THE KINGDOM OF GOD
by KEN ALEXANDER
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The Kingdom of God is the ultimate sought after reality in Christianity and indeed in the entire earth and the universe. Although many see it as just a return to a previous Garden of Eden in fact is the introduction into the earth of an entirely new reality. The Kingdom of God is not a place mankind enters automatically upon physical death but is a reality that is to come on this earth and in this time. Jesus Christ made this very clear in His pronouncement on how mankind is to pray. He says, as recorded in the so called “Lord’s prayer” the following: Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9-10).
Many see Christ as a Messiah who came to earth in order to forgive men of their sins. They also see Him as a great teacher and leader whose professed wisdom showed men how to live their lives on this earth. These observations may be accurate on one level but this was not Christ’s ultimate purpose. Christ came to usher in a Kingdom of God that originates in heaven or the spirit world inhabited by God.
John the author of the Book of Revelation made this fact abundantly clear in his apocryphal writings. He foresaw the coming age as something entirely new and different. In Revelation 21:1-5 he records the following:
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them [be their God], and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”
He goes on to describe this coming kingdom: “Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear [bright] as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.”
In order to understand the absolute necessity for this Kingdom to come on this earth one must consult God’s Word as far back as the Book of Genesis to the fall of mankind (see Genesis Chapter 3). God had placed Adam and Eve in a paradise called the Garden of Eden. They were allowed to eat of any of the trees of the Garden except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They were warned that is they ate from this tree that they would surely die (up to that point life was eternal). However, Satan, in the form of a serpent, deceived Eve and then Adam and they ate fruit from the forbidden tree. As a result of their disobedience God cursed the earth with futility (Romans 8:20-22) and banished mankind from the eternal paradise He had created for them. He also denied mankind from access to the tree of (eternal) life. God said:
“Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3:23-24).
It was because of their sin that God had to banish them from paradise and from access to the tree of life. By partaking of the tree of knowledge the pair had introduced evil into the world. If they were to be allowed to live eternally in their sinful state the evil produced over the coming generations would be so compounded throughout eternity that is would be uncontrollable. Evil would reign eternally in creation. So God banished them into a world of futility where mankind’s existence would then be eeked out by the sweat of the brow and where there would be death. It was not God’s intention to deny forever the first humans knowledge of good and evil but He planned to reveal it to them when they were ready to use the knowledge the way He intended. In their immature states they were not ready to be able to handle such knowledge. Man continues to live to this day in this futile world where he was banished so long ago. And, as is apparent throughout history, evil has reigned supreme in this world of futility until now.
In order to understand the Kingdom of God we must understand the cursed world of futility in which we now reside in this physical realm. Futility (or vanity in the KJV of the Bible) is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as a condition of: “having no useful result, barren, fruitless, useless”. Webster’s Dictionary adds: “trifling, unimportant and a “head stuffed with silly and unimportant ideas”. One must only look around his environment and history to see that those are accurate definitions as to our current state.
King Solomon saw this world for what it was and stated the following: “Vanity of vanities,” [literally futility of futilities] says the Preacher, Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” [literally futile] What advantage does man have in all his work Which he does under the sun? A generation goes and a generation comes, But the earth remains forever. Also, the sun rises and the sun sets; (Ecclesiastes 1:2-5). And: “All things are wearisome; Man is not able to tell it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, Nor is the ear filled with hearing. That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun (Eccl. 1:8-9). The entire Book of Ecclesiastes is devoted to humankind’s gloomy condition as he lives in a world that has been literally cursed by God. Human history, science, arts and all endeavors reflect this futility as nations come and go, rulers rule and are gone, empires flourish and fade away, materials wear our and become useless and death robs humankind of any lasting achievements. There is no lasting joy. Love waxes cold. Nothing is permanent; everything is transitory, here today, gone tomorrow.
However, the Apostle Paul saw God’s reasons for subjecting all creation to a futile state and recognized God’s grace and love in it as he revealed the plan of God to rescue man from his futile state. In Romans 8:18-22 he states:
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
Thus although God subjected creation to futility He did so in hope that the coming Sons of God (Christ was the first) would appear and release creation from this divinely imposed condition. He points that all of creation groans and travails, as in the birth process, waiting anxiously for this liberation to occur. This liberation is the coming of the Kingdom of God Christ told us to pray for in the Lord’s prayer. As John said above, in the coming Kingdom access to the tree of life would be restored. All the sorrow, grief, pain, sickness and death would be banished forever. And that the sufferings experienced by man during this birth process would not be worthy to be compared to the glory of the Kingdom that is to be revealed.
Christ Himself was the first-fruits of this coming Kingdom. His entire ministry speaks of the coming Kingdom and of He himself as the manifestation of this Kingdom of God on earth. Looking at what is recorded in the gospels as Christ’s “requirements” to live a Godly life are obviously impossible to fulfill living in this earth in it’s current state. Mankind’s nature is futile and unable to be righteous despite his best efforts. Many think the famed “Sermon on the Mount” is speaking of how we are to live in this age nut in fact Christ is speaking of life in age to come.Who among us can measure up to the vision set forth by Christ during that “sermon”. Who among us can be truly merciful, loving, forgiving or righteous according to the standards He set forth. Who can indeed control his thoughts, thoughts of adultery for instance, as Christ requires? Who among us can be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect? The Words of Christ are not fulfilled in this futile cursed earth-they are fulfilled only in the Kingdom of God which we receive as it comes down from heaven. We do not fulfill the Kingdom in ourselves, we receive it from God by grace.
Many try to fulfill God’s righteousness by doing good works in order to gain God’s favor and thereby entrance to the Kingdom. However Christ says that those who profess righteousness but do righteousness are not righteous themselves but are hypocrites. Hypocrite is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as: “a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion”. Any act that we do in the human nature which tries to emulate true spirituality is hypocrisy. Jesus condemned the Pharisees, scribes and religious leaders of the day as hypocrites i.e. those who professed to follow the law of God but were not truly righteous inside.
Those religious leaders of the day constantly condemned Christ for not following the Mosaic Law. Christ responded as follows: “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke (jot or tittle”) shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps [does] and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-20).
Therefore Christ Himself was the fulfillment of the Law of God. He was not a facsimile of the Law as portrayed by the religious leaders of the day. Since He was able to fulfill the Law entirely, so too can we by appropriating His grace and righteousness in our lives. Christ was the Kingdom of God made flesh in the earth. As He said if a man violates just one law of God he has violated them all. So none are righteous, not one. Only He is Holy. And He has made provision for all mankind to participate in His Holiness. Our own human works, trying to be righteous in ourselves, are abhorrent to God As Isaiah the prophet said: But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away (Isaiah64:6).
The Apostle Paul was well aware of the sinfulness of the human flesh, even in himself. In Romans 7:18-19, 24 he mourns:“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want” Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? He then answers his own question.
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 7:25-8:4).
The Kingdom of God is thus fulfilled by the New Covenant instituted by Christ upon His coming, death and resurrection. No longer would mankind be required to adhere to a set of rules or laws in order to be righteous. Under the Old Covenant the physical nation of Israel was required to be obedient to the old Mosaic Law recorded in the Jewish Torah, the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The history of ancient Israel, as recorded in the Old Testament of the Bible, proved that man could not, in his present condition, ever obey those Laws. Israel, God’s chosen nation, failed time and time again, necessitating God’s severe judgments against them.
For those of us now living under the New Covenant, the old Law became our tutor, showing us our need for the permanent sacrifice of Christ, who fulfilled the Law. As confirmed in Galatians 3;23-25: “But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor”.
Therefore those who are a part of this Kingdom, as Christ was part thereof, have become ambassadors of the gospel proclaiming the Kingdom of God in the earth (Ephesians 6:19-20). We thus became citizens, not of any country currently in the earth, but citizens of a new country called the Kingdom of God. As Paul stated in Philippians 3:20-21: “ For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself”.
Jesus ministry on the earth was primarily to proclaim this coming Kingdom. Most of His parables described the Kingdom of God, what it is like and how we are to be able to enter. Jesus said: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). We who have this citizenship in the Kingdom of God are like the piece of leaven described by Christ: “And again He said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? “It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened” (Luke 13:20-210. In other words those who are citizens of the Kingdom may be small in number but that small amount will spread to the entire earth until all know God from the least to the greatest .
Along those lines, Jesus recognized there was also evil leaven that attempts to spoil the entire lump. “And Jesus said to them, “Watch out and beware of the leaven [yeast] of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:6; also Luke 12:1). That evil leaven put great burdens on the backs of men to be righteous by obeying a law that was meant for their benefit rather their taskmaster. Even today most religions require adherence to doctrines and laws as a prerequisite to righteousness and ability to enter what they call “heaven” when you die.
Paul was also aware of this evil leaven which could pervert the entire church Kingdom. He says: “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened (1 Corinthians 5:6-7 also Galatians 5:9).
Christ’s many parables also describe those who are and are not citizens of this Kingdom. In Luke 13:24-28 he states: “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. “Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ “Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets’; and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.’ “In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out. Also: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ (Matthew 7:21-23).
Therefore it is not enough to do mighty works, even in His name, to become a citizen of the Kingdom. Even if some see Him as Lord, and cry Lord, Lord, many will not enter despite their cries to a God they had not come to know. Only those who do the will of the Lord will enter. No matter how many demons you cast out, or prophecies you make, or the fact that you taught in His streets Christ warns that you will not enter unless you did HIS will. Many famous religious leaders of today do many mighty works, perform miracles in His name and cast out many demons but the question ultimately to them in that day will still be “Did you do the will of God or your own will”?
The citizens of the kingdom must be ready at all times. Jesus said: “Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. “Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. “Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. “Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. “But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. “You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.” (Luke 12:35-40).
The parable of the 10 virgins illustrates this principle. “Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. “Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. “For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. “Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. “But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ “Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. “The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’“But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ “And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. “Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ “But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:1-13).
This parable indicates that sometimes we find out too late what we should have done to be ready for His coming. All 10 virgins were invited by the master, and all 10 were pure and undefiled (virgins). All 10 waited at the Masters door and all 10 slumbered as the Master delayed His coming. All 10 brought lamps as they knew to do. However, the foolish did not anticipate that the master might not come at the time they thought and thus did not bring extra oil to prepare for this contingency. They, in effect, trusted in their own understanding and did not believe the Lord would come at an unexpected hour as they had been told. Thus all their preparation for receiving the Kingdom went for naught, to the extent that when they finally returned with extra oil, lamps alit, the door was shut and the Master told them He didn’t know them. They completely lost out with the God they had thought they served so diligently.
Similarly, a citizen of the Kingdom of God makes wise use of what God gives him as the Lord requires that we increase what talents or gifts we are given.In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) all recipients increased the number of talents they were given except one who buried his talent for safekeeping so He could give it back to the Lord when He returned. The Lord condemned this man in the harshest of terms. The others had received more talents than this man who only had one, not five or ten. The Lord does not distinguish between how much or little we are given only what we do with it.
We must increase what we have been given, just as the leaven increases and leavens the whole lump. The Lord said to the man with the one talent: “And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. ‘And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. ‘Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. ‘Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents (Matthew 25:24-28). The Lord thought enough of this man to actually give Him a divine gift. However, the man did not have a correct revelation of who the Lord was and what He wanted. He was fatally fearful, cowardly and unbelieving and such lead the parade into hell (Revelation 21:8). A citizen of the Kingdom is brave and is an overcomer (Revelation 21:7).
The citizen of the Kingdom must be ready and aware at all times. Jesus said: “Now learn the parable from the fig tree:”when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. (Matthew 24:32-33). Also: “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. “Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. “Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left (Matthew 24:37-31).
Unfortunately many interrupt this scripture to indicate some kind of a rapture of the righteous where the righteous will be taken to heaven and the wicked left behind (anybody read the “Left Behind” series?). This is not the way it was in the days of Noah. The wicked were taken in judgment and the righteous (Noah and his family) were left behind. Thisfalse theory of a rapture is the deadliest of deceptions. It is like the man who was given one talent and buried it in the sand. The rapture theory, now so prevalent in mainstream Christianity today, teaches the believer to hold tight what he has until the rapture comes when the believer will be whisked out of trouble. Citizens of the Kingdom do not flee the danger or any tribulation they flourish in it.
It is in this atmosphere of difficulty that the citizen of the Kingdom is instrumental in bringing forth the Kingdom of God to the earth. The rapture teaches that a believer somehow escapes participation in the sufferings of Christ. Try selling this ridiculous theory to the believers in the early church who were persecuted, fed to wild animals and killed in various ways and were counted as those who suffered with Christ so they could reign with Him (Romans 8:17). The very idea of actually escaping the sufferings of Christ is perverse and an affront to the entire ministry of Jesus on the earth and all the Christian martyrs who have gone before.
The Apostle Paul was very well aware of his duty to participate in the sufferings of Jesus in order to inherit the Kingdom of God. He said: “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:16-18 see also 2 Timothy 2:12). A citizen of the kingdom suffers with Christ and at the same time reigns with Him. We actually fill up what is remaining of Christ’s sufferings not avoid them. Paul said: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Colossians 1:24). Paul himself was beheaded for his beliefs, not raptured. The same is true of nearly all the prophets and disciples in the Bible who walked with God. They were killed, some in horrible ways, just as Jesus Christ was horribly crucified, just for being the first citizens of the Kingdom of God on this earth.
As we can see, walking with God as we enter into this age of the Kingdom of God, is not a walk with a sweet Jesus of the bye and bye and/or a rapture out of harm’s way. The prophet Jeremiah attested to this, as he recounts his walk with “sweet Jesus” during the age as Israel was being conquered by the Babylonians. His accounts were actually a prophesy of the suffering Christ who was to come. He says: “I am the man who has seen affliction Because of the rod of His wrath. He has driven me and made me walk In darkness and not in light. Surely against me He has turned His hand Repeatedly all the day. He has caused my flesh and my skin to waste away, He has broken my bones. He has besieged and encompassed me with bitterness and hardship. (Lamentations 3:1-5 and see Lamentations 3:1-18). Yet through and probably because of these sufferings at the hand of God (and/or His servant Satan) Jeremiah is aware of the glory to come as reounted in Lamentations 3:19-23: “Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. Surely my soul remembers And is bowed down within me. This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.
Likewise Moses actually chose to participate in the sufferings of his people than to avoid them. “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; (Hebrews 11:24-12). The other men of God discussed in Hebrews 11 likewise lived and died for the vision of the Kingdom of God that was to come (see Hebrews 11). By so enduring they also, like us, become citizens of the Kingdom of God and comprise the great cloud of witnesses which surrounds us now, still actively participating in bring forth their vision (Hebrews 12:1).
As we citizens of the Kingdom of God press on to make His kingdom a reality on this earth we also realize the scope of our responsibility, not just for ourselves but for those who have gone before us. Hebrews 11:39-40 clearly states: “And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect” For those who think a man/woman is made perfect by dying and going to heaven should be aware that even the great men of God of the Bible who have gone on before us were not automatically made perfect by just dying.
Christ made it clear that: “But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.” (Mark 10:31; Matthew 19:30; Luke 13:30). Those who have gone on before us will be the last to receive the promise since they will not inherit the promise until we who remain do so first. Their receiving the total promise they died for is dependent on us becoming perfect first. That thought should sober us as to the gravity of what we as Christians are called to do in this age and in the age to come. As ambassadors of the Kingdom of God it is our responsibility to assure that the kingdoms of this world become the Kingdom of our God. This is not accomplished by the passing out of literature or having altar calls which purport to save someone. This occurs by the speaking of the Word of God at every opportunity with all its inherent power and authority . It is the word itself that creates. Christ, who was the Word, healed the sick and performed miracles primarily by speaking the Word. Creation was created by the speaking of God’s Word i.e. “let there be” and there was. Hebrews makes it perfectly that the ages were created out of nothing and that they were framed by the Word.
“Now faith is the assurance [substance] of things hoped for [expected], the conviction [evidence] of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval. By faith we understand that the worlds [ages] were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible (Hebrews 11:1-3). The citizens of the Kingdom have a daunting task before them. Since the Kingdom is, at this time, invisible, the ambassador must create a visible Kingdom out of what we can not yet see. The Gospel of John lays out this task before us by using the example of Jesus Christ as the Word. He said:
“ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.
The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend [or overpower] it (John 1:1-5.
The citizens of the Kingdom must realize that it is their calling to become Sons of God like Christ with His nature fully formed within them. Hebrews 2:10 says: “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. Christ was the first Son but it is God’s will that many more Sons come to glory who are like Christ. John goes on to confirm this in 1 John 3:2: “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” . In other words when Christ appears we will see Him as He is since we will already be like Him-just like Him! Now we do not see Him or if we do it is through a glass darkly. But: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12.
It is important to realize that this does not happen only when we die and go to Heaven. Christ was the Word of God manifest on the earth, the Son of God in the flesh. Likewise we also become Christ on the earth. We in a sense create His appearing on the earth by framing the Kingdom of God, His Kingdom, by faith and by the Word. We are creating the atmosphere which will house Him when He does return. It does not automatically happen-we cause it to happen, by our faith, words and our works!
A citizen of the Kingdom and a Son of God also realizes another important part of Christ’s ministry, that of destroying the works of the devil or Satan. “Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:7-8). The devil was defeated at Calvary but his full defeat is to be made manifest by God’s many Sons. This is our spiritual warfare. Paul said: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:10-12). Therefore we do not carry out a physical jihad against the physical enemies of the Kingdom. We fight a spiritual battle to enforce Christ’s victory over the devil and his cohorts. We fight this battle using the true Word of God that Satan is already a defeated foe. We use the authority of Christ to dislodge him wherever he may still be in power.
What is salvation and does salvation itself allow you to become a full citizen of the Kingdom of God? We first must realize that there is a difference between just being saved and experiencing the full salvation of the Lord. As to basic salvation Paul says this of our basic salvation through Christ: “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; (Romans 10:9). However this initial act is just the beginning of the salvation God has in mind for the citizens of the Kingdom. Many believe that if they have had an initial salvation experience such as Paul describes here, that such an experience is all that is needed to fulfill the complete will of God in an individual’s life, and that nothing more is needed. For instance a man will say He was saved 20 years ago and as such no more was available to him in order to do what was necessary to obtain eternal life. However, full and complete salvation is much more than that and is actually an ongoing experience to last a lifetime and more.
In Hebrews 7:25 this distinction is made clear. The writer says: Wherefore also he is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them”. There is a difference between being saved and being saved to the uttermost. Salvation is defied in the Webster’s Dictionary as: “deliverance from the power and effects of sin”. It is true that when we are saved by our initial salvation experience and that the potential deliverance from the power and effects of sin are available to us. However we do not experience, at that point, the full effect of the total salvation that God wants us to ultimately possess. Following an initial salvation experience a citizen of the Kingdom experiences a day to day unfolding of the salvation until he becomes mature in Christ and actually becomes one of the many Sons of God Christ is seeking-saved to the uttermost.
Thus the ultimate goal of the church should not be just to get people to come to the altar and receive Christ in their lives. The church should follow up on that initial experience and create an atmosphere allowing it to continually expand. Ephesians 4:11-13 explains the function of the church in bringing new believers into the fullness of what Christ intends us to have. “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ”. The true purpose of the church, the Body of Christ, is to mature the believer until he/she becomes the fullness of Christ, to a mature person. That process is salvation-salvation to the uttermost.
Salvation is actually a 2-step process leading to complete perfection. The first part is the part of salvation that forgives sin. 1 John 2:1-2 says: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate [intercessor] with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation [satisfaction] for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world”. Therefore under the first part of salvation, we
can commit sin, even inadvertently and God will forgive us through Christ. (Note correctly the true fact He has already forgiven us for all the sins we have committed and will commit in the future if we remain with Christ and continual repentance is not required for forgiveness, better we recognize the act was done once and for all and receive it once and for all).
However, there is a second part of salvation which goes far beyond this initial salvation experience. To understand this we must examine what occurred to Christ on the cross. Christ’s purpose was described in John 1:28-29, speaking of a statement made by John the Baptist: “These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John [the Baptist] was baptizing. The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”! Jesus not only died to forgive our sins; He died to completely remove the sin from us. All of the sin of the world was actually laid upon (transferred to) Christ and thus sin was totally removed from the world by that one act. As Isaiah says (53:6): All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and Jehovah hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. Thus Christ not only forgave our sin, he removed it completely from us giving us the opportunity to have a nature which is utterly incapable of sin.
In order for us to fully understand this principle we must look to the Old Testament for the type and shadow of what Christ was later to fulfill in His flesh. Tom Kipper or the Day of Atonement, which occurs within the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, is a type and shadow of the roles of sacrifice and the removal of sin. Christ was the ultimate sacrifice in that in one act He removed the sin of the entire world. In the Old Testament forgiveness and removal of sin was no less real but was only a temporary measure.
Yom Kippur is the most significant day in the Jewish experience. It is mandated by God in Leviticus 23:26 and described fully in Leviticus 16. The literal translation of Yom Kippur is “Day of Atonement”. Biblically and liturgically it is also known as Day of Judgment and Sabbath of Sabbaths.
Atonement literally means reconciliation to God after the bond had been broken by sin. It means, in a broader sense in Hebrew, ‘purge,’ ‘cleanse,’ ‘expiate,’ ‘purify,’ ‘wipe on or off,’ ‘cover,’, ‘justify’ etc. The literal meaning of the word is simply “at-one-ment”, i.e., the state of being of one or being reconciled, so that atonement is actually reconciliation to God.
The most important ceremonial aspects of the manifestation of atonement in the days of the Old Testament law involved the High Priest, two goats and a bull. This ritual helps us understand what Christ actually did on the cross.This has great significance to us today. At that time the Jews had constructed a temple (tabernacle) in the wilderness as a prelude to the great temple that was to be built in the Promised Land by Solomon. The temple was constructed into three main areas or divisions: the “outer court”, the “Holy Place” and finally the Holy of Holies, the most Holy place. No one entered the Holy of Holies except the High Priest once a year on the day of Yom Kippur (for a fuller description of the Holy of Holies see quote from Hebrews below). A veil separated this most Holy place from the rest of the temple.
A ritual occurred on the Day of Atonement which literally cleansed the Jewish people from all sins they had committed the previous year. This Old Testament ritual is actually a representation or type and shadow of the eternal sacrifice that Christ was to initiate. As we can see below, salvation, as represented by the Day of Atonement, included the two aspects of Christ’s sacrifice for us. The following are a summary of the events which led to the Atonement in Old Testament times.(see Leviticus 16 for a description of the entire process).
As we said there were two goats and a bull involved. The bull was slain as Atonement for Aaron the high priest so he would be ritually pure to carry out the rest of the atonement. After that the first goat was sacrificed for the defilement of the temple by Israel. This represents the first part of Christ’s sacrifice for us. The first goat was slain and sacrificed as a forgiveness for the sins of Israel. Forgiveness is only the beginning of what Christ did for us. It is the first step.
As to the second goat it remained alive. It was brought before the Lord where Aaron the priest became the vehicle of God to transfer all of the sin of Israel for the previous year to that goat. This was an actual occurrence. The actual sin of the people was taken by Aaron and transferred to this second goat. The goat was then led outside the camp and disposed of in some way. This is a type and shadow of what Christ did on the cross. While on the cross God (the Father) transferred all of the sins of mankind onto Christ. By the actual sin being transferred onto Christ it was in reality removed from mankind. Once and for all.
This transference of the sin of Israel to the goat was also real occurrence. Just as all the sin of the world was transferred to Christ on the cross, on the Day of Atonement, the sacrifice transferred to the live Azazel goat the sin of the people. The goat was then banished into the wilderness never to be seen again. God also made this ceremony a permanent ordinance which means it was to occur eternally. This command was fulfilled in Christ who “ever lives” as the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world. Today it is carried on as a celebration of the Lamb of God (Christ) who bore the sins of all humanity. In short it shows us that only being forgiven of sin is not enough. We must also have the experience of having the sin removed completely so that we do not have to continually come back to God to seek forgiveness as the Israelites did.
However, in our current existence, we ask why if the sin was removed does sin continue to torment us as if it were still here. The answer has to do with the ruler of this world called Satan. Satan is also aware of the principle of transference God used to transfer mankind’s sin to Christ. When the sin of the world was removed, Satan was not removed. He was condemned. Although he was defeated on the cross he remained on the earth and retained all the evil and sin which had been transferred to Christ. Knowing that His time for his inevitable destruction was near, he set about to delay this from occurring. He did this by trying to transfer his own sin, condemnation and evil back to man and try to convince man he was still sinful. This is perhaps his most successful scheme in delaying the manifestation of the Kingdom of God. If man, although already made sinless by Christ, accepts Satan’s evil as his own he is identifying and bonding with the devil and is at risk of experiencing Satan’s own eternal condemnation. Therefore mankind must realize that they have been made totally clean and sinless by Christ and realize that the lie that we are still sinful beings or have sin, is a lie of the enemy accomplished by the transference principle. The sin we think we still have is not actually us but is a lie of the enemy.
The Apostle Paul realized this and expressed it in the Book of Romans. Paul states: “For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me”. Romans 7:14-20.
To break down what Paul is saying is that in his own fleshy nature he is unable to do the Law (the commandments of God) or please God. He knows the law is spiritual since Christ said He did not come to abrogate the Law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17-18). So Paul finds this duality in himself in that he desires to be righteous but still finds himself constantly warring within himself between the two natures. However he finally realizes that the sin that he struggles with on a daily basis is not his own sin he but comes from an exterior source, the sin dwelling within him separate from his own being.
Paul goes on to say: “I find then the principle [law] that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:21-25). Paul ultimately sees that the sin with which he struggles is not his own sin but sin which has been transferred to him from the outside, from the accuser, and does not belong to him at all.
Knowing this, the spiritual man walks with God in the spirit. Romans 8:1-4 says: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. All of the condemnation now belongs to Satan, not to those in Christ. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit”.
Hebrews bears this out. “Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living [spiritual] way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; (Hebrews 10:19-23). The new and living way is the spiritual way.
Paul said: “For those who are [live] according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God”. (Romans 8:5-8) If we accept the sin which does not belong to us and live in it, and think according to it’s dictates, we will perish since the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
Paul continues: “ However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone Does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.
If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:9-13).
It is the Sons of God, the citizens of the Kingdom, who walk with God in the Spirit and are led by that same spirit. “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Romans 8:14). God is a spirit and the only way we can know Him is by relating to Him where He lives, in the spirit.
The Gospel of John says: “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4;23-24). We cannot know Him through our minds or even through our souls. We can only know Him in the spirit. Citizens of the Kingdom are born of this spirit and relate to God from this being born again in the spirit.“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again [born from above] he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3).
Christians today use the phrase “born again” to represent simple salvation. However one is not necessarily “born again” simply by receiving Christ in initial salvation. There are many Christians who are saved but have not experienced this experience of being completely born again into a spiritual experience. John goes on: “Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water [symbolic of the Word of God] and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again [from above].’ “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:4-8).
Many say this talk about being spiritual is just so much nonsense. Paul had an answer for them. “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural [unspiritual] man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one”. (2 Corinthians 2:12-15). The foolish man dismisses the things of the spirit because he does not understand them or in other words he does not have a revelation of them from God.
“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” ( 1 Corinthians 1:18-21). Those who are citizens of the Kingdom are reborn into a world of Spirit where Christ now sits at the right hand of the Father forever. It is there that we of the Kingdom join Him.
In conclusion, no amount of good works or attempts to be righteous in ourselves produces Christ’s goal of a Spiritual kingdom on this earth. The Kingdom of God is not from earth. It does not spring up from the ashes of futility. It is an entirely new world-a new country. It represents the convergence of the realms of the spiritual and the physical just as Christ was the kingdom of God appearing in flesh in this world. Christ will come, and bring the fallen Saints with Him, but He will come to a world where His other Sons have prepared a place for Him. It is those who remain who will manifest the defeat of Satan and make him a footstool for the feet of the Lord when He comes. Then we will all rule and reign with Him. As Sons of God and citizens of the Kingdom it is our job to create this spiritual Kingdom on the earth. Then, in the earth, all will know Him from the least to the greatest (Isaiah 11:9)..
Scripture quotations from The New American Standard Bible 1995 edition, and foot notes and translations, unless otherwise indicated.
©Kenneth B. Alexander
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