Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
2 Corinthians 3:17
The other day Henry sent an email saying, "Your views concerning Christ's Kingdom are in error." Then he explained that Satan is controlling the world system for this age. When Christ returns, He will set up His Kingdom and true peace will reign. "We are not there yet, Paul."
Like Henry, most of us have been lied to about the status of the Kingdom of Heaven. We have been told that the Kingdom of Heaven is a fantasy of the future, in the "sweet by and by."
Meanwhile, unscrupulous men are enslaving us to the world system. This slavery is a cold, grim reality for almost everyone. Who can take much thought about some future Kingdom when the present burdens of this world press so heavily upon us?
The unscrupulous villains who are shutting men out of the Kingdom are the same ones who despised the counsel of God in Jesus' day (Luke 7:30).
Woe to you scribes and Pharisees! For two thousand years you've barred the Kingdom of Heaven from the lambs of God. All that has changed is your name. Oh yes, now we call you attorneys and pastors. But your job is the same. You parade around in robes of light, deceiving the people and being deceived (2 Timothy 3:13).
You secular preachers bar the doors of Heaven by postponing the Kingdom. Meanwhile, you lawyers stack up law upon law to force men to worship and pay homage to your beastly system.
What are we to do? The path before us is strewn with half-truths and deceptions. The Kingdom of Heaven is the crucial starting point in this race for the incorruptible crown. Jesus tells us that the number one priority in our lives is to seek the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 6:33).
The term "Kingdom of Heaven" or "Kingdom of God" is mentioned over 100 times in the New Testament alone. Yet most clergymen today don't even talk about the Kingdom, much less understand it. They dismiss it by saying we are in the "Church age." We must wait for Christ to return and set up His Kingdom.
Uh-Oh! Someone is trying to detour us. Whether they realize it or not, pointing us toward a future kingdom leads us off the narrow path and out for a snooze. As we slumber, we forget about pursuing our number one priority.
If these religious soothsayers don't lull us to sleep, there are other pitfalls. As you walk along the highway, you'll see poor, struggling souls in the ditch. They all have one thing in common. They think the "experts in the law" have the answers to their problems. How wrong they are!
They promise them liberty, and are themselves the bond-servants of corruption. For of whomsoever a man is overcome, unto the same is he in bondage.
2 Peter 2:19
If you examine the words of Jesus and the acts of His countrymen, they prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Christ's Kingdom is here today.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Don't take the detours. Stay on that strait and narrow path and prove all things. Race for that incorruptible crown. Though the way be lonely and painful, the rewards are great. You are receiving a Kingdom that cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:28). It's not just for the hereafter, but for today, tomorrow and forever.
We're not talking about some paradise after the graveyard. The Kingdom of Heaven is not a place or location. It is not somewhere we run to. We can't drive there. It is something spiritual.
The Kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21). It is God's government ruling your heart and mind.
Inside you is a law that governs your actions. Either you are governed by Satan or you are governed by Christ. Who has laid claim on you here and now? Who owns you? Whom do you fear? Whom do you obey?
If you haven't found the Kingdom of God here and now, you will never find it in the hereafter.
What is the current status of the Kingdom of Heaven? Why isn't anyone talking about it?
Apparently many religions today think that Jesus failed. He lost the race. His mission was aborted because the Jews did not receive Him. They rejected Him so He withdrew His Kingdom. They say He took it away.
But someday, many long days from now, Christ will come back and perform what He failed to do when He walked the earth. But does this make any sense? Is this truly what the Bible teaches?
Let's examine the scriptures to see if this "Kingdom of Heaven" truly exists. Did it really happen? Is there a series of events that took place that proves the Kingdom is actually here?
Throughout the gospels, there are many instances of Jesus speaking in parables to describe the nature and character of His Kingdom. Eventually Jesus quits talking in parables and speaks plainly.
At the Last Supper just prior to His crucifixion, Jesus speaks candidly. He is handing over His Kingdom to the disciples. His words to the apostles form His Last Will and Testament.
At Luke 22:24, we find His faithful ones arguing about who is going to be the top dog in this new government.
Jesus interrupts their quarreling. He has a new kind of government in mind. In the governments of the world, those with the most power dominate the others."But ye shall not be so" (Luke 22:26). Those who desire the top seats in His government are to be like those who serve.
Then he hands His Kingdom over to the apostles:
And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my father hath appointed to me: that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on seats, and judge the twelve tribes of Israel.
Earlier, Jesus had given the keys of the Kingdom to Peter (Matthew 16:19) and now He is formally handing over the Kingdom itself to the apostles. Now they have both the keys and the "house."
It seems clear when these passages are read that Jesus has delegated His Father's Kingdom to His faithful apostles. But then along come the theologians that want to cut up and dissect the plain word of God.
The theologians argue, "Jesus wasn't making that claim. The Kingdom is still coming - sometime in the future."
Before we look at the passage used to justify a future Kingdom, let's see what passages substantiate the handing over of the Kingdom.
Let's go back a little in Luke. At Chapter 22, verse 14, Jesus is sitting down at the Last Supper with the twelve apostles and He is saying unto them:
I have inwardly desired to eat this Easter lamb with you before that I suffer. For I say unto you: henceforth, I will not eat of it anymore, UNTIL IT BE FULFILLED IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD.
And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said. Take this, and divide it among you. For I say unto you: I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, UNTIL THE KINGDOM OF GOD BE COME.
Here Jesus states that the fulfillment of the Kingdom is coming. The Kingdom is at hand, but Jesus still has a few things to accomplish before He completes His mission. He has to fulfill the Scriptures by being beaten, led like a lamb to the slaughter, and after dying, rise again.
When these events take place, then the Scriptures regarding the Kingdom are fulfilled. The Kingdom has arrived. Jesus says he will not eat or drink anymore until the Kingdom comes. Now let's search the scriptures to see if Jesus ever does eat or drink again with the apostles.
Go to Acts, Chapter 10, verses 39-41. We are going to be looking at a "flashback." In these verses the apostles are talking about an earlier event, after Jesus rose from the dead, but before He ascended into the clouds. Peter says:
And we are witnesses . . . which ate and drank with him, after he arose from death.
Acts 10:39, 41
Here we see Jesus' prediction at the Last Supper being fulfilled. Jesus said that the kingdom will come when He eats and drinks again with His apostles (Luke 22:16,18). Now at Acts Chapter 10, the apostles are bearing witness that they did eat and drink with Jesus.
From these events, it is clear that Jesus conferred the Kingdom upon the apostles and that they bore witness that the Kingdom truly arrived.
Let's look again at what Jesus was actually doing. The first event is Jesus telling the apostles at the Last Supper, "The Kingdom is right around the corner. I'm going to go die, and after I am raised up, the Kingdom will be fulfilled. Today I'm eating this Last Supper with you. When I eat and drink with you again, the Kingdom will be fulfilled" (Luke 22:16,18).
Then Christ explains the character of His government and bestows His Father's Kingdom upon them (Luke 22:29). Finally, the apostles testify that they did indeed eat and drink with Jesus after He rose from the dead. This event fulfills Christ's prediction that when He eats and drinks again it will be when the kingdom of God is fulfilled (Acts 10:39-41).
This is the Good News. The evidence is in. These are not parables. This is clear speech. The Kingdom is here. We have that same Kingdom and it is everlasting. If it happened 2,000 years ago, it has to be here now, too. It is a Kingdom without end and has never vanished.
"I can totally wipe out your theory on the Kingdom of Heaven." Someone was waving a scripture in my face. "Look, this proves the Kingdom has not arrived yet."
"Hang on," I said. "This is something we'll need to examine." Let's go to that controversial passage in Acts, Chapter 1.
Verses 1 through 3 say that Jesus showed himself alive after his passion by many indisputable proofs. He was seen of the apostles for forty days, while speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. During these forty days, Jesus also ate and drank with the apostles as Peter stated later in Acts 10:39-41.
But then comes verse 6. This is the verse that is supposed to prove that the Kingdom of Heaven is in the future.
The apostles come together with Jesus and asked:
Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
How is Jesus going to respond? Is He going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?
And he said unto them: It is not for you to know the times, or the seasons which the father hath put in his own power: but ye shall receive power of the holy ghost which shall come on you. And ye shall be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem, and in all Jewry and in Samaria, and even unto the world's end.
Many Bible commentaries use this verse to point to a "future kingdom" and do not acknowledge that it is a current and present reality. But did you hear Christ say anything about the Kingdom of Heaven not being here yet?
I don't see where He denies that the Kingdom has arrived. In fact, He tells them about the government responsibilities they will be having and the additional power they will soon be receiving when the Holy Ghost comes upon them.
What He doesn't tell them is the time when their mission will be accomplished. "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in his own power."
This is a generic statement. Basically, the Father is going to do whatever He is going to do. Christ is reigning until he has put all enemies under His feet (1 Corinthians 15:25). It is God's business when these things are going to take place.
Then He gives the apostles their job: "You are going to receive power when the Holy Ghost comes upon you, and you are going to be my representative all over the earth" (See Acts 1:8).
In the next chapter of Acts, the apostles truly were filled with the Holy Ghost as Jesus promised "and began to speak with other tongues, even as the spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:4).
Another way to look at these verses is that the apostles are Israel. The nation of Israel is made up of those who have the faith of Abraham. The apostles are the beginning. They are in the Kingdom. It has arrived. And the question they are asking is, "When is the whole nation of Israel going to be complete?"
And Jesus says, "That is not for you to determine. You've got a job to do. You're already in the Kingdom. Now go forth and preach the Good News. Just because the Kingdom is as tiny as a mustard seed, it still exists. As you continue getting the Word out, the Kingdom will grow."
It is similar to someone asking, "When is America going to turn back to God?" We tell him, "That is not for us to know. Only the Father knows. But right now we have a job to do. There are people that need to hear the Truth. Go out there and start preaching."
Let's say we have a desert that is all sand. Somehow we figure out a way to take a tree and plant it in the sand. We get one tree planted and it starts growing. Then we put another tree in, then a third tree. Soon we've planted a hundred trees. Then someone comes along and asks, "When is this desert going to be converted into a forest?"
All we can say is, "That is the Father's business, but we've got work to do."
We just keep planting those trees. And in the Father's time, He empowers the whole place to be a forest of trees. Then the job is finished and the desert is now a forest.
Isn't that what is happening at Acts 1:8? The apostles were asking the question, "When are we going to be finished? When is this whole place going to be converted over to God?" But the answer is in the Lord's hands and is not for us to know.
Right now the Kingdom is small, but it is growing. It is like the tiny mustard seed which is the least of all seeds. But when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in its branches (Matthew 13:31, 32).
Jesus is saying to His disciples, "You are going to be endowed with power. You have to start somewhere. You are the Kingdom of Heaven. It is your business. Get going men. Fill the whole earth with the Kingdom of Heaven."
Today men are withholding the Kingdom because they want to rule over you. They don't want you to have the godly counsel of the Holy Spirit. They want their experts - lawyers, pastors, bureaucrats, to show you the way. These people are shutting up the Kingdom while they devour widows' houses, make a pretense with long prayer, and train up converts that are twice the child of hell as themselves (Matthew 23:13-15).
Jesus tells a parable against these Wicked Husbandmen who try to lock up the Kingdom (Matthew 21:33-44). A householder plants a vineyard, digs a winepress and builds a tower. Then he rents out the land to husbandmen and goes away to a distant country.
When harvest time is near, he sends his servants to the husbandmen to receive the fruit. But the husbandmen beat one servant, kill another, and stone a third.
Finally, the householder sends his son, saying, "They will fear my son." But when the husbandmen see the son they say among themselves, "This is the heir: come, let us kill him, and let us take his inheritance for ourselves."
Then they catch him and throw him out of the vineyard and slay him. When the lord of the vineyard comes, what will he do unto those husbandmen? "He will cruelly destroy those evil persons, and will let (rent) out his vineyard unto other husbandmen which shall deliver him the fruit at times convenient."
Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people:
Did ye never read in the scriptures? The stone which the builders refused the same is set in the principal part of the corner: this was the lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
Therefore say I unto you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and shall be given to the gentiles, which shall bring forth the fruits of it. And whosoever shall fall on this stone, he shall be broken, but on whosoever it shall fall upon, it will grind him to powder.
And when the chief priests and Pharisees heard these similitudes, they perceived that he spoke of them. And they went about to lay hands on him, but they feared the people, because they took him as a prophet.
This parable shows that the Kingdom was going to be taken away from the chief priests and Pharisees because they rejected God's Son. And that's what happened.
Apostle Peter makes a full parallel to the parable of the Wicked Husbandman. During Peter's generation the Kingdom of God was taken from the Wicked Husbandman. A new, holy nation was born with Christ as King.
Peter declares that those who believe on the Son will not be confused. But to the disobedient who reject Christ as the chief cornerstone, He will be a stumbling stone and a rock of offense:
Wherefore it is contained in the scripture: Behold I put in Sion a head cornerstone, elect and precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
Unto you therefore which believe, he is precious: but unto them which believe not, the stone which the builders refused the same is made the head stone in the corner, and a stone to stumble at, and a rock to offend them which stumble at the word, and believe not that whereon they were set.
1 Peter 2:6-8
At verse 9, Peter is convincing the people that the Kingdom has come to this generation. "We have a new government. It's in place now."
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an HOLY NATION, and a peculiar people, that ye should show the virtues of him that called you out of darkness into his marvelous light which in time past were not a people, yet are now the people of God: which were not under mercy but now have obtained mercy.
1 Peter 2:9-10
Christ did not "take back" His Kingdom as some say. When Jesus stood before Pilate, He said His purpose was to be a King and bring His Kingdom. (See John 18:37).
Christ finished His work on the cross. That is what Pilate's role was - to make sure Jesus got His ticket to the cross. Pilate thought he was doing his own work, but no, God had plans for Pilate. Pilate sent Christ to the cross where He finished His work and the Kingdom came (Acts 2:23).
When Jesus perceived that all things were performed: that the scripture might be fulfilled, he said: I thirst. . . As soon as Jesus had received of the vinegar, he said: It is finished, and bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
What else could He say? He had accomplished what was necessary for the scripture to be fulfilled. His work was finished. He birthed a nation.
And what were the Apostles doing? What is the whole book of Acts about? Here are people, forming a Holy Nation, proclaiming Christ's Kingdom.
Acts 2:36 says: "Therefore let all the house of Israel know for a surety, that God hath made the same Jesus whom ye have crucified Lord and Christ."
He's our KING. He's our Lord! For all who believe, we live in the Kingdom of Heaven now. Jesus is that Stone that the builders rejected. Now that Stone is the head of the cornerstone. "Neither is there salvation in any other. Nor yet also is there any other name given to men wherein we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
Since we have received a government that is everlasting and cannot be broken, then let us repent and be baptized and enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The apostles entered the Kingdom of Heaven in its infancy. Now let us enter the Kingdom of Heaven upon their shoulders.