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Messianic Kingdom (1)

The Nature of Christ’s Kingdom

2 Samuel 7:11-16; Isaiah 9:6-7; Daniel 2:31-34; Luke 1:29-33; Acts 2:22-42

Jim Davis

The story is told of the foreman on a building site who asks one of the builders what he is doing. The builder replies, "I'm breaking rocks."

Another worker is asked the same question, and he answers, "I'm earning for my family."

The question is posed to a third worker. With a glint in his eye, he responds, "I'm building a cathedral."

I have to wonder if we can truly have that kind of glint in our eye as Christians if we really don’t have a clear understanding of the kingdom of God as it relates to our lives. Do we really understand that we are engaged in building the kingdom of God?

The subject of the kingdom of God has forever sparked endless debate. Is it yet future? Has it already come? Will Christ rule on earth for a millennium? Where is the kingdom of God? Most of the questions reveal a lack of understanding about the nature of God’s kingdom?

Old Testament Foretold the Coming of God’s Kingdom

God told David that he would establish David’s throne upon an eternal kingdom. "'The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.'" (2 Samuel 7:11-16 NIV).

Psalms 89:3-4
3 You said, "I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant,
4'I will establish your line forever
and make your throne firm through all generations.'" NIV

The Old Testament tells us more about the one who was to reign upon David’s throne.

Isaiah 9:6-7
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David's throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this. NIV

Daniel pinpoints the coming of Christ kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream envisioned the coming of the kingdom of God. Daniel foretold when God’s kingdom would come through the interpretation of his dream. Nebuchadnezzar dreamed of a statue that was dazzling in appearance.

Daniel 2:31-35
31 "You looked, O king, and there before you stood a large statue-an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. 32 The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. 34 While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth. NIV

Here is Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.

Daniel 2:36-45
36 "This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. 37 You, O king, are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power (this is the kingdom of Babylon over which Nebuchadnezzar ruled) and might and glory; 38 in your hands he has placed mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.

39 "After you, another kingdom will rise, inferior to yours (This is the Medo-Persian Empire). Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth (this is the Macedonian Empire). 40 Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom (this is the Roman Empire), strong as iron-for iron breaks and smashes everything-and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. 41 Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. 42 As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.

44 "In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people (this is the kingdom of Christ). It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. 45 This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands-a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces.

"The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and the interpretation is trustworthy." NIV

Daniel envisions the rise and fall of earthly kingdoms, but not so with the eternal kingdom of God. Daniel is giving the inhabitants of the world something solid to invest their lives into. It is the kingdom of God. Investing your life in God’s kingdom is the most solid investment you could ever make.

Several years ago the noted British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge was a guest at a breakfast in Washington, D.C. . . . When he had finished his testimony, he made a number of comments about world affairs, all of which were very pessimistic. One of the Christians present said to the speaker, "Dr. Muggeridge, you have been very pessimistic. Don't you have any reason for optimism?"

Malcolm Muggeridge replied, "My friend, I could not be more optimistic than I am, because my hope is in Jesus Christ alone." He allowed that remark to settle for a few seconds, and then he added, "Just think if the apostolic church had pinned its hope on the Roman Empire!"

The New Testament opens in anticipation of the coming of the eternal kingdom of God. The angel told Jesus’ mother that God was going to establish David’s throne upon her child’s shoulders.

Luke 1:29-33
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." NIV

The kingdom the angel promised Mary was to come in the lifetime of his disciples.

Mark 9:1
9:1 And he said to them, "I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power." NIV

Jesus’ kingdom was much different than other worldly kingdoms; it was to be a kingdom established upon the values and principles taught by Christ. These principles are designed to subdue the nations and bring them into subjection to Christ. Jesus Christ was the rock cut out of the mountain of which Daniel spoke; he came to crush all the kingdoms of the world through the preaching of his values. The kingdom of Christ was to be different in that it would not come using physical force, but the teaching of Christ to bring it about.

While serving as a missionary in Laos, a missionary discovered an illustration of the kingdom of God. Before the colonialists imposed national boundaries, the kings of Laos and Vietnam reached an agreement on taxation in the border areas. Those who ate short-grain rice, built their houses on stilts, and decorated them with Indian-style serpents were considered Laotians. On the other hand, those who ate long-grain rice, built their houses on the ground, and decorated them with Chinese-style dragons were considered Vietnamese. The exact location of a person's home was not what determined his or her nationality. Instead, each person belonged to the kingdom whose cultural values he or she exhibited. So it is with us: we live in the world, but as part of God's kingdom, we are to live according to his kingdom's standards and values.

The values by which we live define the kingdom to which we belong. A Christian’s citizenship is not of this world. God’s children live in this world but they live by the laws and values of Christ’s kingdom.

John 17:13-19
13 "I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. NIV

There has been this idea throughout history that the kingdom of Christ is an earthly kingdom. Catholicism went forth conquering and killing to spread what they believed to be the kingdom of God, but they only spread Catholicism which has no resemblance to Christ’s kingdom. Christ’s disciples were never taught to spread his kingdom by force. It was to be spread as silently as yeast works through a batch of dough to leaven the whole.

Matthew 26:50-56
Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. 51 With that, one of Jesus' companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

52 "Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?"

55 At that time Jesus said to the crowd, "Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56 But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. NIV

John 18:36-37
36 Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place."

37 "You are a king, then!" said Pilate.

Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." NIV

God’s way of promoting and expanding Christ’s kingdom on earth is powerful. Human efforts to establish a literal physical kingdom for Christ will fail, but God’s efforts to establish Christ’s kingdom in the hearts of men has not and cannot fail. The great Jewish teacher Gamaliel recognized that it would be futile fight against God’s kingdom. Peter and John had been arrested for preaching the gospel. The Jews wanted to kill them. Notice what Gamaliel said to them.

Acts 5:33-39
33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed them: "Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God." NIV

Imagine living in such a way that when someone chooses to fight you they have to fight God first. When we live by the values of God’s kingdom it puts our enemies in conflict with God and they can’t possibly win that battle.

Matthew 16:17-20
18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church , and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." NIV

The word "church" in these verses literally translates "called out ones." Christ promised to build his called out ones upon the solid rock foundation of his name. He promised to give the keys to the kingdom of the called out ones to Peter.

The Christian’s Heart Home of Christ’s Kingdom

The real borders of God’s kingdom run through the hearts of mankind. Moses writes, "The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time" (Genesis 6:5-6 NIV). It is evident that in Noah’s day the hearts of men resisted the rule of God. This verse makes it evident that our hearts are the defining characteristics of our world, for this is where God’s reign begins and ends for each of us.

Luke 17:20-21
20 Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, 21 nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you." NIV

The reign of God is "in the hearts’ of men." "It does not come with pomp and splendor, like the reign of temporal kings, merely to control the external "actions" and strike the senses of people with awe, but it reigns in the heart by the law of God; it sets up its dominion over the passions, and brings every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." (Barnes' Notes on Luke 17:20.)

The true kingdom of God has always been confined to the hearts of God’s people. Too often we only see the physical nation of Israel as the kingdom of God in the Old Testament, but many of those circumcised Jews who were the descendants of Abraham were never a part of God’s real kingdom.

Romans 2:25-29
25 Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. 26 If those who are not circumcised keep the law's requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 27 The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.

28 A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God. NIV

God’s choosing of Abraham’s descendants did not automatically make them part of his true spiritual kingdom. They had to circumcise their hearts by seeking to live right.

Deuteronomy 10:14-19
14 To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. 15 Yet the LORD set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today. 16 Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. 17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt. NIV

Religion often substitutes form for substance. Circumcision was a form substituted for substance. Baptism may be a form substituted for substance today. Today churches are judged more from their styles of worship than anything else. Styles of worship do not make us members of Christ’s kingdom, but the rule of Christ in our heart does. When we allow Christ to establish his rule in our hearts, we can truly worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

Jeremiah 4:4
Circumcise yourselves to the LORD,
circumcise your hearts,
you men of Judah and people of Jerusalem,
or my wrath will break out and burn like fire
because of the evil you have done--
burn with no one to quench it. NIV

Christians have had their hearts circumcised through baptism into Christ.

Colossians 2:9-12
9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. NIV

The kingdom has been restored to Israel through the reign of Christ in the hearts of his followers.

Acts 1:1-8
1:1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."

6 So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"

7 He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." NIV

"Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" This question has seemed to always confound church people because we have translocated the kingdom into the church. We see New Testament history as the history of the establishment of the church. However, what we call the church in the New Testament is literally the kingdom of Christ. Over time we have separated the church from the kingdom; they have become two separate entities in the minds of many. Those looking for the establishment of the church in the New Testament think that the disciples question about the restoration of the kingdom of Israel sounds nonsensical. Many others think that the church is a substitute for God’s people until Christ comes to set up his kingdom at his second coming. They see Jesus’ answer as vague, but Holy Spirit came and gave them the answer.

Acts 2:22-24
22 "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. NIV

God raised Jesus from the dead and placed him on the throne of David, thus fulfilling his promise to David.

Acts 2:29-34
29 "Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. NIV

Acts 2:36-39
36 "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."

37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"

38 Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-for all whom the Lord our God will call." NIV

Peter points out that God restored the kingdom to Israel when he placed Christ on David’s thrones. God had promised to place David’s descendant on his throne throughout the Scriptures. Jesus was David’s descendant, and he rules on David’s throne. David’s throne has been exalted to the heavens and it has been give all power.

Matthew 28:16-20
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." NIV

Israel descended from Abraham’s seed. God blessed Abraham’s seed. He gave them the covenant of circumcision. He led them out of Egypt. He gave them the Old Testament Scriptures. He gave them the Land of Canaan. However, the true kingdom of God in the Old Testament was defined as those who had been circumcised in heart. Many of Abraham’s descendants were never circumcised in heart.

Romans 2:28-29
28 A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God. NIV

The same teaching applies to the kingdom of Christ.

Colossians 2:9-12
9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. NIV

To become a member of Christ’s kingdom today we must make sure that our citizenship is in heaven, rather than on some church role book.

Philippians 3:20-21
20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. NIV

Conclusion:

I wonder about some churches that baptize for the forgiveness of sins, but they don’t believe Christ’s kingdom will be established until his second coming. Is that baptism valid? It has made the person a member of that particular church, but does it make that person a member of Christ’s kingdom? Salvation is found in the kingdom of Christ.

I have come to the conclusion that church doctrines for the most part are designed to build churches around people. It may be more correct to say that church doctrines are designed to build people around churches. However, the doctrine of Christ kingdom is designed to build our lives on the solid Rock—Jesus Christ, as we allow him to change the values of our hearts.

There comes a crisis, a moment when every human soul which enters the kingdom of God has to make its choice of that kingdom in preference to everything else that it holds and owns.

 

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