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Bible verses about Kingdom of God
(From Forerunner Commentary)

We find regarding the beginning of The Word's existence, something further described in Hebrews chapter 7. Speaking of Melchisedec, who was king of Jerusalem in the days of Abraham, it says also that he was the Priest of God Most High. This Melchisedec had existed from eternity—"without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually" (Hebrews 7:3).

Since Melchisedec was "like unto the Son of God," and abides as High Priest forever continually, and Jesus Christ is now High Priest, Melchisedec and Jesus Christ are one and the same Person.

Therefore Christ was "without father, without mother, without descent [in Abraham's time], having neither beginning of days, nor end of life." God also had existed eternally with the Word. Jesus, when he was "the Word," was an immortal being who had existed always—there never was a time when he did not exist—without beginning of days. He was, then, "like" the Son of God—but he was not yet the Son of God. He also was God, along with God.

These passages show that the Word, in the beginning—before anything had been created—was with God, and he, also, was God. Now how could that be?

There might be a man named John. And John might be with the man named Smith, and John might also be Smith because John is the son of Smith, and Smith is the family name. Yet they are two separate persons.

The only point of difference in that analogy is that the Word, at the time of John 1:1, was not, yet, the Son of God. But he was with God, and he also was God.

They were not yet Father and Son—but they were the God Kingdom!

Herbert W. Armstrong (1892-1986)
Fully Man and Fully God? (2001)


 

Worldly religion has conditioned us to think of worship as something that we do briefly once a week, and then we are free to do what pleases us. This is woefully inadequate for fulfilling God's purpose of creating us in His image. His purpose involves putting His mind in us that we may imitate Him in every area of life.

In this, the first commandment has very practical ramifications. If another crowds God out of first place in our thinking, affections, and conduct so that we admire, submit to, and imitate him, we will be in another's image, not God's. If we are not in God's image, will He allow us into His Kingdom?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment (1997)


 

Genesis 1:26

Genesis 1:26 expresses the specific purpose statement of the Bible. God, the Creator, the Master Potter, is reproducing Himself! This is THE work of God. He is in the process of making man in His image. That project is completed in two stages, the physical and the spiritual. When the physical aspect was completed at creation, the spiritual one began. This is the overall project He is supervising.

God is already a unit: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!" (Deuteronomy 6:4). God is one, but consists of more than one Person. When Jesus came, He proclaimed the gospel of the Kingdom of God. In doing this, He publicly announced the expansion of this unit to include others besides the two Beings already revealed.

A kingdom is synonymous with a nation. It consists of large numbers of people, but it, too, is one. Indeed, the church is called "a holy nation" in I Peter 2:9, and though it has many members worldwide, it is one church. Thus, Jesus announced that the Kingdom of God will consist of many more personalities. He also told us how we can become a part of it and how it will be accomplished. Through these means the project stated in Genesis 1:26 will take a giant step toward fulfillment.

John W. Ritenbaugh
In the Grip of Distrust


 

Exodus 20:12

God wants us to honor our parents because the family is the basic building block of His Kingdom. God describes the Kingdom in family terms. He is the Father, Jesus is the Son, and the church is the Son's bride. We are called sons, daughters, and children of the Kingdom. We are created and being created as sons in His image. God also uses terms like "beget," "born," and "grow up."

Immediately after creating Adam and Eve and announcing He was creating them in His image (Genesis 1:26), God established the first institution: the family through marriage. The conclusion is inescapable. The family would play a major role in creating man in God's image. Regarding marriage, family, and divorce, Malachi 2:15 says:

But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring! Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.

The godly principles learned and the character built within the human family are, upon conversion, transferable into the spiritual family relationship in the Kingdom of God. Parents are His representatives, and we honor and revere the creative majesty and power of God when we keep this commandment. God expects whatever we learned from honoring our parents to transfer into our relationship with Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment (1997)


 

Deuteronomy 6:4

The word "God" here is Elohim. It says, "The LORD our Elohim is one LORD." This phrase is not normally grammatically correct—a plural noun [Elohim] with a singular verb, "is." Elohim is the plural of both El and Eloah. El and Eloah mean "mighty One," "strong One," or "powerful One" according to Brown, Driver, and Briggs. Elohim, being either of these two words in the plural, therefore means "strong Ones," "mighty Ones," or "powerful Ones."

Just from these definitions, Elohim consists of at least two powerful beings. But, as the New Testament shows, Elohim is not limited to two. It can actually signify an unlimited number, so Elohim is a group or assembly of powerful beings.

It is jarring to the ear to say "Gods is," because there is a plural noun and a singular verb, but it is not incorrect. Consider "United States of America." States is plural, but one does not say, "The United States are going to war." One says, "The United States is going to war." One uses a singular verb with a plural noun. Gramatically, we are speaking of collective nouns.

Elohim is plurality in one, and because the sense is singular, it calls for a singular verb. However, everyone using it knows that it is plural and represents many in unity. Our culture forces us to look for a singular being, but Elohim is not singular.

In the New Testament, it becomes very clear that Elohim is a kingdom, consisting of many! Elohim always acts in a singular way. There is never any divisiveness, only agreement.

We have no problem at all saying or hearing, "The United States is bordered on the north by Canada," or, "The United States is in the northern hemisphere," or "The United States delivered a sharp memo to the Japanese today." We always speak of the United States in the singular. We speak of it as a composite of many rather than a singular entity.

When Moses wrote this verse, it was no more discordant to a Hebrew-speaking person, no more grammatically wrong, than it is for us to say, "The United States is. . . ." Elohim, "the powerful Ones," is a Family of at least two divine beings, and many sons and daughters coming into it. A family, whether human or divine, is a unit of many individuals joined as one.

The Bible reveals that a nation is nothing more than a family grown great. This is why we have the Table of Nations in Genesis 10, which shows the forebears of the nations after the Flood. They began with one man and one woman, and they grew great. So it is that Elohim is one institution—a Family—growing ever larger and more complex until it becomes a nation, the Kingdom of God. We see, then, that this is what Elohim is developing.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Nature of God: Elohim


 

Deuteronomy 8:2-3

Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 16 contains a vital lesson regarding humility, our relationship with God and our ultimate destiny. Here God explains why we have our experiences on our pilgrimage to the Kingdom of God. He specifically mentions humbling and testing three times. They are ultimately the means by which He will achieve our birth into His Kingdom. Humility is essential to our character and the out-working of His purpose because humility motivates us to bow before God's sovereignty. Those who submit to God's will have their prayers answered and receive additional blessings from Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Nine


 

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

God Almighty has given man the power to make choices regarding his ultimate destiny. As a free moral agent, man has the awesome responsibility to choose between a hapless, physio-chemical existence with a dead end or a rich and rewarding eternity as a member of God's Family. Though the choice appears easy, the challenging road to the Kingdom of God dismays many because they are unwilling to undergo the rigors of the journey.

God has set before us the choice to obey or disobey, hoping we will choose obedience and giving us reasons and promises that persuade us to that end, but He wants us to make sure that it is our intention, without coercion or brainwashing on His part. It takes a free moral agent, making the right choices, to create the mind of Christ in us. Though He has a good idea how we will choose, God ultimately does not know what we will decide when given the choice. He will do all He can—short of rescinding our freedom to choose—to convince us to choose Him.

David F. Maas
Fasting: Building Spiritual Muscle


 

1 Samuel 16:13

In a sense, this is David's baptism, in which he was separated from all his brothers—in effect, from all the people of the tribes of Israel. This anointing consecrated him as "king," just as we, too, have been separated from the world and set apart as God's people. Like David, who did not immediately function as king over Israel, we are to be kings and priests of God in the resurrection, in His Kingdom (Revelation 5:10; 20:4-6; I Peter 2:9-10).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 133


 

Psalm 21:1

There will be everlasting joy when God's Kingdom is established on earth. Joy and gladness are not only deep inward feelings, but they are also expressed in visible celebration when God's people gather together. Speaking of the future church, Isaiah 60:15 says, "Whereas you have been forsaken and hated, so that no one went through you, I will make you an eternal excellence, a joy of many generations." In the meantime, the apostle Paul advises us to "rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say, rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4)

Martin G. Collins
Joy


 

Isaiah 11:1-9

We will have the opportunity to build a totally new world of peace, happiness, and prosperity, and we will accomplish this by teaching and enforcing obedience to God's laws throughout the whole earth. This will be our main responsibility during the thousand-year reign of Christ.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: The Reward of the Saved


 

Isaiah 11:11-16

After Jesus Christ returns, the survivors of all the nations will be gathered, and He will appoint the resurrected saints to rule over them. If they initially rebel against His rule, He will cut off all rain until they submit and keep the Feast of Tabernacles.

Staff
Holy Days: Feast of Tabernacles


 

Isaiah 32:1

With Jesus Christ ruling as King over all the earth, we, as co-heirs with Him (Romans 8:17), will be regarded as princes ruling under Him. He will give His true followers positions of rulership in His Kingdom, where, it is specifically stated, "we shall reign on the earth."

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: The Reward of the Saved


 

Isaiah 40:10

When Jesus triumphantly returns to the earth, He will establish the Kingdom of God to rule over the people of the world. At that time, His faithful disciples will receive their reward. Notice that He comes to do a work—to gather, feed, and shepherd a flock (verse 11). The reward of the saved is linked to His future work on earth.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: The Reward of the Saved


 

Ezekiel 44:23

In the Millennium, when God's Kingdom is reigning on earth, the priesthood will teach the difference between clean and unclean! And after the thousand years, no abominable thing, nothing that defiles will mar the New Jerusalem! All of its citizens will be holy. This is the wonderful destiny that we are preparing for, and part of making ourselves ready is following the law of clean and unclean meats.

Staff
Clean and Unclean Meats


 

Daniel 2:32-35

When Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that he was the head of gold, it shows us a biblical principle that a king in prophecy represents the entire kingdom. In verses 39-40, "after you" indicates four successive world-ruling empires from the time of the Chaldean empire of Nebuchadnezzar until the return of Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God. We see in overview an outline of world history from a Gentile perspective, beginning with Nebuchadnezzar and coming all the way down through the various kingdoms until the image is struck on the foot by the Stone, representing the Kingdom of God, or Christ.

This prophecy brings us right into our present time—the time of the end—the time when can expect that the Stone, sometime in the not-too-distant future, will strike this image on the feet. We can look for that last empire, represented by the feet and toes, to exist today, or either be coming together, or will shortly be coming together. History has shown that these four empires, beginning with the head of gold, to be the Chaldean (the head of gold), the Medo-Persian (the chest and arms of silver), the Greco-Macedonian (the belly and thighs of brass), and the Roman (the legs and feet of iron) empires. The Roman Empire existed from 31 BC to AD 476. Secular history shows that the Vandals defeated Rome, but Rome was revived and re-established as "the Holy Roman Empire" under Emperor Justinian in AD 554.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 1)


 

Daniel 2:36-45

Daniel 2:36-43 describes four major kingdoms, empires, or governmental systems that have ruled over the greater part of the civilized world:

1. The Chaldean-Babylonian Empire (625 to 538 BC)

2. The Medo-Persian Empire (538 to 330 BC)

3. The Greco-Macedonian Empire (333 to 31 BC)

4. The Roman Empire (Established 31 BC. The imagery suggests that it will exist in some form until the end of the age.)

Clearly, these physical empires existed on earth. Verses 44-45 then say that God's Kingdom will encompass all of these previous kingdoms—on earth! Daniel 7:17-18 says much the same.

Staff
Is Heaven the Reward of the Saved?


 

Daniel 7:27

God's everlasting Kingdom shall not be in heaven but "under the whole heaven"!

Why then should we be surprised that God's Kingdom will be on earth? God tells us through Moses that ancient Israel was a type of God's Kingdom and, in fact, could have been His Kingdom had they obeyed Him:

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. (Exodus 19:5-6)

Staff
Is Heaven the Reward of the Saved?


 

Micah 4:1-3

Beginning with Israel, God will take a much more direct and visible role in governing the nations. Representatives of nations will flow to Jerusalem to learn God's ways. They must begin at ground zero and prepare their lives to reflect the image of God, just as we have had to do. That these people come to God is an acknowledgment that they and their forefathers had made a mess of things before Christ returned, and now they want to learn from God and His people how to do things properly.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing to Rule!


 

Micah 4:1-2

This passage shows that Jesus Christ will dwell on earth in Jerusalem, accessible to physical people and nations—not in heaven!

Staff
Is Heaven the Reward of the Saved?


 

Habakkuk 1:5

Secular historians believe that what happened in the sixth century BC is marvelous almost beyond belief. Events of that magnitude do not happen that swifty in such a short period of time. We have seen evidence, however, in God's Word of what happened and why it happened that way. God Himself did it to bring about a radical change in the history of man. Since God did it, it was part of His purpose.

In Habakkuk, He is speaking about a work He will do that is so amazing that "If I told you, Habakkuk, what I am going to do, you would not believe it." What is that amazing work? God is going to turn the world upside down again, only this time He will replace the nations with the Kingdom of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 3)


 

Habakkuk 2:4

God, in this verse, sets out the two universal sides. The proud are on one side. Their deeds are not upright. On the other side are the just, those who live by faith. In a way, He is asking Habakkuk—and us, "Which side are you on? Can I count you among the proud, who will be destroyed, or the just, the faithful, who will be rewarded? Choose your side."

This verse is quoted three times in the New Testament, all by the apostle Paul. In Romans 1:16-17, he shows that the gospel Christ brought reveals God's righteousness, the way we are to live, which is by faith in Jesus Christ. Thus, he writes, "The just shall live by faith." It is a common misconception that the gospel is merely the announcement of the Kingdom of God. But it is much more than that: It is the instruction of God on how we are to live. It is the faith we must live. We are to live the gospel, the way Christ revealed in His life and teaching. We can live confidently according to God's Word because we trust God—we have faith in Him and His revelation.

A second quotation of this verse is Galatians 3:11, a usage slightly different: as a proof that God does not justify us by the law but by faith. To paraphrase, he says that God has granted us eternal life because of our faith in Christ not by our adherence to the law. The apostle makes this verse say, "The just shall have eternal life by faith, or because of faith"—our faith in Christ, and so we will live.

Finally, Paul quotes this verse in Hebrews 10:38-39: "Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who draw back to perdition [or to destruction], but of those who believe to the saving of the soul." Paul uses the quotation from Habakkuk much like Habakkuk himself does, showing the two sides of the issue: the just on the one hand, who go forward to reward, and on the other side the proud, those who draw back and are destroyed. If we desire to enter into His Kingdom and live eternally, we must believe God and live our lives accordingly. The proud draw back from God, and they receive destruction. If we live by faith, we go forward to perfection (Hebrews 6:1-2) and thus to salvation, not to destruction. Paul says in II Corinthians 5:7, "We walk by faith, not by sight." The lesson is, whatever the circumstances, we must obey God and let the chips fall where they may. We must always be faithful to be counted among the just.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Malachi 3:1

Jesus came to this earth as a Messenger from God the Father: "'Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,' says the LORD of hosts" (Malachi 3:1). Two messengers are mentioned in this verse. The first is John the Baptist, who prepared the way for the second Messenger, "the Messenger of the covenant," Jesus Christ.

It is helpful to understand that, as Messenger, He did not speak His own words. John 8:38-42 combined with John 12:49-50 confirms this. Thus, the message He brought is not primarily about Himself but about the good news of the Kingdom of God that the Father ordained to be announced on earth. This does not discount Jesus in any way because He is clearly the most important person ever to inhabit this earth. Rather, it emphasizes the fact that the gospel Jesus preached is not just about Himself.

The inspired Word of God makes it quite clear that the good news Jesus brought is about the Kingdom of God. Mark 1:14-15 is typical: "Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. repent, and believe in the gospel.'" Luke 8:1 shows that proclaiming this good news was His customary activity, "Now it came to pass, afterward, that Jesus went through every city and village, preaching and bringing glad tidings of the kingdom of God." He says plainly in Luke 4:43 that this was His appointed task: "I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also: because for this purpose I have been sent."

Even in those last days before He ascended to heaven and the church was born, He used His time with the disciples to teach the same message. ". . . to [the apostles] He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3).

Jesus was not alone in preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God. He charged His disciples with this responsibility, and they followed through as commanded. "Then He called His twelve disciples together and . . . He sent them to preach the kingdom of God . . ." (Luke 9:1-2). Later, others like the evangelist Philip joined in this effort: "But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized" (Acts 8:12).

Just in case one might think the apostle Paul preached a different gospel, he himself states in his farewell to the Ephesian elders, "And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more" (Acts 20:25). As Paul reached the end of his life, Acts 28:30-31 states of him, "Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him."

One final reference, Galatians 1:8-9, is pertinent to this important issue:

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

The Father's message, purposely given to Jesus to deliver to mankind, had already been corrupted just a few decades after Christ's death, and the Galatians had been deceived into believing the corrupted one! Similarly, the gospel Jesus Christ brought has been corrupted in modern times. Rather than focusing on the coming Kingdom of God, the message being palmed off in our day primarily focuses on the Messenger.

Without a doubt, within the context of the message, Jesus is important as God in the flesh, our sinless Savior, and our resurrected High Priest. However, the message He preached focuses on other important issues besides Himself. If this were not so, why did God not title the message with something focusing directly on Jesus? God intends the title "gospel of the Kingdom of God" to fix our attention on the issue He wants to be the focus of our lives after we are called and converted, since it is the only hope for the resolution of mankind's numerous and presently unsolvable problems. The Kingdom of God is of such importance that, once we grasp the essence of its instruction, we can honestly say, without exaggeration, that it is the theme of the entire Bible.

Spiritual resurrection into the Kingdom of God is held out as the goal of those making the New Covenant with God. A covenant contains requirements that are to be met by both parties entering into it. Will those of us who have done so escape the responsibility to make efforts to live up to the New Covenant's terms comparable to those required of Israelites under the Old Covenant? Many - those who say that no works are required of Christians - believe so.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Five)


 

Matthew 4:17

Christ links repentance with the Kingdom of God and believing the gospel. Once one hears the true gospel and believes it, he begins to change the way he thinks. Peter ties repentance with forgiveness of past sins and God's giving of His Spirit. Once the Ethiopian eunuch heard Philip's explanation of the Bible, he changed his thinking (repented) and was baptized. Initial repentance includes recognition, acceptance, and belief of the true gospel and making changes in one's life to conform to the new way.

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: Repentance


 

Matthew 4:17

Is it not clear that Jesus Christ came preaching the Kingdom of God (Matthew 4:17-23; 9:35; 10:7; 24:14; Luke 4:43; 8:1; 9:2, 60; Luke 16:16)? Does this not suggest that this was what He wanted to be preached at all times? It certainly seems that way! It was His only focus! He says He had to go and preach to other cities the Kingdom of God, and He sent His disciples out, saying, "You preach the Kingdom of God too."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Itching Ears


 

Matthew 5:3

Jesus was not saying that Christians go to heaven. In these verses, "of" shows possession, not location. It could just have correctly been translated, "heaven's kingdom" just as we often use "God's Kingdom" rather than "Kingdom of God." After comparing the ways He interchangeably used the terms "kingdom of heaven" and "kingdom of God," it is obvious that He is referring to the government (Isaiah 9:6) that He will bring from heaven and set up on the earth when He returns.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: The Reward of the Saved


 

Matthew 6:21

He implies money, but the principle includes anything of such importance—apart from the Kingdom of God and His righteousness—that achieving it dominates our thinking, planning, and conduct. If it shapes our existence, we have a false god. The desire to "get" this thing replaces the devotion we should give to God and forces us into sins in other areas. Thus, we become idolaters.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Second Commandment (1997)


 

Matthew 6:21

Treasure is what we value highly, what we take great pains to serve, honor, preserve, and embellish.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Two)


 

Matthew 6:31-34

Our focus should be toward the end result. He gives this encouragement and admonishment to motivate us to understand and live all of life in relation to where it ends. Will life end in the Kingdom of God or in the Lake of Fire? That is a choice that each person makes. Even in the everyday, mundane things, eating and drinking, going to work, getting along with others, and so on, God wants His people to relate those daily experiences to their goal, the Kingdom of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 

Matthew 6:33

What was the first of the Seven Laws of Success? Set the right goal! Jesus clearly established the highest-priority goal for His disciples in this verse. He did this because He knows that the main goal, our highest priority, determines the preparations, efforts, and zeal for reaching it.

Suppose someone offered us a tremendous sum of money, perhaps billions of dollars, but the exact amount would be determined by how well we could learn to speak German in two month's time. We would embark on the most intense crash-course program of learning in our life! We would study from morning to night, burn the midnight oil, listen to language tapes, carry flash cards wherever we went, and seek out fluent German-speakers so we could practice with them.

During those two months, no one could drag us near a time-wasting television program. We would probably allow nothing to interfere other than necessary physical activities to sustain life itself. All for money!

Notice what Jesus says earlier in Matthew 6:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (verses 19-21)

Consider these scriptures in the context of what Jesus says in verse 33. Our hearts are in the things to which we devote ourselves, the things we spend our time pursuing. He is helping us prioritize by stating and illustrating principles that will help us make right choices in managing time.

Every day another 24 hours or 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds is credited to our account, and we have to spend them. Whether we are a billionaire or a dirt farmer, except for those who die that day, all have the same amount of time. Jesus says how we spend it shows where our heart is.

Of course, Bible Study and prayer are very high priority activities. But Satan also knows this! He also knows it would be very difficult to change our minds regarding their value if he confronted us directly. So he makes use of subtle, indirect approaches, and all too often he succeeds in diverting our attention from these high priority concerns.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Simplify Your Life!


 

Matthew 11:12

Christ was perhaps recalling His wrestling match with Jacob, centuries earlier, when He commented that "the violent take [the Kingdom] by force". J. B. Phillips has it: "The Kingdom of heaven has been taken by storm and eager men and forcing their way into it." It takes sweat.

Charles Whitaker
The Israel of God


 

Matthew 11:12

The Kingdom of God will be the recipient of slings and arrows and wars and temptations, and its own people will need to be violent in return. He means "forceful." It will take a titanic struggle to enter it because so many things are acting against us. Jesus warns us it will not be easy. We are going to have to work vigorously and "violently" at times, to force ourselves to do what is right, because the Kingdom of God is now under siege in so many ways. Therefore, we have to fight as warriors in battle and violently engage the enemy.

From John 17:11-18, we know that the Kingdom functions in the world, and Jesus is not going to take us out of it. But He asks His Father to give us His protection from the Evil One so that we can at least have that added strength. We must constantly deal with the world, human nature, and the Evil One himself, as well as his demons.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Parables of Matthew 13 (Part 2): Leaven


 

Matthew 11:12

The key to understanding Jesus' words lies in understanding how the phrase "kingdom of God" or "kingdom of heaven" is used. We know that the Kingdom of God has a future aspect, when Christ will rule over the nations and His glorified brothers and sisters will reign with Him. There is also a present aspect, as we have already been conveyed into the Kingdom (Colossians 1:13), and now our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). We are already part of that heavenly Kingdom. It is a present reality for the firstfruits—though not in its fullness—and in the near future, it will be a worldwide reality.

Yet, there is another way to understand the Kingdom. When Jesus said that "the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17)—meaning nearby—He was referring to Himself. When He told the Pharisees that the Kingdom of God was among them, or in their midst (Luke 17:21), He referred to Himself. The king is always the highest representative of a kingdom, so when the king is present, the kingdom is also present.

We can see this in a couple of scriptures: "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Matthew 12:28). Here, God's Kingdom is defined as Jesus' exercise of His power. The King, in exerting His authority over unclean spirits, displays the reign or the rule of God. The Kingdom of God is found in the Person of Jesus Christ.

This can also be seen in Mark 9:1-2:

And He said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power." Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them.

Jesus tells them they will see the Kingdom of God present with power, and within a week they see Him transfigured. His being revealed to them in glory was a demonstration of the power of God's Kingdom. Even without the glory, what stood among them was still the Kingdom of God. Because He is the King, as the central figure of the Kingdom, wherever He went, the Kingdom was present. In the book of Acts, the message of the Kingdom is inextricably tied to the central Being in that Kingdom (Acts 8:12; 19:8-10; 28:23, 31). To take this a step further, where the King abides in any person or where a person is in Christ, the Kingdom is also present.

We can now apply this principle to Christ's statements. Matthew 11:12 says that from the days of John the Baptist's preaching until that of Jesus—and even to today—Christ and those in whom He dwells suffer violence: physical or verbal assault, affliction, oppression, constraint, and perhaps even martyrdom. This world's forceful and self-willed people "seize" that Kingdom as they would a fortified city, through opposing its citizens in some way.

Similarly, in Luke 16:16, Jesus is saying that the Kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone uses violence against it, signifying opposition in one form or another, to constrain or repress the King and His citizens. As John records, "He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him" (John 1:11).

In other words, the gospel message was not popular. It bore fruit in those who were being called (Isaiah 55:11). Others hoped that the kingdom of Judah would be restored, and they were probably content to wait and watch this Man as He went about—as curiosity-seekers rather than opponents. However, for those who had a vested interest in maintaining the political and religious status quo, the gospel was seen as a threat, and those linked with the Kingdom of Jesus Christ were the object of all manner of resistance and persecution, both before and especially after His death.

Notice, for example, Jesus' words in Matthew 23:13: "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in." Some were then in the process of entering the Kingdom, and the resistance and oppression of the scribes and Pharisees were obstacles to that entrance. John 9:22 records that "the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue." The scribes and Pharisees, as well as those influenced by them, persecuted those God was drawing into His Kingdom. There was such animosity that the King Himself suffered the most awful violence that has ever been perpetrated: a mob of creatures wantonly crucifying their sinless Creator.

We face a similar circumstance today. Even nominal Christians suffer Muslim persecution in one part of the world, while others are blocked, ridiculed, and constrained by secularists and humanists in another. True Christianity is denounced as being heretical and cultic, and its adherents suffer violence in various ways. This violence does not have to be physical violence. It can be verbal. It can be passive. It can be persecution or opposition in any number of ways.

Wherever the spirit of Satan is present, his children make the way difficult for those who are in Christ or who are being drawn to Him. They reject the royal law of the Kingdom and ridicule God's sovereignty. They sneer at His inspired Word. The violence that the Kingdom suffers will vary by degrees, but it is found wherever the ruler of this world has influence.

This is why Jesus says in John 16:33 that in the world, we will have persecution, but He also says to "be of good cheer." He does not say He will remove persecution right away, but instead, He says that He has overcome the world. He sets limits on how much violence He will allow, and what He does allow He will redeem for His own good will. The violence we suffer will never compare to the violence that He suffered for us. One day soon, though, the violence against the Kingdom will be defeated, and the violent will be given the opportunity to worship the King whom they have pierced (Zechariah 12:10).

David C. Grabbe
Taking the Kingdom by Force


 

Matthew 13:11

Jesus' frequently uses the words "Kingdom of Heaven," especially in Matthew 13, as in "The Kingdom of Heaven is like..." We should be careful not to be fooled by this. It does not mean "the Kingdom of God when Jesus Christ returns." That is not what Jesus means.

The Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven is not just a future matter, but also a present reality. It is not on earth right now as a government, in the form of a nation or a kingdom, but the Kingdom of God exists. Colossians 1:13 says that we have already been translated into the Kingdom of the Son of His love. The word translated is better rendered as "transferred." This is not the Protestant idea of "the Kingdom of God is within you," but the Kingdom of God does exist. Notice Matthew 12:28: "But if I cast out demons by the spirit of God, surely the Kingdom of God has come upon you." It was present then in the person of Jesus Christ and working.

Mark 12:34 contains another example: "So when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, 'You are not far from the Kingdom of God.' And after that no one dared question Him." In Luke 10, Jesus uses the term in a present-tense situation. The Kingdom of Heaven is something that happens now or can happen now. Jesus is speaking to His disciples, telling them what they are to do when they go out preaching the gospel: "And heal the sick who are there, and say to them, 'The Kingdom of God has come near to you'" (Luke 10:9). This is similar to what He says to the scribe in Luke 17:21: "Nor will they say, 'See here!' Or 'See there!' For indeed the Kingdom of God is among [as it is better translated] you."

These examples show that Jesus taught His disciples that the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven exists now, but it is in a different form from what it will be when Jesus returns and sets up His government. When we yield to God, and when we are accepted by Him as His sons and daughters, as it were, we become citizens of the Kingdom of God. In a sense, then, we all are in the Kingdom of God now.

Nevertheless, we are aiming for that future reality when Jesus Christ comes back and sets His throne upon this earth—when all people will stream to Jerusalem to become part of God's Kingdom. The entire Bible looks forward to this time, but there is a present reality of the Kingdom among His sons and daughters. Paul concurs: "Our citizenship is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20); "We are ambassadors for Christ" (II Corinthians 5:20; our allegiance is to Christ, the King of the Kingdom of God); we are "strangers and pilgrims" in a foreign land (I Peter 2:11). Our land is the Kingdom of God. The country we live in is an alien nation. In true members of God's church, the Kingdom of God is already ruling in them. This is what Jesus means when He speaks of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Some scholars want to throw out the word kingdom when it is used this way, feeling that it is a misleading translation. Of course, many of them are Protestants, who look at it from the understanding of "the Kingdom of God is within you." Nonetheless, they believe that the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew 13 should be rendered the realm, dominion, or reign of God. He is already our King, reigning over us right now.

Another rendering is a word we should all be familiar with—the sovereignty of God. Have we come under the sovereignty of God? Yes, indeed. We did it voluntarily when we accepted Christ as our Savior. So in this sense, we are in the Kingdom of God, and its rules apply to us.

This is what Jesus means in Matthew 13. He is not doing away with the idea that He will return to this earth and set up His government here after putting down all other government's rule, but He is saying, "Those of you whom I have called out are in the Kingdom of Heaven right now—in a spiritual sense—and you have to live by its rules and fight its enemies. So beware! This is what your life in My Kingdom now will be like."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Parables of Matthew 13 (Part 1): The Mustard Seed


 

Matthew 13:44

Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a treasure hidden in a field. One has to work hard to find a hidden treasure, and in the same way, we have to work hard to find and understand God's truths. God wants to know whether we really hunger and thirst for Him. Will we work at it as if our lives depended upon it? In reality, it does!

Pat Higgins
Are We Opening the Door?


 

Matthew 16:27

If anything is certain about the future, there is a judgment according to works for all who live and die. How can anyone who says he believes the Bible claim that works are not required of the Christian when God emphatically declares that they are required of us, even though they do not justify us before Him?

The truth is plain. If a Christian does not work, there will be nothing for God to judge and thus no evidence the person is prepared for His Kingdom. God will not give him salvation because there will be nothing to verify that he belongs there. The lack of evidence proves that he does not belong there! Such a one is not a son of God. A faith that does not work is dead (James 2:17, 20, 26). God is the God of the living, and according to James 2:22, faith is perfected, brought to completion, by works. Sanctification is necessary as a witness to the Christian's character as he passes before the judgment seat of Christ.

Do we not all desire to be in the Kingdom of God? Certainly, we must if we are at all impressed with the glory to which God has called us. However, have we considered deeply whether we would enjoy being there, should we be given that privilege? God's Kingdom will be a holy place inhabited by holy people. Is it not apparent that those in God's Kingdom will have spent a great deal of time being prepared, trained, and formed and shaped for living there?

The concept of deathbed repentance and absolution is a lie palmed off by Satan. Likewise false is the belief in a purgatory following death, in which a person prepares for living in paradise. These are nowhere found in Scripture, nor is the idea that one needs only to be justified through Christ's blood. If these things were so, Romans 5:9-10 would not declare:

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

The false concepts above do not take into consideration that God's purpose includes more than just atoning for our sins through Christ's blood. God's purpose includes the work of Jesus Christ as our High Priest, perfecting our character by means of living in us through His Spirit (John 14:18-23). It is our High Priest, Jesus, who intercedes in our behalf (Romans 8:26-27). As Head of the church, He inspires and corrects us, and He gives us gifts to fulfill our responsibilities (Ephesians 4:7). He labors to create in us a clean heart, purified and in the character image of the Father (II Corinthians 3:17-18).

We need to be sanctified as well as justified. Sanctification requires the works of submission to and cooperation with Almighty God to bring to completion His purpose for us. King David writes in Psalm 16:11, "You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures evermore" - a brief snapshot of what life will be like in the Kingdom of God. No one can be happy where he is not in his element. An unsanctified person would not find God's Kingdom congenial to his tastes and character. Being there would be a condemnation rather than a blessing.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Four)


 

Matthew 19:28

The apostles will be kings, too, in this Kingdom, which is also a Family. Their jobs are clearly specified.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 1)


 

Mark 1:14

Jesus Christ preached a specific gospel - not about Himself, but "the gospel of the kingdom of God"! "Gospel" derives from an old English word meaning "good news." He came proclaiming the good news that God's Kingdom would come and restore all things (Acts 3:19-21). Jesus is the King of a literal Kingdom that will reign over the whole earth when He returns (see John 18:36-37; Revelation 5:10; 19:11-16; 20:4-6). The gospel explains, not only that it is coming, but also how we can be a part of it. That is great news!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The True Gospel


 

Mark 1:14-15

What is the gospel—the "good news"? "Just believe on the name of Jesus and you will be saved" is a common message of many preachers. Others proclaim that the gospel is that Jesus came to die for our sins. Still others preach a rather insipid and saccharine "Jesus loves you" message. All of those catchy phrases have relevance to Jesus' message—we certainly must believe in Jesus, He did die for our sins, and He surely loves us—but nowhere does Jesus directly state that the gospel is about Him!

Instead, the good news is about a momentous purpose that God is accomplishing. Jesus spoke the words that the Father gave Him to preach, most emphatically confirmed in John 12:49-50:

For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.

What is Jesus' own testimony about the subject of His preaching? Notice these verses:

» Matthew 4:23: "And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people."

» Matthew 24:14: "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come."

» Luke 4:43: "[Jesus] said to them, 'I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.'"

» Luke 16:16: "The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time, the Kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it."

Jesus' announcement of the good news is that the Father will establish His Kingdom and His capital city on earth. He Himself will be here, no longer separated from His children—no longer unseen and ruling indirectly through agents from His present location in heaven but ruling directly on earth. It is to this awesome, mind-boggling future that we, as a part of His Family, are being summoned to prepare for and to participate directly in.

Jesus is certainly mankind's Savior, having died for our sins, but to be properly understood, that event must be seen within the context of preparation for and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. A kingdom has four basic elements: a king, a territory it occupies, subjects within that territory, and laws. Each of these elements is part of the gospel.

Has the founder of any other religion offered a message and program that can even begin to match what Jesus taught? This is truly the most wonderful message mankind could possibly receive, and it came only through Jesus.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is God's True Church Today?


 

Luke 10:9

A misunderstanding has arisen from this verse because many people understand the preposition "near" to refer to place or proximity, but in this case it refers to time. To paraphase Jesus' words, He said, "Tell them, 'The Kingdom of God is coming soon.'"

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Is the Kingdom of God Within You?


 

Luke 13:23-28

Many will seek to enter the Kingdom of God but be barred from it because of flagrant sin. Jesus will refuse to answer the knock of unruly sinners who have rejected salvation, though they weep and grind their teeth when they find out they cannot enter God's Kingdom. When the third resurrection arrives, all humanity will have had the opportunity to be saved; everyone's ultimate destiny will have been eternally set. It will be too late for anyone who, after coming to the knowledge of the truth, sins willfully and thereby rejects eternal life. Those who reject God and His way of life must then reap the consequences of that decision - the second death following the third resurrection to judgment.

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: The Third Resurrection


 

Luke 16:16-17

It is helpful to realize that at its establishment on earth the Kingdom of God will be ruling over unconverted people who have just passed through the most horrific period of tribulation in the history of mankind. These people will need guidance from absolutely trustworthy standards.

No nation, not even the Kingdom of God, can govern human beings without laws. There must be standards of conduct for citizens to follow, or chaos and anarchy will result as each person does what seems right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25). But "God is not the author of confusion but of peace" (I Corinthians 14:33). His Kingdom will be peaceful and orderly because people will be led to submit themselves voluntarily to His rule of law - His commandments.

Unfortunately, many believe that the commandments are done away, having been replaced by love. This can easily lead a person to believe the opposite of what is true regarding the commandments. People have a strong tendency to think of them in terms of restrictive bondage, whereas love is perceived as liberating. The apostle John says, however, that the commandments of God are love and not grievous (I John 5:3).

What does Jesus teach? In Matthew 22:36, He was asked, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" His reply is instructive:

Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22:37-40)

Notice that both of the two Great Commandments encompass love. The first four of the Ten Commandments show man how to love God, and the second group of six shows man how to love fellow man. The commandments remove love from being merely an emotion and reveal how to apply love practically. As one commentator stated, "Love is what you do."

It was Jesus, as God of the Old Testament, who gave to ancient Israel God's laws in their codified form from Mount Sinai. When He became a man, what did He teach in reference to these very commandments?

» "If you love Me, keep My commandments." (John 14:15)

» "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him." (John 14:21)

» "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me." (John 14:23-24)

The apostle James calls the Ten Commandments "the royal law," meaning it came from a King and is worthy of His Kingdom (James 2:8-12).

God has never done away with His Ten Commandments, and they never shall be done away. They will be lived by all those given eternal life forever. They will also be the basic law of those possessing mortal life when Jesus returns. From God's commandments, all laws governing every aspect of a moral life will be drawn and applied in their spirit. Their standards will be the rule of law against which people's lives will be guided and judged.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Five)


 

Luke 17:20-37

The original question posed by the Pharisees was, "When is the Kingdom of God coming?" (verse 20). The long section from the end of verse 20 to verse 37 is Jesus' answer, first to the Pharisees (verses 20-21) and then to His disciples (verses 22-37). His reply to the Pharisees is rather curt: "You won't be able to discern the coming of the Kingdom because you haven't recognized that I am its chief representative, though I have been among you."

In His longer explanation to His disciples, Jesus goes into quite a bit more detail about the timing and conditions of establishing His Kingdom. First, He says, do not be deceived when people tell you Christ has come (verses 22-23). We will know very well when He returns; it will be like a flash of lightning that everyone will see (verse 24). However, before this can happen, Jesus must be tortured and crucified as man's Redeemer (verse 25). From our vantage point, which the disciples did not have, we know that this condition has already been met at Golgotha or Calvary.

Then He gives details about the conditions in the world when He returns. It will be as it was in the days of Noah and Lot (verses 26-30). He highlights two major signs of the end here:

1. He will come suddenly when people do not expect Him to return. Most people will be going about their normal activities, unaware of the times.

2. When He returns, society will be degenerate and wicked just as it was before the Flood came and before God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (see Genesis 6:5-7; 18:20; 19:1-11).

Luke 17:31-33 shows that, for His disciples, His coming will result in a test of faith. They will have to be willing to leave everything behind—their homes, their possessions, even their loved ones—in order to obey the call of God. Lot's wife turned back in longing for what she had left behind, and God's judgment fell swiftly upon her. We may have to be willing even to give up our lives for salvation, because in trying to save our physical lives, we would have to renounce our beliefs.

Verses 34-36 illustrate three scenes of judgment. These show that Christ will judge us individually, and despite how close we may be to another—a spouse, a neighbor, a co-worker—our obedience and good works will not deliver anyone else (see Ezekiel 14:12-20). We will have to prove ourselves to the righteous Judge of all (Acts 17:31; Romans 14:10).

Finally, the disciples ask Jesus where these things will take place (Luke 17:37). His reply is better translated in the Revised English Bible: "Where the carcass is, there will the vultures gather." This seems somewhat enigmatic, but if we take what He says literally, He implies that He will return at a place of great carnage. This would parallel the scenarios prophesied in Zechariah 14:1-5 and Revelation 19:11-21 (see especially verses 17-18, 21b).

All through this section Jesus is describing real circumstances, real people, and real places. He speaks of a literal Kingdom to be established at His return "with power and great glory" (Matthew 24:30).

Since the context of Luke 17:21 is Christ's second coming, and Jesus is speaking in great detail about the time, place, and conditions of His return, we must see His Kingdom as a literal government—just as real as any government of man. We cannot divorce "the Kingdom of God is among you" from this larger topic. Doing so distorts the true meaning of a literal, soon-coming Kingdom ruled by Jesus Christ that will grow to fill the whole earth after His return.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Is the Kingdom of God Within You?


 

Luke 17:20-21

It is evident that the Pharisees' conception of the Kingdom of God differs from that of Jesus. They believed in a spectacular, visible establishment of the Kingdom, even as we look forward to its fulfillment in the near future. However, in Luke 10:9, 11 and again in Luke 11:20, Jesus plainly says that it was already present, whether in the persons of the apostles or Himself, as exhibited in their acts. Acts can include miracles, conduct, and their messages. His statement in Luke 17:20-21 explains that they should not expect a visible manifestation of the Kingdom as they perceived it at that time.

Theologians may argue over the interpretation of words, but Jesus' own testimony undoubtedly implies that the Kingdom of God was in their presence in His Person and ministry. Therefore, the last phrase of Luke 17:21 should be translated as, "The kingdom of God is among you." Barnes' Notes, Tyndale New Testament Commentary, Expositor's Bible Commentary, The New International Biblical Commentary, and The Interpreter's Bible all agree on this conclusion. He was in their midst, and He was within the Kingdom of God.

When this is combined with John 18:36 (where Jesus declares that His Kingdom "is not from here") and many other scriptures pointing to the establishment of God's Kingdom with power at Christ's return, we can understand that it is both a present and a future reality. In addition, it has both heavenly and earthly aspects. On one hand, it is present and near in the people to whom God has given His Spirit and has chosen to represent Him. On the other, it is distant in terms of time and as a geographical and governing reality. As a present reality, it is small, goes virtually unnoticed, and rules over little. Yet, in the future, at Christ's return, it will dominate and rule the earth. It is certainly not established in its fullness on earth now. Nonetheless, Scripture also proves that it is a present, earthy reality having earth-bound, flesh-and-blood citizens who are, in the Bible's terms, "spiritually minded" or "in the Spirit."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Born Again or Begotten? (Part One)


 

Luke 17:20-21

This raises the frequently asked question: Did Jesus really mean "within you"? Or did He mean "among you"? Whichever one of these options Jesus meant—or even both of them—does not negate the facts that:

» The Kingdom of God certainly did reside in the Person of the human Jesus Christ.

» God's Kingdom certainly does reside today in His brothers and sisters—the members of His church—by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit.

» The fullness of God's Kingdom must come, completely, at "the fullness of times," which will be at some time in the future: ". . . that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him" (Ephesians 1:10).

We know that the Kingdom of God was inherent within the human Jesus; and therefore, if we are now in Him by His Spirit dwelling in us, then the Kingdom is inherent within us too.

Actually, the "within you or among you" argument is something of a moot point. Why? Because God's Kingdom certainly did not originate with the conception or birth of the human Jesus. Rather, it was actually originated and prepared millennia prior to Jesus' human lifetime. As the Logos, He and God the Father began preparing their Kingdom way back in prehistory, at the time God's Word calls "the foundation of the world."

Jesus says in Matthew 25:34: "Then the King [Jesus Christ] will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Hebrews 4:3 also shows that God's Kingdom was planned "from the foundation of the world": "For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: 'So I swore in My wrath, "They shall not enter My rest,"' although the works were finished from the foundation of the world."

God the Father and Jesus had completed the major part of their preparation work for their Kingdom eons ago!

Staff
Thy Kingdom Come! (Part One)


 

Luke 17:21

"Within" is translated from entos, used only twice in the New Testament. Its primary meaning is "inside," as it is rendered in Matthew 23:26: "Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also." However, when used in conjunction with a plural noun, entos means "among" or "in the midst of." In Luke 17:21, entos is used with "you," and from the context, we can see that Jesus was speaking to a crowd of Pharisees, who had come to question Him about the Kingdom of God (verse 20). "You," then, is plural. "The kingdom of God is among you" is best.

Most modern translations have recognized this grammatical error and translate entos as "among" or "in the midst of." Some texts, like the New King James and the New International versions, persist in using "within," though they note in the margin that "among" is an alternative.

Even without this technical knowledge of Greek, we could have easily understood that "within" is a poor and misleading translation. Christ was answering a question posed by the Pharisees, and He replied directly to them: "He answered them and said, . . . 'For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.'" But how could the Kingdom of God be within His most bitter enemies? How many times did He reveal them to be hypocritical and misleading the people? Theologically, it is quite impossible to think that His Kingdom would be in the Pharisees.

It is only after He had made this remark that He turned to His disciples (verse 22) and explained what He meant. The subject of the entire section (verses 20-37) is stated most explicitly in verse 30: "Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed." All along, He had been explaining His second coming! When He returns, He will set up His Kingdom on earth (Zechariah 14:9).

If the Kingdom is still future, how could He say that "the kingdom of God is among you"? To answer this, we must return to the four common traits of a kingdom: a king, who rules by law over a number of subjects who live within a certain territory. The primary trait is that a kingdom must be ruled by a king; otherwise, the country has some other form of government. A king of any nation is the chief representative of that nation. And the King of the Kingdom of God is none other than the living Jesus Christ!

Pilate specifically asked Jesus, "'Are You a king then?' Jesus answered, 'You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth'" (John 18:37). So as the King of God's Kingdom, He could truly tell the Pharisees that the Kingdom of God was among them.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Is the Kingdom of God Within You?


 

Luke 17:21

This sadly mistranslated verse has led many sincere people astray. Without even knowing the Greek language, we can see that Jesus could not mean that the Kingdom was some ethereal quality in the hearts of the Pharisees! To the contrary, He castigated them often for their unbelief! Entos, translated "within," should be translated "in the midst of" or "among." Jesus, the coming King of the Kingdom of God, was in their midst or among them! The thrust of His teaching in this section is that unbelievers will not recognize the working of God's Kingdom among them, just as the Pharisees had not recognized their Savior among them.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The True Gospel


 

John 3:3

Since the church is composed of flesh and blood mortals, it cannot be the Kingdom of God! God's children, begotten by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11, 14-17), will be born again—changed to spirit like God is (John 4:24)—at Christ's return (I Thessalonians 4:16-17), and then we will enter into God's Kingdom. Thus, only Jesus Christ and His Father comprise the Kingdom of God in its fullness at this time.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The True Gospel


 

John 3:5

In this verse, Jesus introduces a second facet of the Kingdom of God, teaching that a person can enter into it, as well as that one must be "born again" to bring about the entrance. The question arises, "How long must one wait before entering it?"

Jesus preached the gospel of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14-15), as did Paul (Acts 28:30-31). The Bible states plainly that the Kingdom is an entity that one can enter into even before Jesus' return. Note Matthew 5:20, "For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." Jesus adds in Matthew 7:21, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord.' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.'" Moreover, Jesus declares in Matthew 18:3, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." Clearly, a person can enter into God's Kingdom, but there are also requirements. Can one meet the requirements now?

In Mark 1:15, Jesus dogmatically states, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand." "The time is fulfilled" implies that nothing can be added to it, that time will be extended no longer. That the Kingdom is "at hand" means that it is near or close. It does not suggest distance in either space or time. By using these phrases together, Jesus indicates that it can be entered into at once when God's basic requirements are met. The most basic requirement is taught in John 3—to be born again. Jesus thus announces when the Kingdom could be entered—immediately.

Luke 17:20-21 finds Jesus speaking to a group of Pharisees:

Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, 'See here!' or 'See there!' For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you."

It is evident that the Pharisees' conception of the Kingdom of God differs from that of Jesus. They believed in a spectacular, visible establishment of the Kingdom, even as we look forward to its fulfillment in the near future. However, in Luke 10:9, 11 and again in Luke 11:20, Jesus plainly says that it was already present, whether in the persons of the apostles or Himself, as exhibited in their acts. Acts can include miracles, conduct, and their messages. His statement in Luke 17:20-21 explains that they should not expect a visible manifestation of the Kingdom as they perceived it at that time.

Theologians may argue over the interpretation of words, but Jesus' own testimony undoubtedly implies that the Kingdom of God was in their presence in His Person and ministry. Therefore, the last phrase of Luke 17:21 should be translated as, "The kingdom of God is among you." Barnes' Notes, Tyndale New Testament Commentary, Expositor's Bible Commentary, The New International Biblical Commentary, and The Interpreter's Bible all agree on this conclusion. He was in their midst, and He was within the Kingdom of God.

When this is combined with John 18:36 (where Jesus declares that His Kingdom "is not from here") and many other scriptures pointing to the establishment of God's Kingdom with power at Christ's return, we can understand that it is both a present and a future reality. In addition, it has both heavenly and earthly aspects. On one hand, it is present and near in the people to whom God has given His Spirit and has chosen to represent Him. On the other, it is distant in terms of time and as a geographical and governing reality. As a present reality, it is small, goes virtually unnoticed, and rules over little. Yet, in the future, at Christ's return, it will dominate and rule the earth. It is certainly not established in its fullness on earth now. Nonetheless, Scripture also proves that it is a present, earthy reality having earth-bound, flesh-and-blood citizens who are, in the Bible's terms, "spiritually minded" or "in the Spirit."

We are all familiar with Matthew 13, in which almost every parable begins, "The kingdom of heaven is like" (verses 24, 31, 33, 44, 45, 47, 52). Jesus then illustrates a matter that directly involves instruction for the church and its membership. In doing this, He is using the term "kingdom of heaven" in place of "the church"—He is virtually equating them. Why? Because church members are citizens of the Kingdom of God.

Notice especially verse 41. How can angels gather tares, not just from any old place, but from out of Jesus' Kingdom on earth, if it does not yet exist on earth? Christians are not only presently God's children in the Kingdom, but tares fellowship with them in the church! Again, in Mark 12:28-34, Jesus converses with a scribe whom He had complimented after seeing the man respond wisely, saying, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." He means that the scribe is not far from being converted and entering the Family of God.

When Jesus and the apostles preached the gospel, they were inviting people to become part of that Kingdom immediately without having to wait for the resurrection at Christ's return. The Kingdom of God is a spiritual entity. Its headquarters is in heaven, but at the same time its agents—initially Jesus of Nazareth then later the apostles and the church—were, as children of God, laboring on earth to make it better known and expand its citizenry.

The Kingdom of God is that entity in which those who are part of it recognize and submit to the rule of the Father and Son. A person becomes part of it by being born again, and those who are born again become sons of God. God's Kingdom as presently configured consists of God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and all the children of God who have entered the Family of God by means of God's calling, being born again, and receiving God's Holy Spirit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Born Again or Begotten? (Part One)


 

John 11:51-52

Christ died for our sins so that the children of God can be gathered in one. One family. One kingdom. It begins with the one church; that we all have one spirit, that we are in one body that becomes the Kingdom of God that is Elohim—the Godhead.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Nature of God: Elohim


 

John 12:27-33

When Jesus Christ lived a perfect life and died for the sins of men, He qualified to dethrone Satan. The "god of this world" has been defeated! However, he remains active among us until the King of kings returns and sets up His government on earth.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Basic Doctrines: Satan's Origin and Destiny


 

John 12:49-50

Where did Christ's message originate? Jesus spoke only what His Father in heaven told Him to speak! Thus, our Messiah, Jesus Christ, was a Messenger from God the Father, bringing the message of God's plan for all mankind, the message of the New Covenant (Malachi 3:1). The gospel of God, the gospel of Jesus, and the gospel of the Kingdom are the same gospel! It originated in God, was proclaimed by His Son, and tells of the coming rule of God and our part in it!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The True Gospel


 

John 14:2-3

Many Protestants try to use these verses to "prove" that the saints go to heaven. Here, too, they make assumptions, such as understanding "house" only as a dwelling, rather than as a family or dynasty. Thus, they narrowly define place as "an ornate abode, a mansion or palace" instead of a "position," "office," "role," or "spot."

They gloss over the fact that Jesus says directly in this context that He would "come again." Where? To earth! He then says He will receive the saints to Himself. If He remains on earth to rule the nations, then the saints will rule with Him on the earth! Many scriptures show very plainly that God's Kingdom will be on the earth (Psalm 2:6-8; Jeremiah 23:5; Daniel 2:35, 44-45; 7:27; Zechariah 9:9-10; Revelation 11:15).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Caught Up in the Rapture


 

John 18:36-37

Recall Philippians 3:20, that "our citizenship is in heaven." We are not of this system; we do not fight in the wars of the kingdoms of this world. We are to come out of this world and not conform to its ways so God will not destroy us with it. However, Revelation 19:11-19 shows that when the Kingdom of God is set on earth, we will fight.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment (Part 2): War! (1997)


 

Acts 1:3

Even after Jesus died, He could not wait to get back and tell them more and more about the Kingdom of God, which then He was sending them out to preach. It almost seems as if He was not quite finished telling them everything by the time He died, so He appeared to them during forty days time to give them further instruction. If we could say such of Him, He was "obsessed" with—driven by—the idea of preaching the Kingdom of God. He instilled that "obsession" in His apostles, as we see in spades in the apostle Paul.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Itching Ears


 

Acts 1:6-8

The return of Jesus Christ was on their minds too. And like us, they would have liked to have seen the Kingdom established right away. They did not understand that they needed to be prepared for the Kingdom of God. They were not ready yet—they did not even have the Holy Spirit yet! Nor had they entirely put together all the elements of God's truth.

It is interesting that Jesus tells them, "It is not for you to know the times or seasons," but it has been given to us in far greater measure. We know many things that they did not know. We know that we are very close to the end. We do not know the day, but we know that we are in the time and season, and if there was ever a people on the face of the earth in all the history of Christianity who needed to get prepared for something, it is we. We are not yet ready, and in God's mercy, He has given us time to prepare.

It was a good while before the disciples came to grips with the fact that the return of Jesus Christ would not occur in their lifetimes, a fact evident from what is written within the New Testament. The first thing they had to come to grips with was that they had a job to do before that time would come.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Don't Be a Prudent Agnostic


 

Acts 1:6

The scene is the ascension of Jesus Christ, after forty days of being with the disciples (verse 3). The day of Pentecost is just about to occur (Acts 2). It is interesting to note, in this profoundly significant time in the lives of the apostles, what was on their mind. Jesus said, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." They were seeking to know about the Kingdom of God and seeing it established immediately! We should not be unfamiliar with that kind of an attitude. If we are at all like them, we, too, would like to see God's Kingdom established right now.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Trumpets Is a Day of Hope


 

Acts 2:38

From these three verses (Acts 2:38; Mark 1:15; Acts 8:12), we understand the two prerequisites for baptism: repentance and belief of the gospel of the Kingdom of God. The people of Acts 2 showed by their reaction that they believed what Peter had preached (verse 37), and thus they needed only to repent of their sins and their human nature before they were baptized (verse 41). One need not be a Bible scholar or be living perfectly to be baptized; these things are part of growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ after baptism (II Peter 3:18).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Basic Doctrines: Water Baptism


 

Acts 8:12

It is quite plain what the apostles preached (Acts 8:12; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31). They preached the Kingdom of God with the same zeal as their Master, who had given them the example. To those who have ears to hear, it is clear that the gospel of the Kingdom is the gospel. Otherwise, why did Christ not call it something else?

Every time the word gospel appears—if Jesus qualifies the word at any point—it is always "of the Kingdom of God" or "of the Kingdom of heaven." That is what He preached! He preached the coming of a great Kingdom that would turn this world upside down and establish His Father's rule over all things.

That is what He lives for—and I use the present tense purposely. He still lives for it! He is just anxious to come back and finish His work—this time as King of kings and Lord of lords with the authority to make real changes. This is the same gospel—the same message—that His ministry must teach. We must preach the Kingdom of God.

We know that grace, peace, salvation, and Christ's life and example are certainly part of that preaching, but the primary thrust is the Kingdom of God. Our hope of being resurrected and changed to be part of that Kingdom, and all of the things that come with it, will all come about because the gospel of the Kingdom is the focus. This is how God works through human, physical, fleshly people. He gives them the gospel, and He sends them out. It must be preached, for by it salvation comes (Romans 1:16).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Itching Ears


 

Romans 1:15

All of Paul's letters, with the exception of the Pastoral Epistles and Philemon, were written to congregations of already-established, converted people. Rome was no exception. The church was already formed there. They had a congregation—a group of Christians who were already disciples—and Paul wanted to go to them.

Why? For them to be converted? No, to continue the process of conversion. And how was he going to do this? By preaching the gospel to them. He was going to preach the gospel to already-converted people.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 1)


 

Romans 3:28

This concludes Paul's entire discussion begun in Romans 3:10. The only way we can be justified—that is, have our sins forgiven and be brought into a right relationship with God—is through faith in the sacrifice of Christ. This justification is something that is imputed to us once we meet God's conditions of repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38). We cannot earn it through lawkeeping or doing good works.

However, what many do not understand is that being justified is not the same as being saved. Justification is only one step on the road to salvation. Someone who has been justified cannot break God's laws with impunity and expect to receive salvation anyway. To have our sins forgiven, we must repent from having broken the laws of God (Acts 3:19). To repent means "to turn around"—to stop sinning and orient our lives to obeying God's law. Paul explains it plainly in Romans 3:31: "Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law."

The true Christian, having repented from sin, has been given the gift of God's Holy Spirit, which is the love of God that enables him to keep His laws in their full spiritual intent and purpose. He has been justified and has received God's undeserved pardon. He realizes his sins caused Jesus Christ to have to suffer and die. Because of all of these things, the true Christian strives with all his might to resist the pulls of the flesh and to put sin out of his life.

Paul makes it very clear that the true Christian must not continue to live a life of sin. "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (Romans 6:1-2). The true Christian understands that the way he lives and conducts his life has a great bearing upon whether he will inherit the Kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21).

To receive salvation, we must not only be justified, but we must live a life of obedience to the laws of God, developing the fruits of His Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23). Then—and only then—will God give us the gift of eternal life.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Saved By Faith Alone?


 

1 Corinthians 6:2

Under the guidance and authority of Jesus Christ, the resurrected saints will help to judge the world. Just as we are being judged now, we will judge those who live and die throughout the Millennium. We will also judge the angels who rebelled against God under Lucifer (I Corinthians 6:3; II Peter 2:4; Jude 6; see Isaiah 14:12-15).

Staff
Basic Doctrines: Eternal Judgment


 

1 Corinthians 15:23

Only the just, the righteous, will rise at Christ's second coming. God will raise the martyred saints to eternal life, but the unjust dead will not be resurrected until the end of this period. If we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us when we die, we will be resurrected through the power of that same Spirit at that time (Romans 8:9, 11, 14). In addition to the dead in Christ, those who are true Christians at His coming will rise in the first resurrection. The Feast of Trumpets celebrates the second coming of Jesus Christ to intervene in world affairs, resurrect the firstfruits, and establish God's Kingdom on earth (Matthew 24:30-31; Revelation 11:15).

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: The First Resurrection


 

1 Corinthians 15:25-28

Christ's reign will and must continue until every enemy has been conquered, and the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For the rule and authority over all things has been given to Christ by His Father. But in that quotation, "All things are put under Him," it is self-evident that God, who reduced everything to subjection, is not included. When Christ has finally won the battle against all His enemies, then shall the Son acknowledge Himself subject to God the Father, who gave the Son power over all things, that God may be utterly supreme, that He may be everything to everyone. (I Corinthians 15:25-28)

If this quotation does not square with your Bible, do not be alarmed. It is an amplification of these verses pieced together from the Phillips, King James, Taylor, Moffatt, and Norlie translations. The Father is drawing the entire creation into a state where everybody and everything acknowledge Him as God. When this occurs, division, confusion, and warfare will not exist because all, everything, is at one with our Creator.

Our acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, repentance from dead works and receiving of God's Holy Spirit are the first major steps for each of us in seeking to become one with the Father. The next major step is the return of Jesus Christ, when we will inherit the Kingdom of God after the resurrection from the dead. The "all in all" of verse 28 is the very end point of the gospel.

Though I Corinthians 15:28 may appear to be something that happens in the distant future, the process has already begun in us. Understanding this as a reality is vital to our spiritual well-being. If we do not consider it to be real, we may be lured into neglecting our summons to this glorious destiny by letting ourselves follow distractions or grow irresponsible.

John W. Ritenbaugh
All in All


 

1 Corinthians 15:50-52

This verse is parallel to I Thessalonians 4:15-17. The phrase "the kingdom of God" in I Corinthians parallels "the coming of the Lord" in I Thessalonians. Likewise, "the last trumpet" parallels "the trumpet of God." The last trumpet announces both the resurrection of the saints and Christ's triumphant return to earth to set up His Kingdom! Revelation 11:15-18 confirms when the last trumpet sounds.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Caught Up in the Rapture


 

Galatians 2:3

The account of Acts 15 shows that it is not necessary for salvation for Christians to be physically circumcised. Salvation is by grace through faith, and faith without works is dead. We cannot "work" or "earn" our way into the Kingdom of God. The privilege to be a part of the eternal Kingdom is one that God bestows according to His will. Nothing we can do will make God indebted to us or require Him to do something for us, such as grant us admission into His Kingdom.

But at the same time, if we are within the salvation process, we must show forth works, or fruits, that demonstrate our repentance, our attitude, and our desire to live by the rules of His Kingdom. We must live now in the same way that we will be living for eternity—by the laws of God's Kingdom. Our works do not save us; they demonstrate that we are being saved.

Under the Old Covenant, the ceremonies and ordinances were primarily physical, and the spiritual aspects were implied. Under the New Covenant, the ceremonies and ordinances are primarily spiritual, and the physical aspects are implied. For example, there is no record of Christ ever performing an animal sacrifice, even though the Old Testament requires one in the morning and in the evening. Under the New Covenant, the physical rite is not required, yet the basic law is still there, and is thus manifested in morning and evening prayer, a sacrifice of our time and energy.

In the same regard, the council of Acts 15 shows that circumcision is not one of the works that is required to demonstrate the salvation/sanctification process. When considering eternity and the spiritual bodies that we will have at that time, circumcision is almost insignificant. What is truly important is whether or not the heart has been circumcised. The physical rite was a reminder to the children of Israel that they were separate and distinct, but even in this God was looking for a change of heart so much more so than a modification of the flesh.

David C. Grabbe


 

Ephesians 1:18

Why does God enlighten us about this? Does He not enlighten us so that we will turn our lives in the direction of the hope of achieving it? Of course. What is the hope of His calling? To attain to the resurrection of the dead—to inherit the Kingdom of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 5)


 

Philippians 3:20

This adds another proof that we are already part of the Kingdom of God if our citizenship is in heaven. The Bible looks upon the church as an outpost on the earth of the Kingdom of God in heaven. We already have citizenship in it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 8): Ephesians 4 (E)


 

Colossians 1:13-17

Jesus Christ is not only our Savior but also our Creator. He is the subject of the powerful description in Isaiah 40:9-18, and it is into His Kingdom we have been translated, meaning conveyed or transferred. Paul must mean that this translation is spiritual because God's Kingdom has not yet literally been established on earth. God "calls those things which do not exist as though they did" (Romans 4:17). We are to conduct our lives and represent God before the world as though we were literally a part of it even now.

Philippians 3:20 reinforces this: "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." The Kingdom of God is still in heaven and will be established on earth at Christ's return. However, we are already considered its citizens. Thus, our loyalties and submission go to it before everything else.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment (Part 2): War! (1997)


 

Colossians 1:13

Everyone of us knows that we are in the church. Are we aware that we are already in the Kingdom of God? We are! It is not here in fullness, nor as a physical reality. This verse says very clearly that we are already in the Kingdom of His dear Son. This is a spiritual reality that we must consider in relation to the church to grasp the importance of the church. The church is a portion of the Kingdom of God. It is not its fullness but a part.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 8): Ephesians 4 (E)


 

Colossians 1:13

In terms of our responsibilities to God, the implications of this verse are tremendous. It dogmatically informs us that we have already been conveyed, translated, or transferred into His beloved Son's Kingdom. How can some say we are not already in God's Kingdom? We absolutely do not have to wait for the resurrection at Christ's return to be considered by God as part of His Kingdom. Are we who call Him "Abba, Father" not already His children? Is not His Family His Kingdom?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Born Again or Begotten? (Part One)


 

Colossians 3:2

Paul is telling us where the focus of our attention needs to be. We can give our minds over to a lot of things, for instance, to our jobs - and there is a place for that. We can give our minds over to physical things - exercise, eating well, and so forth - and there is a place for these, too.

Indeed, humans need to set their minds on many things, but they need to be prioritized correctly - put into the right niche and position. Then each of these things has to be seen in relation to the Kingdom of God. Our priorities must be set according to this standard - the overriding goal of our Christian lives.

"Set your mind on things above" adjusts the focus of our attention so that we do not become distracted by things that are less important for any longer than needed, so that they occupy the right proportion and amount of time in our lives.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Titus 2:11-14


 

1 Thessalonians 4:17

Because Paul writes, "And thus we shall always be with the Lord," many assume that since Christ lives in heaven, the changed saints will too. But is this assumption valid?

They Bible shows that the reward of the saved is eternal life as kings and priests ruling and teaching here on earth (Matthew 5:5; Revelation 5:10). But where will the saints go at the moment of Christ's return? The clearest verses that show Christians immediately returning with our King to the earth are Zechariah 14:3-5, 9:

Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. . . . Thus the Lord my God will come, and all the saints with You [Him, margin]. . . . And the Lord shall be King over all the earth. (See I Thessalonians 3:13.)

If our Savior is going to rule "over all the earth," the saints will have to settle for earth too!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Caught Up in the Rapture


 

1 Thessalonians 4:17

Some churches attempt to prove from this verse that heaven is the reward of the saved—that Christians will go to heaven and be there with Christ forever. But where did the idea that heaven is the reward of the saved originate? Does the Old Testament teach it? Did Jesus and His apostles teach it?

A perusal of various encyclopedia articles on "heaven" will show that this doctrine originated with the pagan, polytheistic Greeks and Romans. Their deified heroes and other favorites of their multiple gods were supposedly given admission to their "heaven," which they called "Elysium."

Various peoples evolved their own versions of Elysium. The Germans and Scandinavians had their Valhalla. The American Indians had their Happy Hunting Grounds. The eastern Buddhists have Nirvana, which offers the dubious promise of "the extinction of all desire and personality." Interestingly, the Western, professing Christian heaven is more similar to the original Greek concept.

The Old Testament shows clearly that when Jesus Christ returns to earth, it will be to set up the Kingdom of God—on earth, not in heaven.

Daniel 2:36-43 describes four major kingdoms, empires, or governmental systems that have ruled over the greater part of the civilized world: the Chaldean-Babylonian Empire (625 to 538 BC); the Medo-Persian Empire (538 to 330 BC); the Greco-Macedonian Empire (333 to 31 BC); and the the Roman Empire (Established 31 BC. The imagery suggests that it will exist in some form until the end of the age.) Clearly, these physical empires existed on earth. But verses 44-45 say that God's Kingdom will encompass all of these previous kingdoms—on earth! Daniel 7:17-18 says much the same.

Daniel 7:27 adds a vital piece of information to our understanding of where God's Kingdom is:

Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.

God's everlasting Kingdom, then, shall not be in heaven but "under the whole heaven"!

Why then should we be surprised that God's Kingdom will be on earth? God tells us through Moses that ancient Israel was a type of God's Kingdom and, in fact, could have been His Kingdom had they obeyed Him (Exodus 19:5-6).

The very churches that misuse I Thessalonians 4:17 could better understand its meaning by studying the words of the so-called "Lord's Prayer": "Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10; see Micah 4:8). Jesus instructs His people to pray for God's Kingdom to come—to earth—not to be taken away to it!

Obadiah 1:17, 21 tell us specifically where God's Kingdom will be set up. Likewise, Micah 4:1-2 shows that Jesus Christ will dwell on earth in Jerusalem, accessible to physical people and nations.

Matthew 24:3 shows that the disciples knew, and therefore were taught by Jesus Himself, that He would come back to this earth, when they asked Him, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"

In His reply, Jesus continually repeats that He will come back to this earth:

For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west; so also will the coming of the Son of man be. . . . Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. . . . But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. (verses 27, 30, 37; see also verses 39, 42, 44, 46, 48, 50)

Some might argue that, because Jesus went to be with God the Father in heaven after His death and resurrection, we must go to heaven to be with Him. However, in John 14:3, Jesus tells His disciples that He will come again to earth and will here receive them to Himself to be with Him: "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also." If He wants us in heaven, why would He have to come here to get us? The Parable of the Minas or Pounds (see Luke 19:11-15) also makes this clear.

After all of Jesus' teaching, the disciples, although still limited in their knowledge and understanding, knew for sure that Jesus was to restore His Kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6). In Acts 1:9-11, their understanding is greatly enhanced:

Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven."

He will come down from heaven, through the clouds, and will set down on the Mount of Olives just outside Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:4). He will be clearly visible to human eyes.

Christ reveals to the apostle John in Revelation 19:11-21 that He will not return meekly or unnoticed to this earth. His return will be witnessed by the whole world whose kings and armies (verse 19) will gather to battle against Him. No secret, quiet "rapture," whisking Christians off to heaven, but the most terrible battle in man's history.

Consider the context of I Thessalonians 4:17, and notice the previous verse: "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first" (verse 16). This clearly proves that the timeframe is that of the second coming of Jesus Christ, not the death of each Christian.

Notice also that Christ is descending from heaven. We will not meet Him in heaven but in the atmosphere of the earth as He is on His way down.

Now comes the central question of this matter. We have just met Christ in the air! Where do we go from here? Up to heaven or back down to earth? I Thessalonians 4:17 says that we are to be with the Lord forever, but where will the Lord be? Again, many scriptures give the clear answer, but Zechariah 14:4 gives a concise one:

And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south.

Could this be some "heavenly" Mount of Olives? No, it is the one "which faces Jerusalem on the east"! Could it be some "spiritual" Jerusalem? No, Jesus is going to split it in half!

He will have arrived on earth. Who will be with Him? The second half of verse 5 tells us: "Thus the LORD my God will come, and all the saints with You." All the resurrected saints or holy ones will be with Him.

Will He stay on earth? Notice verse 9: "And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be—'The LORD is one,' and His name one." Yes, He will stay. The Kingdom of God and the reward of the saved are on this earth! As Jesus Himself tells us in Matthew 5:5, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."

Jesus will come again to earth, this time with His saints and with His army of angels too. He will take His rightful place on His glorious, earthly throne and share power with His saints over the physical nations of the earth (Revelation 2:26-27). God tells us in Revelation 5:10: "And have made us [the saints; verse 9] kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth."

Staff
Is Heaven the Reward of the Saved?


 

Hebrews 2:5-8

Ultimately, it is God's purpose to put resurrected Christians in charge of the entirety of the universe! We will be ruling over all of God's creation as members of the God Family throughout all eternity! The idea that a Christian's reward is "going to heaven" is far short of the reality of our true reward. God has promised us an eternal, abundant life of challenge, creativity, and achievement that excels man's limited ability to comprehend!

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: The Reward of the Saved


 

Hebrews 4:1-2

Notice that the "promise remains" of entering His rest. This is the subject under discussion. At the time of the writing of Hebrews, the rest had not been attained. Nor has it been attained since. The rest is still in the future. It remains even for Christians today. Paul warns, "lest any of you seem to have come short of it," indicating that though one has received forgiveness, God's Spirit, and gifts of the Spirit, there is still a possibility of falling away. The chance may not be great, but nonetheless, some may fall short of it.

"For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it" (verse 2). During the time of the Exodus, the people of Israel heard a message of good news from Moses. It consisted of redemption from slavery, the Passover, baptism in the Red Sea, and a journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land. The good news, then, included the occurrences of and the knowledge about all the steps along the way, all of the benchmarks. The purpose for which all those events occurred was the most important part. What good was it to have the death angel pass over their house, for them to receive the forgiveness of sin and redemption from slavery, if they never made it to the Promised Land? That is Paul's warning. The steps, though vital in themselves, are not as important as the goal.

This warning applies especially to today. What Jesus Christ did in His life, in His death, and in His resurrection, is awesome, a wonderful and great gift. It is good news that these things have occurred, but they are not the good news. The good news is the goal, and that has not yet occurred. What Jesus Christ did is exceedingly important to the fulfillment of God's purpose, but it is still possible for us to reject the Son of God even after we have accepted His blood for the forgiveness of our sins, as Hebrews 6, 10, and 12 also show very clearly. So in this analogy, life in, possession of and governance of the Promised Land was the culmination, the good news, the fulfillment—at least physically—of the promises to Abraham.

The message that Jesus Christ brought, the gospel, is about the Kingdom of God, the culmination, the goal, the fulfillment. Certainly it includes the knowledge of and information about those benchmarks along the way, but the Kingdom of God is the goal toward which every Christian is aiming.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 

Hebrews 4:9-10

The Lamsa translation of the Bible from the Aramaic renders Hebrews 4:9-10 as: "It is therefore the duty of the people of God to keep the sabbath. For he that has entered into his rest also has ceased from his own works, as God did from his." Along with the examples of Christ, His apostles, and the early church, this scripture indeed shows us we have a responsibility in keeping the Sabbath. It is on the Sabbath day that we have the best opportunity each week to learn and grow toward entering God's rest, His Kingdom.

William Gray
Sharpening Our Saws


 

Hebrews 4:9-10

Have we entered into that rest? We have not entered into it yet; it has not occurred. So, what rest is God talking about here? The Kingdom of God, which still lies before us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 4)


 

Hebrews 4:9-11

We see the Sabbath in several different lights. First, it commemorates the completion of the Creation Week (Genesis 2:1-3). God is Creator. Second, in Deuteronomy, we see that it commemorates redemption (Deuteronomy 5:15). In the Gospels we see Jesus acting upon this redemption motif with regard to the Sabbath. God has gotten us out of spiritual Egypt. Now the question becomes, how do we use the Sabbath? So Jesus magnifies it by showing that we should use the Sabbath to produce liberty. We might almost say that the first thing we need to make sure is that we are free and stay free. Therefore, we have to strive to keep the Sabbath! Third, it prefigures a time yet future when the people of God enjoy the rest.

So, now we see the Sabbath doing what?

It points to the past—the Creation.

It points to the present—redemption and sanctification.

It points to the future—the Kingdom of God.

These three areas are the parameters within which Sabbath use and obedience fall.

"For there remains yet a keeping of the Sabbath." This is really beautiful. What it shows in the Greek—which, incidentally, is probably the most beautiful Greek in the whole Bible—that the Sabbath rest has already begun if we are striving to use it right. We have already begun to enter into it. If a person works on the Sabbath to earn a living, has he entered into it? Obviously not! Keeping the Sabbath is vital to entering God's rest.

This ties very closely to the term "eternal life" in the Bible. Eternal life is not merely a period in which there is life without end. To God, eternal life includes the quality of life being lived. It would be no good to have eternal life if we had to live like a demon. But eternal life is only good when it is lived as God lives it.

Now, are we starting to live like God? If we have begun to live like God lives—having His attitude, doing the things that He does in terms of what Christ has showed us—then we have begun to enter into eternal life. Therefore, we are already beginning to enter into God's rest. It is a beautiful picture!

Paul's point to the Hebrews is that the children of Israel did not enter into God's rest because they did not hear God's Word and obey. The illustration is the Sabbath, for the breaking of which both Israel and Judah (as Ezekiel and Jeremiah show) went into captivity. What is so interesting here is that this is written to the first-century church, and it is introduced as an illustration of what they are to do with their lives.

Think about this. If the Sabbath had been done away, the illustration was useless. This is one of the strongest proofs in the entire New Testament that the first-century church, the church of the apostles, were still keeping the Sabbath—and reinforcing its keeping by using it as an illustration of the very Kingdom of God, the rest into which we will enter. Far be it from the apostles to say that it was done away! That is patently ridiculous. Maybe the spiritually blind cannot see that, but we should be able to see it clearly.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 4)


 

2 Peter 3:1-2

What did the apostles write? They wrote about the life and death of Christ, about prophecy, about the second coming of Christ, about the resurrection of the dead. They wrote about the establishment of the government of God on earth, about a whole nation being born in one day, about the world being filled with beauty, love, peace, and prosperity.

Peter reminds them of this because this is where their hope needed to be. We too need to be looking forward to this to be able to relate what we are going through now with what is going to happen in the future. What is happening now is intended by God to prepare us for the future so that when His Kingdom comes, we are ready for it. Christ is not only preparing a place for us, He is also preparing us to be able to fill that place.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Don't Be a Prudent Agnostic


 

Revelation 4:8-11

In Revelation we see that a main theme in the Kingdom at the throne of God is thankfulness. This song of the angels, elders, and the four living creatures shows the reverence that all have in God's presence. There are seven aspects of praise listed here in this spiritual worship of God. Seven signifies totality and completeness. Thankfulness comprises part of this list. In great contrast to this present evil world's gross ingratitude, God has revealed to those who will listen and act that thankfulness is a duty to which the elect of God are bound. Praise and thank God for all His works and for providing brethren by whom we can be encouraged. By developing a thankful attitude now, we prepare ourselves for the soon-coming Kingdom of God.

Martin G. Collins
Thankfulness


 

Revelation 5:10

Just like the apostles and Jesus Christ, we, too, are going to be kings and priests on earth, where the Kingdom will be located. Thus, we find that God is producing a community, and that community is a nation as well as a Family. The members of that Family are brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, and we all have a common Father - the great Creator of everything that is. Like the apostles and Jesus Christ, we are being drawn to a place where we will rule in that Kingdom.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 1)


 

Revelation 11:15-18

This last - seventh - trumpet announces the coming of Christ, the establishment of God's Kingdom, the judgment upon the nations, and the rewarding of the saints. They occur simultaneously!

The last trumpet sounds when Christ returns, not 3½ years before! If we compare verses 11-13 (the resurrection of the Two Witnesses) with verse 19, the "great earthquake" ties the resurrection of the saints with the beginning of the Kingdom (see also Revelation 16:18). In addition, an angel tells John in Revelation 10:7 that when "the seventh angel . . . is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished." There will be no more mystery about man becoming God when the saints are resurrected or changed to eternal spirit beings!

Matthew 24:30-31 also verifies this scenario, showing that the trumpet sounds to send the angels to gather the elect from all over the earth to meet Him upon His return. To clinch the argument, verse 29 very plainly says, "Immediately after the tribulation of those days. . ."! Isaiah 27:12-13, Joel 2:1-11 and Zechariah 14:3-5, 9 also confirm these events.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Caught Up in the Rapture


 

Revelation 19:10

The angel uses an interesting combination of words, to describe the gospel. The gospel is prophetic. He calls the testimony of Jesus, which is the gospel of the Kingdom of God, the spirit of prophecy.

"Spirit" is used in the sense of character, the nature of a thing. The testimony of Jesus is the nature of prophecy. Another English word is better: essence. Perfume is sometimes called an essence, an invisible, but substantive and beautiful fragrance that is its nature.

Essence means "the nature of," like the word character. It also means "the main part, the heart and core of, the real and ultimate nature of a thing." The testimony of Jesus is the real or ultimate nature of prophecy, meaning that all prophecy points toward the conclusion of the gospel. Everything in God's purpose points in that direction.

When prophecies are given, they speak of things that are yet future and unfulfilled. The testimony of Jesus is the very essence, the heart and core, the nature, of these future events. The gospel, whatever its message, is focused on the future. We then cannot relegate the future aspects of the gospel into a low place of importance without destroying the heart and core of the message that Jesus Christ brought.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 

Revelation 20:4-6

A first resurrection suggests at least a second. The verse clearly says the second occurs one thousand years after the first. That verse 6 states that death has no power over those in the first resurrection strongly indicates that death will have power over those in the second. The second resurrection, therefore, must be a resurrection to physical life. Verse 6 also repeats from verse 4 that those in the first resurrection will reign with Christ. This means that His government is established, functioning, and executing judgment, among other things.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Final Harvest


 

Revelation 21:1-4

Following this time of judgment, God will create "a new heaven and a new earth" - a clean, pure world fit for God the Father Himself. For all eternity, "there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." All those who have accepted God's way will have been glorified as members of the God Family, and they will live forever. Like God, they will create, beautify, and spread God's rule over the entire universe! With this wonderful potential ahead of us, we can eagerly echo the apostle John's words in Revelation 22:20: "Even so, come, Lord Jesus!"

Martin G. Collins
Holy Days: Last Great Day


 

 




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