 3). The mind cannot

conceive of the Christ’s glory through the countless ages of eternity (Romans 8: 18)

(Ephesians 2: 7-12).

 

The promise to Abraham will be fulfilled in the Kingdom’s two phases (Genesis 22: 17, 18) – an

earthly and a heavenly seed, though Abraham saw only the earthly seed. The nation of Israel was

the first to be offered the chief, spiritual blessing, though but few accepted the offer (the

Apostles and others).

 

The Apostle Paul speaks of the Abrahamic Covenant as a root out of which fleshly Israel grew

naturally, but into which the Gentile believers were grafted when the natural branches were cut

off because of unbelief (Romans 11: 17). This proves the double fulfillment of the promise in the

development of the two seeds – the earthly and the heavenly – the two phases of the Kingdom.

In order of development, it was first the natural (earthly), afterward the heavenly rulers, but in

order of greatness of position and time of installment, it will be first the spiritual, afterward the

natural. There are last which shall be first, and first which shall be last (Matthew 19: 30)

(Luke 13: 30).

 

The promise to Abraham was earthly; he and his seed were promised possession of the land.

Though still unfulfilled, this promise must yet be fulfilled (Acts 7: 4) (Genesis 13: 14-17). The

Apostle indicates that the earthly promises to the Ancient Worthies cannot be fulfilled until the

higher promises to the Christ class are fulfilled (Hebrews 11: 13, 39, 40).

 

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