THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
There is the Christian religion with its many activities, and then there is the Kingdom of God. What is the difference? The difference is, the Christian religion is a means to an end. The Kingdom of God is the end product.
Let us put the same thing in another manner. The purpose of all the activities of the Christian religion is to form Christ in the believers. God’s eternal purpose is to fill all of the creation with Christ. This is the Kingdom of God.
THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: (II Corinthians 5:16-18)
In terms of the above passage we could say that it is one matter to view the historical Christ, or the external Christ, and a very different matter to experience the Christ of the new creation of our personality.
There is the Christian religion with its many activities, and then there is the Kingdom of God. What is the difference? The difference is, the Christian religion is a means to an end. The Kingdom of God is the end product.
The Christian religion tends to deal with the external Christ. The Kingdom of God is concerned with the re-creation of our personality such that it is Christ who is living in us.
The purpose of all the activities of the Christian religion should be to form Christ in the believers, although this objective is not always stated clearly. The truth is, God’s eternal purpose is to fill all of the creation with Christ. This is the Kingdom of God. The Christian religion, if it is to serve God’s desires, must work toward this goal.
I wish to explain, in the following article, the necessary change of goal for all who have placed their faith in Christ. The historical goal, the stated objective of the Christian religion, has been to make our eternal residence in Heaven with Christ. Such a goal cannot be found in the New Testament. The scriptural goal is Christ, not the place called “Heaven.”
There is a literal Heaven just as there is a literal Hell. We want to go to Heaven when we die. Actually, we do not want just to enter the spirit realm. We want to go to Paradise, for the memory of the Paradise that at one time was in Eden is still in us.
Paradise is in the spirit realm in the present hour, waiting to be restored to its natural environment, which is the earth.
God desires that we live in Paradise. The Bible tells us of the time when the children can play with the wild animals and there is nothing that harms or destroys. The Bible tells us of the time when there will be no tears, no pain, none of the pressures and problems we experience.
But these passages have to do with life on the present earth, when Jesus returns, or on the new earth after the thousand-year Kingdom Age.
What we desire is not the spirit realm, except for the fact the spirit realm will be our home as long as Jesus is there—but only as long as Jesus is there. The Lord is going to come again to the earth and remain on the earth from that time forward. We want to be on the earth when the Lord Jesus is here, not in the spirit realm.
Before God can entrust us once again with Paradise on the earth we must be significantly changed. We must become a new righteous creation. Until we become a new righteous creation we cannot enjoy or maintain Paradise. We soon would bring misery into Paradise with our sin and rebellion against God.
The change in us is termed “the Kingdom of God.” It is the rule of God in our heart. Actually, it is Christ in our heart, formed and dwelling forever in our personality.
Since the return of the Lord is at hand, the Kingdom of God is being emphasized. When the Lord returns He will bring with Him those who are certain to obey God in the earth and establish God’s will in the earth. If He were to bring with Him all who have professed His name, the earth would be no better off than it is now. The same hatred, lust, and covetousness that make the present world such a horror exist also in the Christian churches, you may have noticed.
The only manner in which we can be changed so as to bring love, joy, and peace into the earth is by having Christ come to maturity in us. Our observance of the activities of the Christian religion do not bring about the required change except for a few small aspects of our character. We must become new creations in which all the old has passed away and all the new is of Jesus Christ. Until that is true we would be a liability, not an asset, were we to be admitted to Paradise.
The goal of our salvation, as expressed by the Apostle Paul, is to gain Christ. This means to be filled with all the fullness of Christ so we are in His image and likeness. This is the Kingdom of God. Our object is to enter the Kingdom of God, not Heaven. The Kingdom of God is not Heaven but Christ in us, the hope the creation of God will be filled with the Glory of God in the Lord Jesus Christ.
It seems likely that the next few years will see the Christian churches move from the Gospel of Heaven to the Good News that the Kingdom of God is coming to the earth to bring to all of us the doing of God’s will.
Isn’t this the most marvelous good news you have ever heard? Much better than going to live forever in the spirit realm, if you stop to think about it.
In the day in which we are living the tares and the wheat are coming to maturity. This means Satan will come to maturity in some people and Christ will come to maturity in other people.
In the Book of Revelation we find in the days of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God will be finished.
The mystery of God is Christ in us; not Christ with us, but Christ in us.
To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)
What is the difference between Christ with us and Christ in us? Between the historical or external Christ, and the Christ of the new creation of our personality?
All the difference in the world!
For two thousand years the Christian churches have been occupied with the thought of Christ with us, in the Christmas story, in the Easter account, in our beseeching the Lord to do this or that. We understand and worship the Christ of history and Christ at the right hand of the Father. And rightly so!
But there is another whole area of concern, and that is the forming and then dwelling of Christ in us. Of this we may be largely ignorant. Yet, in terms of God’s ultimate purposes, it is Christ in us that is of supreme importance.
When two men are speaking and one says to the other, “I want you to be with me always,” we can understand this. But when two men are talking, and one says to the other, “I want you to dwell in me and I in you,” then we have come to an issue totally different in kind from the first.
To have Christ with us at all times makes strong demands on our thinking, speaking, and acting. To have Christ formed and dwelling in us makes infinitely greater demands on our thinking, speaking, and acting.
The Scriptures, in both the Old and New Testaments, indicate Christ will come to maturity in His Church in the last days. Instead of the Church being forced to retreat to Heaven in the face of Antichrist, God through Christ will enter His Church and destroy all the works of Satan. A much better vision, don’t you agree?
The LORD will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the sky will tremble. But the LORD will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel. (Joel 3:16)
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. (Romans 16:20)
The eleventh chapter of the Book of Revelation presents two witnesses. The idea of the lampstands and olive trees is taken from the fourth chapter of the Book of Zechariah. There we find only one lampstand, Christ, and two olive trees, because the second lampstand, the Body of Christ had not as yet been formed.
The angel gave the interpretation of the vision, which is also the interpretation of the eleventh chapter of the Book of Revelation.
So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” (Zechariah 4:6)
The question is, exactly what is to be accomplished “not by might nor by power but by the Spirit of the Lord”? The answer follows:
The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it. Then you will know the LORD Almighty has sent me to you. (Zechariah 4:9)
From this we learn that in the last days the Christian Church, the Body of Christ, will be completed not by the abilities of men but by the Spirit of God.
There is coming a time, and we think it has commenced, when the great Alpha will become the great Omega.
All of us Christians recognize that God through Christ on the cross of Calvary initiated a tremendous work of redemption, an act that was done by the Spirit of God and not by the wisdom and talents of people.
What is not as clear to us is that the same full power of the Godhead will be exercised in the last days to complete the work of redemption, bringing forth a Church without blemish of any kind.
God’s responsibility is to fulfill His Word. Our responsibility is to follow the Spirit of God closely each moment of each day so we can partake of the marvelous acts of re-creation that are coming upon us now.
The Spirit of God is moving throughout all the Christian churches, seeking those who are willing to lay down their lives in order that the will of Christ might be performed in them. This seeking will produce a godly remnant, a Gideon’s army. Would you care to be one of these?
Many are sowing sparingly in the present hour. They need to be warned that they are going to reap sparingly because of their inattention to what Christ is demanding in our time.
There shall be delay no longer. In the days of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God will be finished
And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, “There will be no more delay! But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.” (Revelation 10:6,7)
The mystery of God (which still may be a mystery to us!) is that Christ is to be formed and to dwell in us.
First Christ must be formed in us through the travail of the ministries of the Church.
My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, (Galatians 4:19)
After Christ has been formed in us the Father and the Son will come and make Their eternal dwelling place in us.
Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23)
In this brief essay we are stressing that the full maturing of Christ in us has been reserved for the last days, meaning it is at issue now. The baptism with the Holy Spirit was the burden of the twentieth century. Christ formed and dwelling in us is the burden of the twenty-first century.
Christ has been with us. Now He is to be in us to a far greater extent than we have anticipated.
The Gospel of Heaven, the gospel that has been prevalent throughout the Church era, is being replaced by the original gospel, the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is Christ in us.
In Isaiah we discover that Christ will suddenly come to maturity in His Church, but there are a few factors to be considered.
Hear the word of the LORD, you who tremble at his word: “Your brothers who hate you, and exclude you because of my name, have said, ‘Let the LORD be glorified, that we may see your joy!’ Yet they will be put to shame.” (Isaiah 66:5)
If you turn to the Lord and begin to seek Him in earnest, denying yourself, taking up your cross and following Him daily, you may find that some of the church people will not understand you. They may accuse you of passivity if you state you are waiting on the Lord. They may expect you to be engaging in their numerous activities and plans by which they hope to save the world
They may tell you the Bible commands us to go out and save souls and there is no need to go to the Lord when He already has told us what to do.
You may not be satisfied with just trying to save souls. You may want to hear from God to find out what it is you as an individual are supposed to do.
In this case your friends may come to hate you and may exclude you from their company. But if you truly are seeking the Lord and waiting on Him, the hour will arrive when the Lord brings forth your righteousness as the noonday sun.
Be assured that the same rejection is being experienced by numerous believers who are turning away from those who are attempting to complete the work of God by means of their own strength and wisdom.
In the last days, when the Antichrist government invites the Christian churches to help it meet the needs of the world, in particular the material needs, those whom God is calling to Himself will be persecuted and driven from the cities of the earth. Be prepared to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. They will be driven away because of their insistence that the Christian churches are Divine lampstands and are not to join with the wicked no matter how noble the objectives may be.
The elders of the Jews who were rebuilding the Temple refused the help of the surrounding community. They are to be our example.
But Zerubbabel, Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the families of Israel answered, “You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the LORD, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us.” (Ezra 4:3)
Today the Lord Jesus has come to the Christian churches to execute judgment on His enemies. The scroll is being opened to “the Day of Vengeance of our God.”
Hear that uproar from the city, hear that noise from the temple! It is the sound of the LORD repaying his enemies all they deserve. (Isaiah 66:6)
This work of judgment begins in the house of God, It is an eternal judgment. It is the fulfillment of the Jewish Blowing of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement. It is the necessary forerunner of the feast of Tabernacles, the time when the Lord God enters the Body of Christ.
Before she goes into labor, she gives birth; before the pains come upon her, she delivers a son. (Isaiah 66:7)
The above verse is speaking of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Church did not travail to bring forth Christ. Christ was born of Mary through a sovereign, unanticipated action of God.
Who has ever heard of such a thing? Who has ever seen such things? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children. (Isaiah 66:8)
The Christian Church, Zion, will travail in birth and Christ will be formed in the believers. This is beginning to take place now.
The description of the travail and birth is in the Book of Revelation.
His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. (Revelation 12:4,5)
If I am correct, the birth and ascension of the male child takes place throughout our discipleship. Every day our sinful nature, and our new born-again nature, struggle against each other. Satan watches carefully. Satan’s objective is to devour the child.
Satan keeps putting things and situations in our path that persuade us to place our attention on things on the earth. He wants to tear us down from our high place in God. As the irritations and problems of life press on us we have to keep on fleeing to our high place in God. Several times a day we have to turn to the Lord and ask Him to lift us above the daily strife. We must sort out all our fears, naming each one and asking the Lord to deliver us from them all.
People, under the most ordinary circumstances, succeed in taking our crown. The pressure from worldly relatives and friends can succeed in pulling us down to the earth if we do not keep on maintaining our position in Christ at the right hand of God.
Satan cares little or nothing about the activities of the Christian religion. Satan is concerned about the forming of Christ in us. The forming of Christ in us spells the destruction of Satan’s rulership of the earth.
We need to understand that the things we do in the churches are profitable only as our efforts build Christ in the believers. The purpose of the numerous activities of the Christian churches is to form Christ in us. When any program or liturgy does not form Christ in us it is useless as far as the Kingdom of God is concerned.
The Christian churches often view themselves as social groups whose purpose is to invite people to join them on their way to Heaven. This is not at all what Christianity is about. The Christian churches actually are Divine lampstands whose purpose is to bear witness of the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth. The change from the Gospel of Heaven to the Gospel of the Kingdom has begun and will characterize Christian thinking, music, preaching, and other efforts during the years before the Lord returns to establish His kingdom on the earth.
The truth is, the Christian religion is scaffolding until the building is constructed. The building is Christ—Head and Body. As soon as we have come to the stature of the fullness of Christ the activities of the Christian religion, our various titles, offices, architectures, art forms, liturgies, services, will all be done away. The Christian religion is a human response to the issues of the Kingdom of God.
Let us consider for a moment what God is accomplishing.
God has a purpose in mind. That purpose is to imbue the entire creation with the Personality of the Lord Jesus Christ.
God is completely satisfied with the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus is God’s Word made flesh. All that God desires for His creation is in Christ.
Now the task is to get the Personality of Christ into the creation. This is the Kingdom of God.
When we come to Christ He is conceived in us by the Holy Spirit. Our first personality is largely intact. The new Divine nature that has been conceived in us is established immediately at the right hand of God in Heaven. Our true life, which is Christ, is now situated on the highest throne of the universe.
But as we said, our first personality is still intact on the earth. The part of us that is of Christ is at the right hand of the Father in Heaven. The remainder of our personality, the major part, is yet on the earth (or in the spirit realm if we have died.)
Now we are in a life and death struggle. How the struggle takes place in those saints who have died and entered the spirit realm I do not know, except that Peter says the dead are judged the same as those living on the earth.
We already have been given the crown of rulership. We already have been raised to the highest throne. The problem is how to maintain our crown and our position at the right hand of God.
And so we fight the good fight of faith. Several times a day we must go to the Lord and assert our position at the right hand of God in Christ. If we do not we soon will find ourselves living in the pollution of the world, filled with fear, anger, lust, covetousness, and every other evil behavior.
We can choose to live on the earth or we can choose to live in the heavenlies. We can choose to set our mind on things above, but it is a continual battle to do so.
If we run the race successfully, not giving way to the deceits of Satan, Christ will be formed in us. This is the fruit the heavenly Farmer is seeking. This is the beginning of the harvest of Christ in the personalities of mankind.
The Father wants to see Christ everywhere He looks in the universe.
Christ said if we would abide in Him we would bear fruit. That fruit is His image in us and then in those whom we influence.
Christ has ordained us that we would bear fruit. When we bear the fruit of His image we can ask what we will and it shall be done for us. Why? Because that fruit is Christ in us, and when we pray God sees the prayer as coming from His Son. Therefore He answers the prayer.
We are to be in the image and likeness of Christ. The image of Christ refers to what we are in personality. The likeness of Christ refers to how we appear to others.
The Christian religion comprises a diversity of cultural responses. These range from high-church liturgies to the uproarious manifestations of fundamental Pentecostal assemblies.
The believers of the high church find God in their stately practices and look down on their more enthusiastic brothers and sisters as uncouth, or being of the devil.
The believers of the more demonstrative groups often perceive their more conservative brothers and sisters as being ignorant of God or backslidden.
Let us remember, these are only cultural differences and are not significant in the Kingdom of God. God loves the Lutherans with their introits just as much as He does the Charismatics with their jubilant choruses.
As far as the Christian religious activities are concerned, Satan is not overly concerned about them. He moves among the churches continually to see if he can cause bitterness and division, or seduce the leadership with lust or covetousness. Satan would be thrilled if all of Christendom was “raptured” into Heaven. Satan wants to be free in the earth so he can enjoy his immoral cravings in the flesh of people.
But when Christ is formed in someone and he or she begins to live righteously in the earth, Satan is terrified. He is terrified of the righteous and flees when they resist him. They are portraying the end of his rulership of mankind and he will do everything in his power to tear such down from their high place in Christ.
So we see there is a difference in kind between religious activities and the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is Christ formed and dwelling in us. The Christian religious activities, varying as they do from culture to culture, are as scaffolding which all will be swept away when the Bride of the Lamb has been brought to unblemished perfection.
We certainly are in a new day. Verses in the Bible that previously meant little to us are now taking on enormous significance.
For example, many of us may never have given serious consideration to the fact that we already are at the right hand of God in Christ.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. (Colossians 3:1)
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, (Ephesians 2:6)
Think for a moment about the fact that if Christ is in you there is a part of your personality that already is located on the highest throne of the universe.
This is an actual position, not a “nice” Bible saying that has little relevance for us. Well, there are important consequences of the fact that we already are at the right hand of God in Christ.For instance, once we are there can we ever be torn down? The scriptural and historical answer is, yes. Speaking of the evil power of the end time:
It grew until it reached the host of the heavens, and it threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled on them. (Daniel 8:10)
We have seen this happen during the last few years as outstanding evangelists have been thrown down from their high place in God and trampled in the mud of this world. What once was a blazing testimony has now been muddied with the filth of moral corruption.
In the last days Antichrist will be given the authority and power to reach up to the host and to tear down those in whose heart their remains a trace of rebellion.
God is going to shake the earth and the heavens. All that is not solidly established in Christ will be thrown down from the heavens.
What about after we die? Are we safe then from being torn down from our place in the spirit world?
We are safe as long as Christ is our life and we are in Christ in God. But to merely be somewhere in the spirit realm, even though we are not in Hell, is no guarantee of safety. The safety is in Christ, not in Heaven; not in Paradise; only in Christ. Our life must be hidden with Christ in God. After all, sin began in Heaven around the very Throne of Almighty God, and so there is no safety in the spirit world as such.
The Bible does not teach there is safety in Heaven. The Bible teaches that our safety is in Christ and Christ alone. This is true whether we are living in the flesh on the earth or are at home with the Lord. Our safety is in Christ, not in our location.
We are just as safe here on the earth, if we are in Christ, as we ever will be in Heaven or in the new Jerusalem. Christ is our high Tower and our Fortress. Isn’t it so?
For so many hundreds of years the goal of Christians has been to go to Heaven. Yet Paul told us clearly that our goal is to gain Christ. The idea that our goal is to go to the spirit Paradise comes from pagan religions, not from the Scriptures. There is a paradise in the spirit realm and the righteous will go there. But this does not solve God’s problem.
God has a problem on His hands. That problem is sin and rebellion on the part of His creatures, especially but not exclusively His creatures who live on the earth. That problem is not solved when someone dies and goes to live in the spirit paradise.
God’s problem is solved only when Christ comes to maturity in a believer. Then God can use that believer to bear the fruit of the image of Christ in other people. Since Christ loves righteousness and hates wickedness, God’s problem is solved when a believer comes to the stature of the fullness of Christ.
Christ in us is the Kingdom of God. This is why a person must be born again to enter the Kingdom. It is the Kingdom that is born in us. There must be an internal kingdom before there can be an external kingdom. This means Christ must be formed in us before we are able to bring God’s will into His creation.
In days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will bud and blossom and fill all the world with fruit. (Isaiah 27:6)
Israel (Christ) will fill the world with fruit, the fruit of His image.
This is God’s plan—that through the Christian Church the righteousness of God and the worship of God might fill the whole world.
For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations. For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow. (Isaiah 61:11-62:2)
The fall rain is recorded in the Book of Acts. The spring rain is beginning to fall in sprinkles in our day. Soon the spring rain will be an unprecedented deluge of the Spirit of God on the whole world.
The eleventh chapter of the Book of Revelation describes the spring rain. The twelfth chapter of the Book of Revelation is portraying the growth to maturity of Christ in the saints who bore the witness, during the spring rain, of God’s coming Kingdom
God’s Church yet will be without spot or wrinkle.
Christ yet will come to the fullness of maturity in His people
For this is what the Lord God of Heaven has decreed. Amen.
(“The Christian Religion and Thekingdom of God”, 3428-1)