About That Kingdom...
Last week, we considered the most obvious characteristic of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ that distinguished it from that of Israel: the fact that it was not established and maintained by sword or spear. The prophetic words of Isaiah said its coming and very existence would be a time when “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isa. 2:4). That Kingdom was and is quite different than that of Israel, which began with physical battles with those in and around Canaan, and was preserved by physical battles with those in and around Canaan [supported by God’s protective care, of course].
We closed out last week’s article by noting that Jesus was now reigning over that Kingdom, citing the Divinely-inspired words of the apostle Peter that were spoken to those in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost just a short time after Jesus left this earth (cf. Acts 2:30-36). It should be obvious that the Kingdom then existed, and Jesus was already reigning over it, by what was said to the Jews in Jerusalem just a few days after the ascension of Jesus into heaven. It should be obvious.
But some today are preaching that the Kingdom of Jesus Christ has not yet come! A whole segment of those who identify as believers are convinced that this Kingdom does not yet exist and will not until Christ comes back and sets it up again, with a literal throne in Jerusalem, and will last for a literal 1000 years before some great physical battle here on earth, known to many as Armageddon. The basic beliefs may vary from group to group, but the common point that identifies Premillinnealism is that Christ has not yet established His Kingdom and does not now reign over it.
Now, obviously, those who say the Kingdom has come and those who say it has not both cannot be right; so how can we know the truth on this? Well, as with all matters pertaining to spiritual matters, the Scriptures should have the final say. Let’s consider a couple of passages that do make it clear what the truth is on this matter.
Daniel’s Vision. As was noted in last week’s article, Daniel saw, in what he called “the night visions…One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:12, 13). Before we can go any further, we must know the characters in this vision.
Without question, “the Ancient of Days” refers to God. Albert Barnes, in his commentary on Daniel, says regarding that description used here, “There can be no doubt that the reference here is to God.” (Barnes’ Notes on the Old Testament, Daniel 7:9.) Barnes’ comments sum up the unanimous interpretation of all the commentaries in my library, and anyone who reads this with an honest heart.
The description of the one who came to the Ancient of Days — “One like the Son of Man” — may not be as clear within this context alone, but should be made clearer when we consider its use in the New Testament. In the Old testament, it is used to describe anyone born of the flesh (cf. Jer. 49:18) and, in the book of Ezekiel, in particular, referred to the prophet himself as one who was of the flesh, but who spoke for God. In the New Testament, however, this term was used for someone we know well: Jesus the Christ.
Jesus used this term for Himself (cf. Matt. 8:20; Matt. 26:24). As with the descriptive phrase used in the Old Testament, this referred to the fleshly nature of Jesus, the one who would die on the cross. Jesus was both God and man, and He was born into this world like man, and would die, like man.
Now, when was this that Jesus then came to the Father “with the clouds of heaven”? This is important, for it will tell us something about when He began His reign as King! Well, we know that when Jesus left this earth, Luke described the scene very simply: “He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). It would not be unreasonable to conclude, then, that His departure from earth preceded His return to heaven in a cloud.
Remember, too, that when Peter preached the gospel message for the first time, just a few days after His ascension, he told the Jews there in Jerusalem that Jesus had been raised up and had been “exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:33). That “promise of the Holy Spirit” was the promise that God had made to David, that “He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne” (Acts 2:30). In other words, Jesus was then sitting on the throne! Now, it is necessarily implied that if Jesus was sitting on a throne, reigning as King, there must have also then existed the Kingdom! One must do some tremendous denying of reality and forgo the use of logic to come to any other conclusion.
The Parable of the Minas. In Luke 19:11-26, Jesus told the Parable of the Minas and, in the story, it begins with Jesus telling them, “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return” (Luke 19:12). Remember this statement, but let us explain the story first.
Jesus is the nobleman, and it would be he who comes back to call his servants to account what he had given them (Luke 19:15-26), just as Christ will call us into account when He returns (cf. 2 Cor. 5:10). The citizens who hated the nobleman and did not want him to rule over them (Luke 19:14) were the majority of the Jews of the first century (cf. John 19:15). The servants are the disciples of Jesus [though all men, in all reality, will stand before Him to be judged].
Now, let’s note that when the nobleman left the servants, he “went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return” (Luke 19:12), and later it is said, “And so it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him” (Luke 19:15). If this is Jesus, we must then acknowledge that He left this earth to receive a Kingdom, and when He returns, He will have already received that Kingdom. It is not something He will establish upon His return to earth, but is something given to Him when He returned to heaven! That is why Peter said what He did almost 2000 years ago; Jesus was already reigning as King because when He returned to heaven, it was given to Him!
The apostle Paul wrote to the disciples in Colossæ and reminded them that God had “delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13). Notice that this is past tense — it has already occurred. Disciples in the first century were already in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ! How could that be if Christ had not yet established His Kingdom? The only logical and honest conclusion is that it did exist.
Friends and brethren, the question now is: Are you a citizen in that Kingdom? Are you living as His subject? — Steven Harper