Where Is The Kingdom Today? Jesus said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3,5). Daniel was told about this kingdom, and a prophetic time scale of 70 weeks was given to him. It was made clear that all this depended upon “Messiah the Prince,” who was to be “cut off” after the sixty-ninth week (Dan. 9:24-26). This was fulfilled at Calvary. The seventieth week now awaits fulfillment, the Church age having intervened. When the disciples asked, “Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” the Lord did not answer directly, but told them, “It is not for you to know the times and seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power” (Acts 1:6-7).
During this present age, by means of the gospel, God calls the nations to repent. When the Lord finally sets His feet again on the Mount of Olives, only then will evil be put down and Daniel’s prophecy fulfilled. The kingdom of God is now in Christians’ hearts and minds. In a day to come it will be set up on earth. Then God’s people will be rich and will wield awesome power: “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Mt. 25:21). But Christians do not yet rule, nor should they. Paul rebuked the arrogance of the Corinthians with irony, by saying, “Ye have reigned as kings without us; and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you” (1 Cor. 4:8). Clearly, one day we shall reign, but not now.
How Then Should We Live?
Christians share their Lord’s rejection. One hymn aptly describes the attitude of a world opposed to God: “Our Lord is now rejected, and by the world disowned, by the many still neglected, and by the few enthroned.” Thus it will be until that glorious day when He returns in splendor with all His saints to bring in everlasting righteousness. But until that time we too are despised, and our words are mocked as those of madmen. We have here “no continuing city,” and we are passing through this world rather than settling down in it. We are strangers and pilgrims on our way to a city whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 13:14; 11:13; 1 Pet 2:11; Heb. 11:10). Confirming this, Paul wrote, “Our citizenship is in heaven from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).
All this being so – that we are to be like the Lord, and that we are citizens of a foreign power – our loyalty is to the Lord and His Kingdom. Since we have eternal life, eternity matters more than time. Since we are pilgrims and strangers here, we have no cause to value this world’s goods, honors, or wealth, for all these things will pass away and only what is laid up in heaven has lasting value.
One might ask, “Are we to give everything up to be Christians?” The answer is “No!” To become a Christian we turn to the Lord Jesus, recognizing that all that we have and are cannot buy our salvation. Only His work on the Cross can do that, and only grace can bestow what we cannot earn, and can never merit.
In that sense we have given up everything. That is the position of those who are saved and called saints of God. However, though God could take us straight to heaven, in His wisdom He leaves us here that we may serve Him and so lay up for ourselves treasure in heaven. We do this by becoming like the Lord Jesus. This is what God wants – to see us becoming more like His Son (Rom. 8:28-29).
Let us then “lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mt. 6:19-21).
Paul warns us that “the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Tim. 6:10). We have a guarantee from the Lord Himself that our needs will be supplied (Phil. 4:19). Bunyan gives us a graphic picture of this world’s attractions in Vanity Fair, a fictional place which stood in the way of the pilgrims in hisPilgrim’s Progress. “Therefore, at this fair are all such merchandise sold, as houses, lands, trades, places, honors, titles, countries, kingdoms, lusts, pleasures, and delights of all sorts.” Bunyan knew what it was to suffer for the Lord. He gives us a true picture of the worthlessness of what this world has to offer. John agrees: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 Jn. 2:15).
The Cross And Discipleship
When calling His disciples, the Lord said, “Follow Me” (Mt. 4:18-19.) We are no different from those fishermen called by the Lord. It is hard for us to cut our ties with the world and trust that the Spirit of God will lead us where and how He will. We are creatures of earth and we find it worrisome to step into the unknown and follow the Man of Sorrows. Discipleship is not about success in this world, nor position, promotion and status. It is not about money and possessions. It is about sorrow, suffering and being despised by a world that thinks we are fools.
Though regular Bible study is essential to true discipleship, daily taking up the Cross is equally essential. Indeed it is what the Bible teaches, and if we do not do it, we do not understand the Bible. The way of the Cross does not rest easily with the the things of this world. We should remember that it was the rulers of this world who actually crucified the Lord. Paul wrote, “We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery.” It was this “hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the ages unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this age knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory” (1 Cor. 2:6-8).
A rich young man came to Jesus and asked, “Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” After the Lord told him to obey the commandments, mentioning only those to do with other men, the young man said he had kept them from his youth. The Lord then told him, “One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me” (Mk. 10:17-22).
The Lord explained how difficult it was for those with riches to enter the kingdom of God. So it was with that young man; he went away sorrowful because he could not face the challenge of discipleship, of following Jesus. Perhaps that is why Paul explained to the Corinthians, “Ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Cor. 1:26-29).
We are not called to greatness but weakness, insignificance and comparative poverty. Yet we have security; no one may hurt, rob or kill us unless God allows them to do so. We are safe in His hands; and when the time comes for us to leave this earth for our home country, it will be in a manner of God’s choosing.
Death And Triumph
When the rich young ruler was told to take up the Cross, the Lord was inviting him to take up the means of his rejection by this world. Satan and the world consider us a nuisance to be rid of, an embarrassment to be avoided. A person carrying a cross is not coming back. He has no hopes for promotion in this world, nor success, for he is about to be executed. He has no expectation for reprieve; the sentence has been passed, and is about to be carried out. He is leaving this world on a one-way journey to a better one.
Cross-carrying Christians must not make themselves comfortable, for this world is Satan’s kingdom. John says that “the whole world lieth in wickedness” (1 Jn. 5:19). When the Devil offered “all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them” (Mt. 4:8), he said to Jesus, “for that is delivered unto me, and to whomsoever I will I give it” (Lk. 4:6). The Lord did not deny this, as it is the state of this present evil age. There could not be a clearer differentiation between the two kingdoms. We cannot sit on the fence. We cannot have both. We must make a choice: “A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Lk. 12:15). The Lord gave us yet another piece of advice: “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for My sake shall find it” (Mt. 10:39).
Christians are “dead with Christ” (Rom. 6:8), and “dead to sins” (1 Pet. 2:24). At the same time we are “risen with Him” (Col. 2:12), and our “life is hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). To be alive with Christ, we must be dead to the world. As He has died and rose again, being dead, we “live with Him” (2 Tim. 2:11).
Meditating on the ways in which a Christian’s life is altered by the reality of the Cross removes any idea of compromise with the world. The world betrayed and crucified its rightful King and has chosen to love its enemy rather than “the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us” (Gal. 1:4; 2:20).
When we take up the Cross daily, we walk in His footsteps. He is now crowned with the diadems of power, and we too shall be if we remain faithful. We too shall rule under Him. We who weep now shall rejoice, for God Himself “shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain” (Rev. 21:4).
Be Not Fools
It is not yet time for us to rule the world, but one day soon it will be. For the present we must place our confidence in God’s Word and think about the words of Paul to Timothy: “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (1 Tim. 6:6-8).
What fools we are if we love the world and covet possessions. What fools we are if we spurn our eternal reward for the passing pleasures of a decadent age. What fools we shall be if, at the end, we enter into the Lord’s presence with nothing, as if we have just been dragged out of a fire which has consumed all that we owned. What fools we shall be to watch all that we held dear go up in smoke as worthless, the burned wood, hay and stubble of a wasted life. All around us we shall see our brothers and sisters who have followed the Lord to Calvary receive from His pierced hands their crowns, and from His lips the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” What fools we shall be to stand by as they are confessed by name in the presence the Father while the Lord has nothing to say about us. Do we want it said of us only that we were “saved, yet so as by fire” (1 Cor. 3:11-15). What fools!
By Roger Penney
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org