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The Kingdom

19th March 2007, mgh

 

1) Jesus' View of the Kingdom

For any Christian the the most well known prayer is that of Jesus, the Messiah, when he taught his disciples to pray. This prayer, so familiar to adults and taught to very young children, can easily lose its significance when it is repeated without conscious thought being given to the words being uttered. Take a very close look at the opening phrases.

“Our Father, who art in heaven hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

There are two very significant statements related to the beliefs of those who follow Jesus in the opening of this prayer.

Firstly, the actions of those who follow Jesus actively “hallow” or make holy the Name of the Creator, which is 'Yahweh' (Refer to Names Divinely Appointed.)

The second concept, is that a kingdom must yet come, and, in that Kingdom, God will have absolute power on Earth, as He has now in Heaven. This prayer admits that at the time Jesus prayed, God did not have absolute power on Earth, as people had free will to disobey God. The Kingdom Jesus followers are to pray for has not yet come as still today people can disobey God. We are yet to see the time when God's intent and laws are carried out on Earth perfectly by all humans. Jesus asks his disciples to pray for God's total active control of the political and religious society of this Earth. This is what Jesus means when he refers to the Kingdom of God.

2) What is a Kingdom?

Jesus expects a 'kingdom' of God on earth. The Old Testament makes mention of many kingdoms, such as Assyria, Babylon and Greecia (Greece). Ancient nations that were powerful were ruled by kings such as Nebuchadnezzar. Darius and the Pharaohs. David and Solomon were well known kings of the ancient Kingdom of Israel. The rise and fall of some these nations and kings are recorded in the Old Testament.

Daniel, a prophet of Israel writing in Babylon (approx 605-540 BCE), puts the role of these nations, or kingdoms into perspective in relationship to a Kingdom of God. Daniel prophesies the destiny of some of the kingdoms of the world, their rise and fall and the fate of their leaders. He proves to Nebuchanezzar that earthly rulership is subject to the will of the Creator and that they have a role in God's ultimate purpose with the earth. Daniel prophesies that in process there will be a time when eventually the Kingdom of God will be on earth and will overthrow all other kingdoms existing at that time. A few examples from the prophet Daniel's writings reveal this.

In the days of those kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall its sovereignty be left to another people; but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. (Daniel 2:44 WEB)

Daniel specifically prophesies that the site of the destruction of the kingdoms will be on Earth, being political powers such as Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. It follows that the new Kingdom of God will replace those that have been destroyed, and therefore that the Kingdom of God is a political Kingdom on Earth.

I saw in the night visions, and behold, there came with the clouds of the sky one like a son of man, and he came even to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. There was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)

Daniel is very specific that the subjects of the Kingdom of God would be many people, many nations and many languages, which indicates that this Kingdom is on Earth.

But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever. (Daniel 7:18)

Daniel adds that a class of leaders called “saints of the Most High” will rule over that Kingdom.

3) Other Prophets write of the Kingdom of the Lord

The Hebrew prophets make many references to this future divine Kingdom on earth .

Haggai (date 520-505 BCE) states that the strength of the nations will be destroyed and they will be subject to God's power.

I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations. I will overthrow the chariots, and those who ride in them. The horses and their riders will come down, everyone by the sword of his brother. (Haggai 2:22 WEB)

Chariots were the engines of warfare of the nations until the end of WW1, and swords were used in warfare as late as 1918. Haggai says God will overthrow the instruments of warfare of the nations. This is not poetic language is it is very specific, Haggai predicts the physical destruction of the power of Nations on earth.

Zechariah (dated 520-490 BCE) writes of the power of the Lord over all the earth.

Yahweh will be King over all the earth. In that day Yahweh will be one, and his name one. (Zechariah 14:9 WEB)

This is a very clear statement. It says that God is not king over the earth at the time Zechariah was writing. It says he will be a king, that is, he will be a ruler with power as a political leaders have.

Micah (dated 735-700BCE), shows that the centre of government for this kingdom is in Mount Zion, in Jerusalem in Israel.

I will make that which was lame a remnant, and that which was cast far off a strong nation: and Yahweh will reign over them on Mount Zion from then on, even forever." (Micah 4:7 WEB)

A kingdom requires a centre of government which the prophets unanimously agree will be located at Jerusalem.

The nature of the government of this Kingdom is captured by Isaiah (dated 740-690 BCE) in many places in his prophecy, but the following quotation briefly encapsulates this.

I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people; and there shall be heard in her no more the voice of weeping and the voice of crying. "There shall be no more there an infant of days, nor an old man who has not filled his days; for the child shall die one hundred years old, and the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed. They shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree shall be the days of my people, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth for calamity; for they are the seed of the blessed of Yahweh, and their offspring with them. (Isaiah 65:19-23 WEB)

This prophet gives a vision of an ideal society on Earth in the future where people live, build and work. The context makes it clear that this is with the direct rulership of God.

This kingdom that Isaiah write of is for idealists, as throughout history rulers have often been less than just, with many being violent and corrupt.

Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in justice. (Isaiah 32:1 WEB)

There are many references to the establishment of a future kingdom in Israel in the writings of the O.T. Those given above are but a glimpse of the promised future of glory and peace for this earth.

4) Kingdom in the New Testament

The beginning of the New Testament also deals with the Kingdom of God. John the Baptist went before Jesus proclaiming that Jesus was the Messiah, Israel's future king.

And you, John, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the face of the Lord to make ready his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the remission of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the dawn from on high will visit us, to shine on those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death; to guide our feet into the way of peace." (Luke 1:76-79 WEB)
In those days, John the Baptizer came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!" For this is he who was spoken of by Isaiah the prophet, saying, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, make ready the way of the Lord. Make his paths straight." (Mat 3:1-3 WEB)

For John the baptist, the Kingdom of God was at hand because the king was about to be revealed to the nation.

After being baptised by John many places in the New Testament record that Jesus began his ministry which was to preach the Gospel, the glad news of the coming Kingdom.

Jesus went about in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the Good News of the Kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness among the people. (Matthew 4:23 WEB)

At that time of Jesus' ministry the Kingdom had not yet come. The future king, however, had been revealed and was with them.

Now after John was taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand! Repent, and believe in the Good News." (Mark 1:14-15 WEB)

Jesus, John the Baptist and the Disciples all believed and proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was going to come. The time was not specified.

5) Jesus fulfilling the Old Testament

Jesus explained to those who rejected him that The writings of the Old Testament had prophesied of him.

"You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and these are they which testify about me.” (John 5:39 WEB)

Jesus' instruction to his disciples was that their work was to preach the good news of the future kingdom. This instruction was given to the disciples after Jesus resurrection.

He said to them, "Go into all the world, and preach the Good News to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who disbelieves will be condemned. (Mark 16:15-16 WEB)

At this stage the kingdom still had not come. The disciples asked Jesus when the Kingdom would come and were told it would be at some unspecified time in the future.

When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, will you at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in his own power. (Acts 1:6-7)

Jesus explains that knowledge of this Kingdom is detailed in the writings of Moses and the Prophets, which were regularly read in the Temple and the synagogues.

He said to them, "Foolish men, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Didn't the Christ have to suffer these things and to enter into his glory?" Beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, he explained to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27 WEB)

It follows that Jesus did not negate the prophets, rather he saw himself as fulfilling them, and this includes the prophecy of the things he would do when he became a king on Earth. Jesus said

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. (Matthew 5:17)

David's words recorded in Psalm 72 would have been well known to the people of Israel. This Psalm depicts a peaceful and glorious future for the earth. Jesus at his second coming will establish his right to the throne of David as promised to David.

God, give the king your justice; your righteousness to the royal son. He will judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice. The mountains shall bring prosperity to the people. The hills bring the fruit of righteousness. He will judge the poor of the people. He will save the children of the needy, and will break the oppressor in pieces. They shall fear you while the sun endures; and as long as the moon, throughout all generations. He will come down like rain on the mown grass, as showers that water the earth. In his days, the righteous shall flourish, and abundance of peace, until the moon is no more. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, from the River to the ends of the earth. Those who dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him. His enemies shall lick the dust. The kings of Tarshish and of the islands will bring tribute. The kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Yes, all kings shall fall down before him. All nations shall serve him. For he will deliver the needy when he cries; the poor, who has no helper. He will have pity on the poor and needy. He will save the souls of the needy. He will redeem their soul from oppression and violence. Their blood will be precious in his sight. They shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba. Men shall pray for him continually. They shall bless him all day long. There shall be abundance of grain throughout the land. Its fruit sways like Lebanon. Let it flourish, thriving like the grass of the field. (Psalm 72:1-16 WEB)

This prophecy is specific and refers to nations and physical things like grass and gold. It says also that all the world's political leaders wil serve this future king in Israel. Jesus by claiming to be the promised king, saying “to this end was I born” (John 18:37) also identifies himself with the king of this Psalm.

Isaiah also gives a vision of a world at peace with a righteous king in many places, but Isaiah 35 is probably the most familiar section of his prophetic writings.

The wilderness and the dry land will be glad. The desert will rejoice and blossom like a rose. It will blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing. Lebanon's glory Lebanon will be given to it, the excellence of Carmel and Sharon. They will see Yahweh's glory, the excellence of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees.... No lion will be there, nor will any ravenous animal go up on it. They will not be found there; but the redeemed will walk there. The Yahweh's ransomed ones will return, and come with singing to Zion; and everlasting joy will be on their heads. They will obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away." (Isaiah 35:1-10 WEB)

At no time in the past has the earth been in such as state. Note that Isaiah is not dreaming, rather he says these things will occur. Also this prophecy has locations, real places on earth with easily identifiable modern place names.

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