THE RULERS OF THE KINGDOM
THE RULERS OF THE KINGDOM Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
The entire Bible appears to be directed toward the establishing of the Kingdom of God on the earth, with the Lord Jesus Christ as the King of all the lesser kings and Lord of all the lesser lords of the Kingdom. In any kingdom there is a king, and lords and nobles of all sorts. So it is in the Kingdom of God. This is why so much is said in the New Testament about our ruling with Christ.
THE RULERS OF THE KINGDOM
The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever." (Revelation 11:15)
John the Baptist proclaimed the coming of the Kingdom of God.
The Lord Jesus Christ announced the coming of the Kingdom of God. All of Jesus parables concern the Kingdom of God.
The Apostle Paul preached the Kingdom of God, as did the other Apostles.
Now I know none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. (Acts 20:25)
The resurrected Christ talked about the Kingdom of God.
After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3)
The disciples were expecting the Kingdom of God. They were thinking of the kingdom in terms of the kingdom of David and Solomon. They had been expecting Christ to restore the Kingdom of Solomon when He returned. The concept that Christ would be an offering for sin was not as widely understood, although the atonement was described in the fifty-third chapter of the Book of Isaiah.
So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6)
The Old Testament as well as the New Testament announces the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth.
In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. (Daniel 2:44)
What happened to the Gospel of the Kingdom of God that was preached by John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus?
There is evidence that the philosophies that promote the concept that spirit (ideas) are good and matter is evil, strongly influenced the early Christian scholars and leaders. Perhaps the most prominent and influential of the early systems of thought was the philosophy-religion of Gnosticism.
Antinomianism, the belief that because of new-covenant grace the believers in Christ are free from the moral laws of the Old Testament, is supported by the Gnostic doctrine that the laws of the God of the Old Testament were evil in that they trapped people in the physical realm. The Gnostics sought to be freed from the material realm that they might enter the spirit realm.
(As a digression let me include the thought that as believers we indeed are free from the Law of Moses but are under a far more comprehensive lawthe law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus. To be subject to the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus means in every aspect of our life we look to the Lord Jesus to give us wisdom, direction, and strength in every decision we make. In addition, there are commandments throughout the New Testament that we are to obey, as Christ helps us, until finally the eternal moral law of God has been written in our mind and heart.)
The evolving of Gnostic-antinomianistic thinking has led to the present moral chaos of twenty-first century Christian teaching. The idea today is that we are saved by a sovereign act of God that operates independently of our behavior. We can forget about the Law of Moses and the commandments of Christ and His Apostles as well. We are forgiven and go to Heaven by the grace of forgiveness without any faithful discipleship on our part. It is important only that we have the correct ideas and knowledge and make the appropriate confession of belief. This, of course, is completely contrary to the writings of the Apostles of Christ.
The whole idea that spirit (or the mental world) is good and matter is evil is totally alien to the teaching of the Kingdom of God. When God created the material world He pronounced it very good. It is very good, and the forms of it are eternal.
The Kingdom of God is the material world filled with the Life of God. It is not a spirit world devoid of matter. The Gospel of the Kingdom of God is totally contrary to Gnostic ideas and thus totally contrary to some of the fundamental concepts of present-day Christian teaching.
One of the key aspects of the Christian redemption is the bodily resurrection of the dead. The Gnostics, as would be expected, deny the physical resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, (I John 4:2)
It appears some of the passages of the Book of First John are directed against the Gnostic beliefs.
We see this same denial of the physical resurrection in the current, unscriptural teaching of the "rapture" to Heaven of the believers in Christ. The rapture does not emphasize the resurrection, only the experience of being caught up into the spirit realm. Yet, if one will examine the fourth chapter of the Book of I Thessalonians he will notice that the saints are raised from the dead before they are caught up to meet the Lord in the air (not in Heaven!)
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. (I Thessalonians 4:16)
"The dead in Christ will rise first" is not speaking of the catching up into the air but of the resurrection of deceased saints. It is obvious that if the Lord brings the deceased saints with Him when He appears, the rising of the dead in Christ is speaking of the resurrection of their physical bodies, not their flying back up into the air. The living saints will be changed into immortality. Then the entire assemblage will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.
Todays ignoring of the resurrection in favor of the catching up is one evidence of the influence of Gnostic thinking on Christian theology.
Another evidence of the influence of Gnostic thought is the change of the original Gospel of the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth into the idea that to be saved is to go to live forever in the spirit realm. This concept is pure Gnosticism.
The truth is the opposite of Gnosticism. The physical world is superior to the spirit world. God never moves from the greater to the lesser. When God created the physical world, Satan showed up immediately. The evil did not originate in the physical world but in the spirit world. Satan understands the physical world is a better environment and this is why he spends his time here.
We see, therefore, that as the coming of the Lord in His Kingdom draws near, our understanding of redemption is returning to the original Gospel of the Kingdom of God. Our hope is not that of going to Heaven to live forever in a spirit mansion, our hope is that our body will be raised into eternal life and we will be part of the new Jerusalem that will be established for eternity on the new earth.
The defining key to the difference between Gnostic thinking and the Gospel of the Kingdom is the physical resurrection from the dead. We Christians need to understand the kind of resurrection we will enjoy is being fashioned today as we either carry our cross after Jesus, or else live according to the impulses of our sinful nature. I do not believe there is a truth more in need of being added to Christian thinking than the fact that we are determining the kind of resurrection we will have by the way we are behaving today.
We are building our house from Heaven by our actions at the present time.
The entire Bible is oriented toward the establishing of the Kingdom of God on the earth.
All of us wish to live in a paradisiac environment. Paradise at one time was here on the earth, evidently in the area of what is now the Persian gulf.
Everything a human being could ever desire was present on the earth in the beginning.
Yet, one thing was lacking: Godly government. If there had been godly government, Adam and Eve would not have been permitted to disobey God. Or if they had gone ahead and disobeyed, they would have been redeemed in some manner, or else cast out into eternal darkness.
It is Gods desire that people dwell in perpetual paradise, perpetual love, perpetual joy, perpetual peace, on the earth. God created the earth to be inhabited and enjoyed by people. We were not created in Heaven, as were the angels, but on the earth. The earth is our eternal home. I truly believe once we have been raised from the dead and are immortal we will prefer living on the earth to living in the spirit realm.
But, as was and yet is apparent, we are not able to enjoy the good things God has placed on the earth. Why not? Because we are deceived and driven by lawless, self-centered spirits, including those residing in our own personality.
What is the answer to the problem of lawlessness and self-centeredness?
The answer is the establishing of a godly government that will govern the nations of the earth. The godly government must be composed of lawful people who do Gods will in every situation, in every place, at all times.
The essence of the Kingdom of God is the doing of Gods will in the earth as it is in Heaven.
The Lord Jesus Christ is lawful. He always delights in the eternal moral law of God. He came to earth to do Gods will. His obedience was tested to the utmost and proven beyond all doubt.
Therefore the Lord Jesus Christ is King of all the kings and Lord of all the lords of the Kingdom of God
You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end. (Luke 1:31-33)
But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. (Hebrews 1:8)
But then God removed Christ to the spirit realm, His enemies not having been as yet made subject to Him.
Because God desires there be lesser kings and lord who will govern the works of Gods hands, the lesser kings and lords being subject to Jesus Christ.
See, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with justice. (Isaiah 32:1)
And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. (Revelation 5:10)
It appears the main purpose of the Christian Era has been the developing of rulers, of the lesser kings and lords. When we consider the multitude of believers, and then the small number of cross-carrying saints, it reminds one of the efforts of Pierre and Marie Curie. They had to work with great amounts of pitchblende before they were able to extract a small amount of radium. So it is true that from the multitudes of believers of all ages there will be drawn the rulers of the ages to come.
If we consider that God is building a kingdom, that He began with the supreme King, and now He is developing lesser kings, we are on our way to understanding some of the apparent contradictions in the New Testament.
We must realize during the Christian Era God is pursuing two goals. First, He is making it possible for whoever will to be spared the vengeance of the Day of Wrath. Second, He is seeking those of the believers who are willing to be made totally lawful and totally obedientHis future kings, in other words
It is because of these two goals that we can see such diverse statements as "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved"; and "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
On the one hand we are informed that all we need to do is believe and be baptized.
On the other hand we are exhorted to forsake all else that we might attain to the resurrection from the dead.
And so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:11)
If we believe in Christ and are baptized in water, we will be spared in the Day of Wrath. This is Gods Word and it cannot be abrogated. God is willing that all be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.
But then we consider the electthose who from the beginning of the world have been designated as the brothers of Christ.
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)
God has determined His elect are to be changed into the moral image of Christ and brought into untroubled union with Christ in God. He does not spare His sons. He chastens them day and night that they might be perfect in His sight.
Why is this? It is because their destiny is not just to be saved from wrath, it is to govern the works of Gods hands.
If we are to govern with Christ we must pass from the ranks of those who are called into the ranks of those who are chosen. Once we have been chosen we must be proven faithful. God is making kings. The process is utterly demanding.
In the United States military there is the army, navy, marine corps, and air force. Then there are special forces, such as the navy SEALS. The SEALS perform unusually difficult tasks and so their training is much more rigorous than that of the average serviceman.
It is this way in the Kingdom of God. God already has designated the rank we are to hold. If it is a high rank giving us much authority, then you can be assured that the Spirit of God will deal with us night and day until God is satisfied that we will not fall because of pride, as Satan did.
Then the mother of Zebedees sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. "What is it you want?" he asked. She said, "Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom." "You dont know what you are asking," Jesus said to them. "Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?" "We can," they answered. (Matthew 20:20-23)
Now we can understand why some passages of Scripture imply that all we have to do to be saved is to believe and make the proper confession. Other passages make extraordinary demands on us. The extraordinary demands have to do with the preparation of the rulers of the Kingdom of God.
The three areas of sin are as follows: finding our survival and security in the world; pursuing the lusts and passions of our flesh and soul; and acting and speaking presumptuously, that is, before we hear from the Lord.
Worldliness, lust, and self-will.
It is not possible that an individual can serve as one of the rulers of the Kingdom until love and trust in the world spirit, the lusts of the sinful nature, and personal ambition have all been dealt with and removed.
God helps us escape the world spirit as we count ourselves crucified, risen, and ascended with Christ.
God delivers us from the chains of lust and passion as we confess our sins, utterly denouncing and renouncing them and, with the Lords help, absolutely and perpetually turning away from them.
God delivers us from our personal ambition and self-will by permitting Satan to throw us into the prison of pain, denial, and helplessness. If we remain faithful in our prison we receive the crown of life, that is, the authority and power to govern the creation with incorruptible, resurrection power.
Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)
As we carry our cross behind the Lord the self-will and self-love are destroyed out of us. We learn stern obedience to the Father.
Did you ever notice that the reward for overcoming worldliness, lust, and self-will is a position of rulership?
To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nationsHe will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery just as I have received authority from my Father. (Revelation 2:26,27)
His master replied, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your masters happiness!" (Matthew 25:21)
Isnt it strange that our hope as Christians is usually described as eternal residence in a beautiful mansion, where it appears we will do nothing of significance for eternity.
Yet, when the Lord Jesus Christ speaks of rewards, He tends to define those rewards as areas of responsibility.
So that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:30)
I dont believe I have ever heard a sermon that held out a position of rulership and responsibility as being the reward for faithful service to the Lord. It often is said we will rule with Christ. But what kind of rulership, how, when and where it will take place, over whom we will rule, is not always made clear.
Perhaps we picture Heaven as the great retirement in the sky. But if the Lord Jesus is soon to come with His army to establish His Kingdom on the earth, then Heaven is not as we picture it.
No army rushes into battle without extensive preparation. The saints are not going to be summoned from their couches in their mansions, where they have been eating jelly beans without getting fat, and suddenly placed on the great war stallions and commanded to follow Christ as He descends through the clouds.
It most likely is true that Christs soldiers have been being trained over the past few hundred years. If we could see into the spirit realm we might be amazed at the millions of tents and the drilling, drilling, drilling of the soldiers in preparation for the Battle of Armageddon.
I think as the twenty-first century unfolds we are going to experience a radical change in Christian practices as the saints are prepared for the war against Satan and his forces. We must be brought under strict discipline so when we are caught up into the clouds with Gods faithful of all ages we are prepared to take our place in the Lords army.
The Lord informed us that many who are last will be first. I think this means many who are last in time will be placed on the highest thrones of the Kingdom.
I may be true that we have come to the hour when God is ready to assign individuals to positions of the highest authority. I believe there are great thrones of authority and power that as yet are unoccupied.
To every generation is given a part of the Kingdom to possess. Such possession always is an opportunity. Perhaps to our generation has been given the opportunity to sit on the highest throne with the Lord Jesus. There are other Christian writers who have expressed the same thing.
To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Revelation 3:21)
You know, the above passage is almost incredible. The "throne" mentioned here is the highest of all thrones in the entire universe.
Each generation is required to seize the opportunity, the Divine potential placed before it. I think our generation of believers is being required to climb to the summit of responsibility in the Kingdom of God.
If such is the case (and it always is appropriate to seek Gods highest and best), then how are we to respond in practical terms.
First, we do not have to worry whether or not we have been chosen to a high rank in the Kingdom of God. If we are even aware there is such an opportunity, and have a desire to attain to it, we can be confident God will not be displeased if we make every effort to seek the Lord. Who knows what God will do for the individual who sets aside all else that he or she might come to know Christ in a greater way?
The problem in our day is not that of ambitious people who are seeking to attain to the full knowledge of Christ. Rather the problem is disinterest, apathy, a willingness to be amused with the various cultural elements of the twenty-first century.
Whoever would turn away from the world and seek God with his whole heart will find himself in a continual struggle to keep from being drawn away into other areas of interest.
The world spirit, the emphasis on money, education, and personal advancement, is of Antichrist. Such ambition may appear to be good and wholesome, but the fires of Hell rage just beneath the surface. We have to fight every day to keep from being drawn down into the attractions of the world.
I think the opportunity to engage in the lusts of the flesh is more available to the average person than at any previous time in the history of the world. The pornography on the Internet, for example, makes it possible for the individual to spend hours drooling over the sights that stimulate his glands. He is in bondage to his own glands and destroying his moral character. Think of it!
How many Christians are hooked on Internet pornography?
Sexual perversions, such as homosexual activity, are becoming more acceptable.
The would-be ruler has to tear himself away from such ungodly behavior.
But the biggest problem the future king must address is that of his or her self-will. God will accept nothing less than total obedience from us. The development of such stern obedience to God requires a deep, deep crucifixion of our very soul.
Abraham was given exceedingly great fruitfulness and dominion, but not until he had offered Isaac to God. Jesus Christ has been issued all authority in the heavens and upon the earth; but prior to this He had to drink the cup of Gethsemane.
The patriarch Joseph was tested severely before he was given a position of rulership in Egypt.
All of this being true, how are we to orient ourselves to the opportunity to sit with Christ on His throne?
We must totally, utterly, completely give ourselves to Christ. We must, as the Apostle Paul, count all of our accomplishments as so much garbage. We must leave everything in order that we may gain Christ.
We must learn to live by the power of His resurrection. This means we must cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He removes every resource we have trusted. We must bear about in our body the dying of Christ that the Life of Christ may be revealed in our body.
We must share the sufferings of Christ, being conformed to His death on the cross.
We must make ourselves of no reputation, choosing the lowly place of service.
We must present our body a living sacrifice that Gods will may be performed in all matters.
The scepter of Christs Kingdom is a scepter of righteousness. Therefore we must be righteous in all of our dealings with other people.
Without holiness no man shall see the Lord. Therefore we must cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
But the principal virtue that must be developed in us is obedience. Whatever the Lord says to us we must do. There is no place for personal ambition in a soldier of the Lords army. We must do as we are commanded, both in the written Word of God and also as the Spirit of God guides us in the personal details of our life.
Iron righteousness. Fiery holiness. Stern obedience to the Father.
When we look about us in the churches we can see that numerous believers are still bound by many things. In some instances they are quite satisfied that they have met all of the Lords requirements. Now they are waiting for the "rapture," being certain they are perfectly prepared to stand in the Presence of the Holy One of Israel.
In other instances, the believers are anxious to "go forth and heal a dying world." They do not understand what they are affirming. They are not aware we can do nothing at all until we hear from the Lord.
Sometimes the leaders are attempting to direct the Holy Spirit, or even the angels as they strive to accomplish what they believe to be Gods will.
But in all of this variety of spiritual activities there are those who are hearing the voice of Christ. They patiently are enduring the fiery trials that are burning away the sin in their lives. They are remaining in the prisons in which they have been placed, praying for deliverance but not forcing their way out of the place where God has them.
These are beginning to know God. The period of darkness they go through sometimes seems endless. But then the Light returns, and God is closer than ever in their consciousness.
These are the members of the royal priesthood. They are being prepared to govern with Christ. Their reward for faithful service is increased responsibility.
God has many needs, many desires. Gods needs and desires can be met only as there are believers who are willing to be shaped into Christs image; who are willing to lose their individuality in order that they may become an integral part of the One who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
They will return to earth with the Lord Jesus Christ, these sons of God. They will crown the Lord Jesus as supreme King, on the Temple Mount.
Then, in strict obedience to Christ, they will go throughout the earth to bring the Presence, rule, and blessing of God to those nations who have survived the Day of Wrath.
Who among us will forget about our own pursuits in the world and give ourselves wholly to the Kingdom of God? Who will leave all, forgetting what is behind, that he or she may be prepared to rule the nations under Jesus Christ?
We are close to the return of the Lord and the setting up of the Kingdom of God on the earth. The Lord is not coming to take His Church to Heaven. The Lord is coming with His Church to establish His government on the earth.
We are not waiting for the second going of the Lord but the second coming of the Lord. We are not expecting the disappearing of Christ and His saints but the appearing of Christ and His saints.
This is the Gospel. This is the Good News. The Kingdom of God is at hand.
Are you willing to cooperate with the Holy Spirit that He may make you a valuable participant in setting up and operating the Kingdom of God on the earth?