Some Closing Facts About Christ’s Kingdom

Series: “Christ’s Kingdom” (post #6, last one)

First, I want to remind you that in the last days there will be scoffers who will laugh at the truth and do every evil thing they desire. This will be their argument: “Jesus promised to come back, did he? Then where is he? Why, as far back as anyone can remember, everything has remained exactly the same since the world was first created.” (2 Peter 3:3-4, New Living Translation)

Picture a large group of Christ’s followers, 120 or so (Acts 1:15), standing upon the Mount of Olives just outside Jerusalem. It has been forty days since Christ’s resurrection (Acts 1:1-3) and Jesus, in His resurrected/glorified body, is making one final appearance to them in the moments just before He ascends back to heaven. With the exception of John, who will see Jesus one more time as part of his Revelation experience (Revelation 1:9-16), none of these people will ever see Jesus again until they get to heaven.

As part of this last-minute conversation, Jesus tells the group to remain in Jerusalem until they are baptized with the Holy Spirit. He promises that this baptism will happen very soon (Acts 1:4-5). Then they ask Him if He is on the verge of fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah establishing a glorious kingdom age for Israel. In response, He tells them that only God the Father knows when that will take place (Acts 1:6-7). Lastly, He tells them that after they have been empowered by being baptized with the Holy Spirit, they will be His witnesses to the whole world (Acts 1:8).

Following these words, Jesus is taken up into the sky and disappears into a cloud (Acts 1:9). So there the group stands, gazing up at the sky in wide-eyed wonder, when suddenly two men (presumably angels) in white garments appear in their presence and say, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:10-11, N.K.J.V.).

We know from the New Testament writings that the people of that group never forgot that promise. For example, the apostle John was in that group, and he would later write: “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye shall see Him…” (Revelation 1:7, N.K.J.V.). Likewise, the apostle Peter, in our text verse, rebuked any and all naysayers who questioned the promise that Jesus would return to this earth again.

You see, the Bible is crystal clear that Jesus must return to planet earth at some point. Scripture leaves no ambiguity about this. If Jesus doesn’t return to this earth, He is a liar and the Bible is false. There’s no other way of understanding the situation.

I’m mentioning all this because what you need to know is that in concert with Christ’s Second Coming will be the establishing of His kingdom on this earth. In the previous post from this series, I explained that Jesus is slated to rule upon the earth for 1,000 years. What a millennium that will be! If you want to learn more about all the details of that age, please read my post What Will Life Be Like in Christ’s Millennial Reign?  However, I won’t rehash that boatload of information here because I want to finish up this series by explaining what becomes of Christ’s kingdom following His millennial reign.

At the conclusion of Christ’s thousand-year reign, Satan and all the other fallen angels will be released from their imprisonment in the bottomless pit (Revelation 20:7). They will have been imprisoned in there for the duration of the millennial reign. Upon his release, Satan will immediately start causing worldwide trouble again.

As usual, he will head out to deceive the inhabitants of the earth, and as usual he will be wildly successful in doing so (Revelation 20:8). But who will his deception victims be this go around? Well, if you understand the millennial reign correctly, you know that there is only one possible group of candidates. These people will be the offspring of the saved believers who lived all the way through the tribulation period and entered into the kingdom age in their earthly bodies.

As I pointed out in the previous post, at the beginning of Christ’s kingdom age a great dividing will take place among the world’s living population. Those who will have taken the mark of the Antichrist during the tribulation period — and in so doing will have assured their eternal damnation — will be put to death. In this way, their presence will be removed from the kingdom age and their souls will be banished to hell.

On the other hand, those who will have become saved believers during the tribulation period will be welcomed into Christ’s kingdom on earth. They will even be healed of their infirmities and granted the luxury of being able to live to extended ages during the millennium. They will rebuild the ruins from the tribulation period, build new houses, plant vineyards, and produce children (lots of children).

The fact is, though, that these tribulation-period survivors will have bodies that will still bear the curse of Adamic sin. This will ensure that each of them will at some point die over the course of the 1,000 years. Presumably, at the moment of death, each body will be resurrected and glorified to match the glorified bodies of all the other “kingdom citizen” believers from all the other eras of human history. This will leave only their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great grandchildren, etc. in earthly bodies that still have the nature of sin coursing through them.

This is why we say that these “kingdom kids” (that’s my term for them) will be Satan’s last victims of deception as he will convince millions of them to side with him in one final revolt against Jesus. How many of these “kingdom kids” will choose to side with Satan? John describes their number as being “as the sand of the sea” (Revelation 20:8). You see, just as Adam and Eve chose sin while living in a perfect world, these “kingdom kids” will choose sin after spending their entire lives living under Christ’s reign on earth.

Satan will then march his new army of followers to Jerusalem, where Jesus will have been ruling for the duration of His millennial reign. Satan and his millions of new followers will surround the city completely in a type of siege maneuver, and it will look like yet another great battle will be about to occur in Jerusalem. But then suddenly, without warning, God the Father will send fire down from heaven, and the fire will devour Satan’s entire army (Revelation 20:9). Satan and all of the other fallen angels will then be cast into the eternal lake of fire (Gehenna, in the Greek language), where the Antichrist and the false prophet will have spent the previous 1,000 years, having been cast in there following the Battle of Armageddon that ended the tribulation period (Revelation 20:10; Matthew 25:41).

At this point the only unfinished business left regarding all of history’s lost people will be their joining Satan, the other fallen angels, the Antichrist, and the false prophet in the eternal lake of fire (Gehenna). Jesus will take care of that unfinished business at The Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). For this judgment, the body of every lost person who ever lived will be resurrected from wherever it lies. Jesus referred to this type of resurrection — not one to glorification — as “the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:29). Also, the lost soul that inhabited that body will be called forth from hell (Hades, in the Greek language) as the resurrected body and the eternally damned soul are reunited to stand before Jesus and be formally sentenced to spend eternity in the eternal lake of fire (Gehenna).

Now let’s get back to the subject of Christ’s kingdom. Following The Great White Throne Judgment, God will institute a new earth, a new heaven, and a new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1). I tend to side with those prophecy experts who believe that this “new” earth will actually be this current earth cleansed and purged by fire, but there are many students of the Bible who contend that this current earth will be completely obliterated and a thoroughly brand new one created. Whichever interpretation is correct, what we can say with certainty is that this current earth will pass away “by fire” (2 Peter 3:10-11) and there won’t be any sea in the new one (Revelation 21:1)

As for the New Jerusalem, that will without doubt be a whole new deal. This city will come down out of heaven and become the eternal home of all of history’s saved people. The Bible devotes its closing two chapters to the description of this city, and if you are a Christian you should study those chapters well. After all, that city is going to be your home forever.

But how does Christ’s kingdom fit into the New Jerusalem? The answer is simple: Christ’s kingdom will be eternally merged into the New Jerusalem. This will be the ultimate fulfillment of the angel Gabriel’s words to the virgin Mary concerning Jesus. Those words were:

“And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:33, N,K.J.V.)

It will also be the ultimate fulfillment of a prophecy that Daniel once gave when he wrote:

…the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. (Daniel 2:44, N.K.J.V.)

And so now let’s bring this post and this series to a close by summing up the basics about Christ’s kingdom. Here’s the list and I offer it as my closing thoughts on this whole subject. Ready? Here goes:

  1. Jesus has a kingdom.
  2. Right now His kingdom is a heavenly one, not an earthly one.
  3. Satan currently has a kingdom, too. It’s a world system that he has established within the confines of God’s planet earth.
  4. To become a member of Satan’s kingdom, all a person has to do is be born.
  5. To become a member of Christ’s kingdom, all a person has to do is believe in Jesus as Savior. By doing this, the person’s citizenship is transferred from Satan’s kingdom to Christ’s kingdom.
  6. When Jesus walked this earth, He brought a touch of His kingdom to everywhere He went and everything He did.
  7. Now that Jesus is no longer walking the earth, He expects His followers (Christians, citizens of His kingdom) to bring a touch of His kingdom to every place we go and everything we do. One of the surest ways we can do this is to live according to the principles set forth in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount.
  8. At the close of the seven-year tribulation period that is prophesied to come upon the earth, Jesus will return to walk this earth again. At that time He will establish His kingdom on the earth and reign from Jerusalem for the 1,000 years of His millennial reign (kingdom age).
  9. At the completion of Christ’s millennial reign, Satan will mount one last offensive against Jesus in an attempt to reestablish his kingdom upon the earth. However, God the Father will easily put down Satan’s offensive.
  10. Following Satan’s last offensive and the subsequent Great White Throne Judgment that immediately follows it, Christ’s earthly kingdom will merged into the eternal era of the new earth, the new heaven, and the city of New Jerusalem.
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When Jesus Finally Establishes His Kingdom Upon the Earth

Series: “Christ’s Kingdom” (post #5)

“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.'” (Matthew 6:9-10, N.I.V.)

This quote from Jesus is a part of the so-called “Lord’s Prayer,” which should more correctly be called “the model prayer.” In the prayer, Jesus lists certain spiritual principles (building blocks, foundational elements) that ought to be a regular, systematic part of the prayer life of the Christian (the “kingdom citizen”). It’s not that we should recite the exact words of the model prayer verbatim, as people so often do. The point is that we should frequently talk to God the Father about these things when we pray. And, interestingly, one of the spiritual principles that Jesus includes is the request for God the Father’s kingdom to come.

Obviously, since God the Father and God the Son are one (John 10:30; 14:7-11), God the Father’s kingdom is the same kingdom, Christ’s kingdom, that we’ve been dealing with in this series. Therefore, Jesus wants Christians to keep bombarding God the Father’s heavenly request box with the request, “Bring your heavenly kingdom down to planet earth.” By regularly making this request, we Christians not only obey Jesus’ teaching concerning prayer but also keep ourselves reminded that there really is coming a time when God’s will is going to start getting done on this earth the same way it is currently getting done in heaven.

When will this time be? Revelation 20:4-6 speaks of a era when Christ’s followers will reign with Him for 1,000 years. This same promise, without the citing of the exact number of years, is also made in Revelation 2:26-27. Actually, God’s promise of a glorious kingdom age was first made to the nation of Israel. The scores of Old Testament prophecies in which God promises Israel that a Messiah will one day lead them into a idyllic era in which a revitalized Jerusalem will serve as the capital city of a revitalized earth are too numerous to list. If you know your New Testament, you know that this “kingdom age” is what Christ’s chosen 12 apostles kept looking for Him to establish during His earthly ministry.

I should mention that there are some who attempt to downplay the literalness of the 1,000 years of Revelation 20:4-6 by interpreting the years as being merely symbolic of a period of time of unspecified length. Those who hold to this interpretation cite Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8 — two verses which describe how a thousand years are as one day with God — as proof texts. At first glance, this interpretation seems to make sense.

However, the interpretation comes up lacking upon closer inspection of The Revelation as a whole. I say that because despite the fact that some parts of the book do involve symbolic language, the book frequently uses specific numbers that are plainly meant to be understood literally. Even a cursory reading of the book proves this.

For example, Jesus speaks to 7 specific churches — not to some unknown number of churches — in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. In Revelation 5:1, the scroll that He takes from the hand of God the Father has 7 specific seals, 7 seals that are chronologically opened in Revelation 6:1-17 and 8:1. In Revelation 7:1-8, 144,000 Jews (12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel) are chosen. In Revelation 21:9-21, the eternal city of New Jerusalem is described by means of highly specific numbers. The city’s wall is 144 cubits. The wall features 12 gates: 3 on the east, 3 on the north, 3 on the south, and 3 on the west. The wall is also anchored with 12 foundations. As for the city itself, it is laid out in a square that is 12,000 furlongs in length, breadth, and height. These are just a few of the many, many instances where The Revelation uses specific numbers very literally.

One passage that showcases both the symbolic language and the literal language of the book is Revelation 13:1-10. In those verses, the “beast rising up out of the sea” is symbolic language for the world ruler known as the Antichrist. But what does the passage say about how long the Antichrist will be granted authority to speak? It says that he will be granted that authority for 42 months. If God wanted to convey that the Antichrist will be granted authority to speak for a unspecified duration of time, He surely wouldn’t have listed the number of months as 42. The number 40 would have worked better for symbolism.

In light of all this, it seems clear that we should interpret the number 1,000 in Revelation 20:4-6 to mean just that: 10 centuries.  Because the Latin word mille means “a thousand” and the Latin word annus means “year,” Christ’s 1,000 year reign upon this earth is often referred to as “the millennial reign.” It is also commonly called “the kingdom age.”

Jesus will usher in this age as part of His Second Coming when He returns to this earth and walks it again. His Second Coming will end the seven-year period of tribulation that is prophesied to come upon planet earth. Christ’s Second Coming is most vividly described in Revelation 19:11-21, a passage that explains how He will end the tribulation period’s final, climactic battle (the Battle of Armageddon) by slaying all of the soldiers of all the armies involved and casting the Antichrist (the beast) and his right-hand man (the false prophet) into the eternal lake of fire. Following this resounding victory, three things will take place. They are:

  1. Satan and all the other fallen angels will be imprisoned in a place called “the bottomless pit” for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:1-3; Isaiah 24:21-22). After all, you can’t very well have Christ’s kingdom upon the earth if you’ve still got Satan and his army of fallen angels running around causing trouble.
  2. Concerning all the people who lived through the tribulation period, Jesus will send out angels to divide them up into the categories of “saved” and “lost” (Matthew 24:29-31, 36-44; 25:31-33). The “saved” (the “elect,” the “sheep”) will be welcomed into Christ’s kingdom on earth (Matthew 24:45-47; 25:34). Conversely, the “lost” will be put to death and thus removed from the earth altogether (Matthew 13:47-50; Matthew 24:48-51; 25:30-40; 25-41-46; Luke 19:11-27; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).
  3. The bodies of certain groups of saved people will be resurrected, glorified, and reunited with the souls that once inhabited them. Those groups will be:
  • the saved believers (Adam, Eve, Noah, Abraham, David, Jeremiah, etc.) from the Old Testament age (Daniel 12:1-3)
  • the saved believers (Simeon, Anna, John the Baptist, etc.), from the pre-church New Testament age
  • the people who become saved believers during the tribulation period and either die or get martyred (Revelation 20:4-6)

There is much more to say about Christ’s 1,000 year reign upon the earth, and I’ll say a bit more about it in my next post. For now, though, let me wind up this post by going back to my introduction. The main thing to understand about Christ’s 1,000 year reign is that it will at last be the fulfillment of the untold number of instances in which Christians have prayed to God the Father, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” You see, Christ’s 1,000 year reign is the great merging of heaven and earth. It is when Jesus will be able to rightly say, “My kingdom is of this world” rather than, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). And speaking for myself as a Christian who is already a full-fledged citizen of that kingdom, I look forward to this time with great anticipation.

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Christians Bringing a Touch of Christ’s Kingdom to Earth

Series: “Christ’s Kingdom” (post #5)

Jesus spent His three-and-a-half-year earthly ministry bringing a touch of His heavenly kingdom to the earth. Then, after being crucified, He resurrected and ascended back to heaven. This left a gaping hole in regards to earthly life being touched by Christ’s kingdom. Fortunately, Jesus had a plan to fill that hole. He left all of His followers with the assignment of picking up where He left off in bringing a touch of His kingdom to each situation in which they found themselves.

Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7) has been described as His kingdom manifesto. In it He lays out what being a “kingdom citizen” looks like. It’s sad that the world at large oftentimes understands the Sermon on the Mount as being a works-based plan that if lived closely enough produces salvation. To the contrary, the sermon provides a way for the saved person to evidence a salvation that has previously been obtained by the individual believing in Christ as Savior.

If you doubt that the Sermon on the Mount isn’t for lost people, let me point out that it opens with eight beatitudes (blessings). Each beatitude holds a promise within it, and the promises make it clear that Jesus is talking to saved believers. Those promises are:

  1. The saved believer has the kingdom of heaven, which is Christ’s kingdom (Matthew 5:3).
  2. The saved believer shall be comforted by God (Matthew 5:4).
  3. The saved believer shall inherit the earth by one day reigning with Jesus upon it (Matthew 5:5).
  4. The saved believer will be filled with righteousness by God (Matthew 5:6).
  5. The saved believer will obtain mercy from God (Matthew 5:7).
  6. The saved believer will one day literally see God (Matthew 5:8).
  7. The saved believer will be called a son (child) of God (Matthew 5:9).
  8. The saved believer has the kingdom of heaven, which is Christ’s kingdom (Matthew 5:10).

It is interesting that the opening promise and the closing promise of the beatitudes are exactly the same. Jesus says of saved believers, “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This identifies for us the audience He has in mind for this particular sermon. He’s talking to citizens of His kingdom. Today we call such people “Christians” (Acts 11:26).

As we study the entirety of the sermon, we learn that it majors upon seriously raising the bar for what passes for normal in human interactions. As evidence of this, here is a point-by-point list of the topics that Jesus addresses in the sermon. I’ll ask you to please read each one slowly and carefully so you can really catch what Jesus is throwing. Here goes:

  1. The kingdom citizen understands that when he or she is unfairly reviled and persecuted for the sake of Jesus, that earns them great rewards in heaven (Matthew 5:11-12).
  2. The kingdom citizen sees himself or herself as being the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16). Both roles are awesome responsibilities.
  3. The kingdom citizen recognizes that the Old Testament is every bit as God inspired and as spiritually valuable as the New Testament (Matthew 5:17-18).
  4. The kingdom citizen understands that keeping God’s commandments and teaching others to keep them gets you called “great” in the kingdom, while breaking those commandments gets you called “least” in the kingdom (Matthew 5:19-20).
  5. The kingdom citizen exhibits an outward and inward righteousness that is greater than the merely outward righteousness of the lost Jewish religious leaders (Matthew 5:20).
  6. The kingdom citizen seeks to reconcile with the person with whom he or she bears an anger without legitimate cause. It’s not enough to merely refrain from murdering the person or calling the person spiteful names (Matthew 5:21-22). There must also be an inner abating of the illegitimate anger.
  7. The kingdom citizen understands that holding on to illegitimate anger ruins his or her attempts to worship God and potentially causes severe consequences with legal authorities (Matthew 5:23-26)
  8. The kingdom citizen resists the temptation to look lustfully at another person (Matthew 5:27-30). It’s not enough to merely refrain from physically acting upon the inner lust by engaging in sexual relations with the person.
  9. The kingdom citizen considers marriage to be especially sacred, with adultery being the only God-approved grounds for divorce (Matthew 5:31-32). (For the record, the apostle Paul later added in the God-approved grounds of a Christian spouse being abandoned by a non-Christian spouse, 1 Corinthians 7:12-15.) 
  10. The kingdom citizen avoids all foolish and false oath taking (Matthew 5:33-37).
  11. The kingdom citizen turns the other cheek when struck rather than cling to the old “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” standard of retaliation (Matthew 5:38-39).
  12. The kingdom citizen exhibits exceedingly gracious, even illogical, behavior when unjustly wronged (Matthew 5:40-41).
  13. The kingdom citizen kindly gives to those who ask to borrow (Matthew 5:42).
  14. The kingdom citizen loves his or her enemies and earnestly prays for them (Matthew 5:43-48).
  15. The kingdom citizen does his or her charitable deeds in private, not seeking the praise of others (Matthew 6:1-4).
  16. The kingdom citizen has a vibrant prayer life that includes various kinds of spiritual principles as part of it (Matthew 6:5-13).
  17. The kingdom citizen forgives those who have sinned against him or her (Matthew 6:14-15).
  18. The kingdom citizen does his or her fasting in private, not seeking the praise of others (Matthew 6:16-18).
  19. The kingdom citizen lays up treasures in heaven rather than upon the earth (Matthew 6:19-21).
  20. The kingdom citizen keeps his or her eye focused upon that which is good, which means that his or her motives and goals are godly (Matthew 6:22-23).
  21. The kingdom citizen serves God rather than riches (Matthew 6:24).
  22. The kingdom citizen doesn’t worry because he or she knows that God will meet every need (Matthew 6:25-34).
  23. The kingdom citizen doesn’t judge hypocritically by condemning others for the same sins he or she personally commits (Matthew 7:1-5).
  24. The kingdom citizen exhibits spiritual discernment regarding to whom he or she imparts spiritual truth (Matthew 7:6).
  25. The kingdom citizen prays persistently in faithful expectation that God will grant each worthy request (Matthew 7:7-11).
  26. The kingdom citizen does unto others what he or she would have others do unto them (Matthew 7:12).
  27. The kingdom citizen understands that he or she will always be in the minority in this world because living God’s way is difficult and relatively few people choose it (Matthew 7:13-14).
  28. The kingdom citizen exhibits spiritual discernment by being able to recognize false prophets by the bad fruits those prophets produce (Matthew 7:15-20).
  29. The kingdom citizen understands that everyone who claims to be a believer in Jesus isn’t truly authentic (Matthew 7:21-23).
  30. The kingdom citizen understands that living out the teachings of Jesus can be compared to building a house upon solid rock, while refusing to live out His teachings can be compared to building a house upon sand (Matthew 7:24-27).

Well, by now I trust that you get the idea. The kingdom citizen is called to live out a higher code of morality than the lost person. Again, this higher code doesn’t produce salvation; it evidences it. Even more than that, it causes the kingdom citizen to bring a touch of Christ’s kingdom to every situation in which he or she happens to be. This touch of the kingdom is how we Christians can effectively serve as “salt” and “light” to this spiritually decaying, spiritually dark world, and it’s how we can continue the radical spiritual movement that Jesus Himself began some 2,000 years ago.

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Jesus Bringing a Touch of His Kingdom to Earth

Series: “Christ’s Kingdom” (post #4)

“But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Matthew 12:28, N.K.J.V.)

When Jesus was born into the human race, He didn’t bring His heavenly kingdom with Him. What I mean is, daily life for those in Israel — to say nothing of daily life around the world — didn’t change. Why not? It was because the kingdom that Satan had so effectively and prolifically built within the confines of planet earth didn’t fall. To the contrary, it continued to hum right along, just as it continues to do so today.

Even when Jesus began His three-and-a-half-year public ministry by being baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River, Satan’s kingdom didn’t fall. Even when Jesus resisted Satan’s temptations in the Judean wilderness, Satan’s kingdom didn’t fall. Even when Jesus preached His most famous sermon, The Sermon on the Mount, Satan’s kingdom didn’t fall. Even when Jesus healed people, cast out demons, walked on the water, and performed other miracles, Satan’s kingdom didn’t fall. Even when Jesus died on the cross, Satan’s kingdom didn’t fall. Even when Jesus arose from the dead, Satan’s kingdom didn’t fall. Even when Jesus ascended back to heaven forty days after His resurrection, Satan’s kingdom didn’t fall.

And make no mistake, saying that Satan’s kingdom didn’t fall is just another way of saying that Jesus didn’t usher in His kingdom upon the earth. This was something that caused Christ’s disciples no end of frustration. As a matter of fact, do you know what the last question a group of them asked Him was? In the closing moments just before He ascended back to heaven, they asked Him, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6, N.K.J.V.). The kingdom those Jews were asking about was the kingdom the Messiah was prophesied to establish upon the earth according to scores of prophecies from various Old Testament prophets. That kingdom will be Christ’s heavenly kingdom come down to the earth, and I’ll deal with that whole subject more thoroughly in a later post.

For now, though, I just want to explain what Jesus did do during His earthly ministry rather than bring in His kingdom. What He did do was bring a touch of His heavenly kingdom to every place He went and everything He did. As our text verse quotes Him saying to a group of lost Jewish religious leaders, “If I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

Jesus wanted people to understand that when they saw Him, they were looking at the “King” of the KINGdom of God. As a matter of fact, I side with all the commentators and Bible scholars who contend that Jesus literally offered the Jews the ushering in of His kingdom upon the earth during the days of His ministry. Consider the following facts:

  1. John the Baptist, the forerunner to Jesus, preached, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” in the days leading up to Jesus beginning His public ministry (Matthew 3:2).
  2. Jesus, once He began His public ministry, preached, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). He also preached, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
  3. When Jesus sent His chosen 12 out on their first preaching trip, He said to them, “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand'” (Matthew 10:7).
  4. Jesus also said to the chosen 12 about that preaching trip, “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5-6).
  5. The Jews knew that the prophet Elijah was prophesied to come before the Messiah could establish the kingdom age. This was literally the last prophecy from the Old Testament (Malachi 4:5-6). That’s why they were always looking for Elijah as much as they were looking for the Messiah. Well, Jesus actually said to a large gathering of Jews one day, “If you are willing to receive it (the kingdom of heaven), he (John the Baptist) is Elijah who is to come” (Matthew 11:14). Likewise, at a later date, Jesus told Peter, James, and John, “I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him…” (Matthew 17:12).

The point of these references seems clear. If Israel as a nation had spiritually discerned that John the Baptist was the possible fulfillment of the Elijah prophecy, and if they had spiritually discerned that Jesus was the Messiah who could establish the prophesied kingdom, Jesus would have instituted His kingdom during the days of His earthly life. But because Israel (not as each individual but as a national whole) didn’t appreciate the “Elijah” aspect of John the Baptist’s ministry, they similarly didn’t recognize that Jesus was the promised Messiah and consequently rejected Him. And, of course, by rejecting the King they rejected His kingdom. To use Jesus’ words from Matthew 11:14, they weren’t “willing to receive it.”

Those who object to this whole line of interpretation point out that if Jesus had established His kingdom at that time, He wouldn’t have been able to die on the cross for the sins of the world, which was His highest purpose in coming to earth. This objection has merit. However, this isn’t the only scriptural case of God dealing in opposing offers that seem to contradict each other.

Think back to the Garden of Eden. God offered bodily immortality to Adam and Eve if they resisted the temptation to eat of the forbidden fruit. The offer was, if they didn’t eat that fruit they would never die. Now, was this offer legitimate? Did God mean what He said? Absolutely.

But the flip side of the coin is that God, in His perfect foreknowledge, knew that Adam and Eve would eventually eat that fruit and plunge the human race headlong into sin. Therefore, even before He created them and made them His offer concerning immortality, He had another plan — the one He knew would truly come to pass — waiting in the wings. And what was that plan? It was Jesus (God the Son) coming down to the earth and dying on the cross for the sins of the human race. As evidence that God knew that Adam and Eve would eventually eat that fruit, Revelation 13:8 calls Jesus “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

You see, in God’s mind two seemingly contradictory futures can be legitimate at the same time. So, did Jesus genuinely offer to establish His kingdom upon the earth before He died on the cross for the sins of the world? Yes. But even as that offer was made God knew in His foreknowledge that Israel wouldn’t accept it. This meant that the prophecies about the Messiah (Jesus) being put to death, prophecies such as Isaiah 53:4-12, were never actually in jeopardy of not being fulfilled.

As I said earlier, in lieu of Jesus being able to formally establish His heavenly kingdom upon the earth, He contented Himself with bringing a touch of the kingdom wherever He went. When He taught, that was the kingdom on display. When He healed, that was the kingdom on display. When He performed miracles, that was the kingdom on display. Each time He did any of these things, He was showing the people of Israel what their nation was shunning.

Sadly for them, they — particularly their ruling religious elite — never repented of their unwillingness to embrace Jesus as Messiah. In a strange way, though, their rejection of Jesus worked out well for the entire world because it allowed Jesus to delay the establishing of His kingdom and die on the cross as the potential payment for all of our sins. This, as I’ve explained, was the plan that God had waiting in the wings. And thankfully for us Gentiles, it’s the plan that allowed the doors of Christ’s kingdom to be thrown open to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews to whom it was originally promised.

Posted in Christ's Birth, Christ's Death, Christ's Miracles, Christ's Resurrection, Prophecy, Series: "Christ's Kingdom", The Sermon On The Mount | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Becoming a Citizen of Christ’s Kingdom

Series: “Christ’s Kingdom” (post #3)

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ… (Philippians 3:20, N.K.J.V.)

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God… (Ephesians 2:19, N.K.J.V.)

Colossians 1:13 implies that in order for you to become a citizen of Satan’s kingdom, all you have to do is be born. It makes sense, then, that to become a citizen of Christ’s kingdom you must be born again. As Jesus put it, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, N.K.J.V.).

Of course, the way to be born again is to place saving belief in Jesus as your personal Savior (John 3:1-16). At the moment of your belief, God the Holy Spirit comes to take up residence inside your body. This indwelling is known as the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:7-8; John 14:16-17; Acts 1:4-5; Acts 19:2; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:13). The Bible even teaches that if you do not have God the Holy Spirit dwelling inside you, you are not an authentic Christian (Romans 8:9).

The baptism of the Holy Spirit and the born-again experience are one and the same as the indwelling Holy Spirit spiritually regenerates (brings to life) the believer (Titus 3:5). The experience makes you a Christian and changes your citizenship from Satan’s kingdom to Christ’s kingdom. As that Colossians 1:13 verse says of what God the Father has done for the Christian:

He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love. (N.K.J.V.)

What this means, Christian, is that you are an official citizen of a heavenly kingdom that you have never seen. You have a residence (John 14:1-2) and an inheritance (1 Peter 1:3-5) awaiting you there. You have a place at the table (Luke 22:29-30). It’s no wonder that 2 Peter 1:10-11 encourages Christians to make sure of their salvation (i.e. their “call” and “election”). By doing this we can be assured that we will “never stumble” and an entrance will be supplied to us “into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Obviously, Christ’s heavenly kingdom is a literal place. It’s not just a state of mind or an ethereal ideal. However, this kingdom should also be understood as a citizenry. Let me use the United States as an example. Is there an actual land mass that we call the kingdom of the United States? Yes. But the kingdom of the United States is more than just a land mass. It’s also the sum total of all its citizens. This is how Christ’s kingdom works as well. It really is a literal place somewhere up there beyond space, but it is also its citizenry. As Ephesians 2:19 describes the kingdom, if you are there you are a member of God’s household and a fellow citizen with all of history’s other saints (Christians).

What makes it difficult for Christians to properly appreciate Christ’s kingdom is the fact that we are still here on the earth. It’s hard to long for a place you’ve never seen, and it’s hard to miss something you’ve never gotten to enjoy. The apostle Paul got a glimpse of Christ’s heavenly kingdom and called it Paradise (2 Corinthians 12:1-6). The apostle John visited there too and left us with an awesome description of God’s throne that serves as the centerpiece of the kingdom (Revelation 4:1-11). Other than these two passages, however, we really don’t know all that much about the place.

The important thing, though, is for you to have the assurance that you are indeed a citizen of that kingdom. Again, this means that you know Jesus Christ in a saving way. You have placed your belief in Him as your Savior. You’ve been born again. God the Holy Spirit dwells inside you. God has conveyed (transferred) you from Satan’s kingdom into the kingdom of Jesus Christ.

And so I’ll ask you, do you have this matter settled? If you don’t, then you reading any passage about Christ’s kingdom equates to you reading someone else’s mail. You’re reading about a place for which you are not currently destined. You’re reading about people with whom you currently have no eternal relationship. Right now you are a citizen of Satan’s kingdom, and all the good works you can do won’t change that. The only thing that will change it is for you to believe in Christ and thereby be born again. So, if you haven’t, why don’t you do that right now? What are you waiting for? Remember, a whole new kingdom and a whole new group of fellow citizens awaits you.

Posted in Belief, Eternity, Heaven, Salvation, Series: "Christ's Kingdom", The Holy Spirit | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Satan Has a Kingdom

Series: “Christ’s Kingdom” (post #2)

In the first post from this series, I explained that Jesus left His heavenly kingdom and came down to the kingdom of this world. But if we stop and think about it, isn’t Jesus (God the Son) sovereign over everything, including the kingdom of this world? Well, that’s an excellent question. Let’s talk about it.

The Bible does offer multiple verses that teach that God is sovereign over His entire creation, including the earth. Here are a few of those verses (all from the N.K.J.V.):

Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; And let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.” (1 Chronicles 16:31)

The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness. The world and those who dwell therein. (Psalm 24:1)

For God is the King of all the earth, Sing praises with understanding. God reigns over the nations; God sits on His holy throne. (Psalm 47:7-8)

…for the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness. (1 Corinthians 10:26)

Okay, so if the earth and everything in it belongs to Jesus (God the Son), and if He reigns over the nations as King of all the earth, how could any part of planet earth not be merely a continuation of His heavenly kingdom? Phrasing the question another way, shouldn’t Jesus leaving heaven and coming to the earth have been nothing more than Him leaving one corner of His kingdom and visiting another corner of it? Doesn’t that make sense?

It only makes sense if everything was as it should have been on planet earth. As we know, though, things haven’t been as they should be on planet earth for a long time. The problem started when Satan and his fellow rebellious angels were banished from heaven. Rather than take up residence in some faraway, dark galaxy and lick their wounds in private, Satan and his gang set their sights on planet earth and took up residence there. Their goal was to ruin the human race, God’s crowning jewel in creation.

And were they successful? Yes. We all know the story of how Satan got Adam and Eve to succumb to his temptation and take the whole human race down into sin. It was because of Adam’s sin that all his biological descendants began to come hardwired with an inborn nature of sin. Consequently, this nature of sin caused them to have a definite bent toward committing acts of sin. So now Satan had all he needed to build his own kingdom within the parameters of God’s earthly territory. He had an army of fallen angels to command and a race of fallen sinners who were highly prone to sinning.

Once Satan had brought his earthly kingdom to full fruition, it was nothing less than a global “system” that permeated all of human life on earth and had him as its ruler. The primary Greek word that gets translated as “world” in the New Testament is kosmos, but kosmos doesn’t refer to the physical rock that hangs in space and gets called “earth.” Instead, kosmos refers to the societal order that is the trademark stamp of Satan’s kingdom on earth.

Consider the following facts:

  1. While God still reigns as the supreme ruler over all creation, including planet earth, He doesn’t reign as the supreme ruler over the world system (kosmos) that Satan has built upon planet earth. That is Satan’s kingdom.
  2. In John 12:31, 14:30, and 16:11,  Jesus Himself calls Satan “the ruler of this world (kosmos).”
  3. In 1 John 5:19, we’re told that the whole world (kosmos) lies under the sway of Satan.
  4. In 1 John 2:16, we’re told that nothing about the world (kosmos) is of God.
  5. In Matthew 12:25-26, Jesus confirmed that Satan does have a kingdom.
  6. When Satan tempted Jesus by offering him all the kingdoms of the world, Jesus didn’t say, “They aren’t yours to give.” He didn’t say that because He knew that all of the human kingdoms upon planet earth are, in actuality, part of Satan’s one kingdom, His world system. 

“And how does a person become a part of Satan’s kingdom?” you ask. The answer is simple: All you have to do is be born. Colossians 1:13 teaches that if a person wants to become a citizen of Christ’s kingdom, that person must be delivered from Satan’s power and conveyed (transferred) into Christ’s kingdom. Notice that no one has to be conveyed (transferred) into Satan’s kingdom. Each of us became a citizen of that kingdom the moment we were born.

To illustrate the situation, think of Satan as a broadcaster who beams his signal unceasingly to all parts of the earth day and night. Now think of each person as being born with an inner antennae that is tuned to Satan’s signal. As 2 Corinthians 4:4 describes it, Satan is the god of this age who blinds our minds. This causes us to walk, as Ephesians 2:2 describes it, “according to the course of this world (kosmos), according to the prince of the power of the air.” That “prince of the power of the air” is none other than Satan.

You see, people walk according to the course that Satan has established within his kingdom. Certainly this doesn’t alleviate the personal responsibility that each individual bears for his or her sins, but it does explain why it’s so easy for individuals to give in to the worse side of their nature as they live on planet earth. What makes it so easy is the fact that Satan has built a world system that appeals to the sinful side of human nature. Imagine someone building a playroom for little children and then bringing little children into that playroom. It’s not that the children have to play, but everything is certainly put on a tee to get them to play.

This explains why Jesus coming down to the earth amounted to Him invading an enemy kingdom. Yes, the planet itself was still under His authority and control. That’s why He could calm the winds, silence the raging waves, walk on water, and turn water into wine. But the people who lived upon the planet were not under His authority and control. To the contrary, they were citizens of Satan’s kingdom, and as such they were under Satan’s authority and control.

Therefore, what Jesus offered people was a choice. They could remain citizens of Satan’s kingdom or accept Him as Savior and in so doing transfer their citizenship to His kingdom. And this is the same choice that Jesus is still offering people today. They can remain citizens of Satan’s kingdom or become citizens of His. In our next post, we’ll learn what the Bible has to say about this transfer of citizenship, and so until then I hope you’ll stay tuned.

Posted in Angels, Choices, Creation, Demons, Depravity, God's Sovereignty, Salvation, Satan, Series: "Christ's Kingdom", Sin, Spiritual Warfare, The Devil | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jesus Has a Kingdom

Series: “Christ’s Kingdom” (post #1)

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” (John 18:36, N.K.J.V.)

Jesus didn’t say that He doesn’t have a kingdom. He said that His kingdom is not of this world. In other words, His kingdom is a heavenly one, not an earthly one. Jesus Himself referred to it as “the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 4:17) and “the kingdom of God” (Matthew 12:26).

This kingdom was a major focus of Christ’s preaching. The gospel of Luke says that Jesus and His chosen 12 apostles went through every city and village, preaching and proclaiming the “glad tidings of the kingdom of God” (Luke 8:1, N.K.J.V.). Similarly, when Jesus sent the chosen 12 out to preach on their own, the message they preached was “the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:2, N.K.J.V.).

As further proof of how inextricably linked Jesus is to His kingdom, even the gospel message itself is referred to as “the gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 9:35; 24:14 N.K.J.V.) and “the word of the kingdom” (Matthew 13:19, N.K.J.V.). Furthermore, Jesus began many of His parables with the words, “The kingdom of heaven is like…” (Matthew 13:24-52, N.K.J.V.). Clearly, He wanted people to understand that His kingdom is a very real kingdom, one that stands in direct contrast to the kingdom of this world.

The Bible teaches that Jesus voluntarily left His kingdom and came down to this earth to interact with its kingdom. He did this as a rescue mission to allow each member of the human race the opportunity to be saved from having to spend all eternity being punished for their sins. Philippians 2:9 describes this as Jesus making Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond-servant, and coming in the likeness of men (N.K.J.V.).

Sadly, the “kingdom” aspect of the message of Jesus has gotten lost in all of our preaching about His virgin birth, His sinless life, His miracles, His teachings, His sacrificial death, and His glorious resurrection. Don’t get me wrong, we should be preaching all of these other things. They are necessary. They are fundamental. They are all part of the package of the message of Jesus. But there’s another part of that same package, and it’s the part about Christ’s kingdom. And we dare not omit that part because Jesus certainly didn’t omit it.

So, to familiarize us again with the idea of Christ’s kingdom, I’m going to devote the next few posts to the subject. We’re going to learn the basics of what the Bible teaches about this kingdom, and, most importantly, we’re going to learn how this kingdom has a direct bearing upon not only the Christian’s eternal existence but also his or her earthly one. Therefore, Christian, I hope that you will join me for this little series. I know that the material we’ll be covering has become a well of great blessing in my life, and I truly believe that it will do the same for you.

Posted in Christ's Birth, Christ's Death, Christ's Miracles, Christ's Resurrection, Discipleship, Heaven, Series: "Christ's Kingdom" | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment