FROM FORGIVENESS TO THE KINGDOM

FROM FORGIVENESS TO 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.

We are turning a corner in Christian thinking. For two thousand years the Gospel has been presented as the means of gaining forgiveness of our sins, with a view to going to Heaven when we die. Now our eyes are being opened to what the Gospel really is about.

FROM FORGIVENESS TO THE KINGDOM

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. (Isaiah 42:1)

We are turning a corner in Christian thinking. For two thousand years the Gospel has been presented as the means of gaining forgiveness of our sins, with a view to going to Heaven when we die. Now our eyes are being opened to what the Gospel really is about.

Let’s think for a moment about the grand plan.

We enter the program of salvation by receiving by faith the forgiveness of our sin, on the basis of the atonement made by the blood of Christ on the cross.

At this time we repent of our behavior in the world; are baptized in water; and are born again of the Spirit of God.

After this we are eligible to be baptized in the Holy Spirit.

There are two major steps: first, the forgiveness of our sins and the new birth; second, the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

When we are baptized in water we take our place with Christ on the cross. Our first life is finished. Coming from the water means we have entered the resurrection of Christ and the ascension of Christ to the right hand of God. We arise to walk in newness of life. This is how we begin our life in the Kingdom of God.

When we are baptized in the Holy Spirit we are baptized into the Body of Christ.

The first step, the atoning blood, gives us authority to enter the Kingdom of God. Man can meet God only at the cross.

The second step, the Holy Spirit, provides us with the wisdom and power to enter the Kingdom of God.

Authority, and then wisdom and power.

We have not known much about the Kingdom of God, because after the Apostles died, the churches began to teach about going to Heaven when we die, supposing this is what is meant by the Kingdom of God; that going to Heaven is the goal of being "saved."

There is no scriptural support for the idea that we are saved to go to Heaven when we die.

To be saved is to be kept from being destroyed in the Day of God’s wrath.

However, redemption includes more than this. Redemption is the work of gaining back what was lost to Satan in the beginning.

Three things have been lost to us because of our obedience to Satan:

The Presence of God.

Access to the Tree of Life.

Paradise.

We will not have been fully redeemed until we have regained the Presence of God, eternal life, and Paradise.

We can see immediately that forgiveness is but a means to an end. The Gospel forgives us that we may regain the Presence of God, access to the Tree of Life, and Paradise.

We have not been redeemed when we are forgiven. We have been saved from destruction in the Day of Wrath. Also, we are authorized to enter the plan of redemption.

There are the Presence of God, access to the Tree of Life, and Paradise. Now a fourth element has been added: the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God is the Divine means for regaining and maintaining the Presence of God, access to the Tree of Life, and Paradise.

This is why Paul never warned us concerning going to Heaven but concerning inheriting the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is the issue.

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; Idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions And envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

"Will not inherit the kingdom of God"! If we as a Christian continue to behave according to the desires of our sinful nature we will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Nothing is said about not going to Heaven. Did you ever think about that? It appears we need to understand more about the Kingdom of God.

It is quite a change from thinking of Heaven as our eternal home and then viewing Paradise on the earth as our eternal home. Of course, it remains true that our citizenship is in Heaven. Our friends who have passed on are there, ready to welcome us. God's holy angels are there. Best of all, God and the Lord Jesus are there. This present world is not our home, the Lord has called us out of this world. But all we picture Heaven to be is coming to the earth.

As we present the biblical concept of the Kingdom of God we are not unaware of the jolt this is to our thinking. But, when you stop to think about it, it is a better vision. Instead of being confined to the spirit realm with no responsibility we find our destiny is in the earth among the nations of saved people, to act as God’s Person among them. It is "Heaven and all this too," to modify a common phrase.

And certainly, being set free from all of Satan’s person and works is a much superior state than that of just being forgiven. Don’t you agree?

Still the same Gospel, but greatly expanded to include all that anyone could desire.

Today we have turned a corner. We understand now what is meant by the Kingdom of God. Numerous passages of Scripture now make sense. We can see what God is doing.

Let me give an illustration:

Suppose you worked in a factory that manufactured equipment for the armed forces. The equipment was classified, such as a new type of range finder for the armament on a tank..

When you arrived at work you had to stop at the guardhouse. A guard controlled the gate. You had to show your badge in order to proceed.

The blood of Christ is the badge that you have to show in order to proceed into the Kingdom of God.

Next you entered the building where the work is done.

You then went to the tool crib. At the tool crib you picked up the gauges, or cutters, or calipers, or whatever you needed for your work. You signed out for them.

The Holy Spirit is the tool crib. The gauges, twist drills, or whatever you needed represent the gifts and ministries of the Holy Spirit.

So far so good.

This is where we are at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

We have the badge that authorizes us to go past the guard.

We have been to the tool crib and perhaps have picked up our tools.

What is next? To die and go to Heaven? This makes sense?

No, we have not been authorized and equipped to go to Heaven when we die. We have been authorized and equipped that we might assist in building the Body of Christ, and then that we might be qualified and competent to return with the Lord Jesus Christ and restore the Presence of God, eternal life, and Paradise to the nations of the earth.

The Servant of the Lord, mentioned in the Book of Isaiah, is Christ—Head and Body, the Anointed Deliverer who will bring justice to the nations.

What is the sequence of events that will lead to the establishing of the Kingdom of God on the earth.

First, God has sent the Head, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Next, the Head will redeem a Gideon’s army, a remnant, of His Church, His Body. By redeem I mean the remnant will be released from the chains of the enemy, so the Presence of God, eternal life, and Paradise can be regained by this smaller group taken from the whole family of God’s elect.

Next, the Head working through the remnant will redeem the remainder of His Body, including all of God’s elect, both Jewish and Gentile by physical birth.

Finally, the Head working through the entire Body will redeem the nations of the earth, bringing to them the Presence of God, access to eternal life, and Paradise.

I am not stating everyone finally will be saved or redeemed. This is not scriptural. Salvation always is of the Lord, and the Potter does as He will with the vessels of clay.

Now let’s turn to Isaiah 61 to see the sequence of events in establishing the Kingdom of God, the government that will restore to mankind that which was lost in the beginning.

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,  (Isaiah 61:1)

This is the passage the Lord read in His local synagogue. The anointing by the Spirit of God is the "christing." It is this "christing" that establishes the Lord Jesus as the Anointed Deliverer.

His name is Jesus. His title is Christ, the Anointed One.

Notice that the ministry of Christ is not primarily to forgive people but to deliver them from the bondages place on them by Satan.

This is a very important point. The purpose of redemption is not primarily to forgive us. What good would that do? Our problem is spiritual bondage. Christ came from Heaven not only to forgive us but to deliver us from spiritual bondage. The concept of deliverance cannot possibly be overemphasized in the present hour because of the massive weight of tradition that views the Gospel only as a means of gaining forgiveness.

To proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, (Isaiah 61:2)

Again, the work of Christ is to bring people into the righteousness, peace, and joy of the Kingdom of God. Forgiveness is not mentioned.

Jesus read up to, but did not include, the phrase "and the day of vengeance of our God." The ministry of the Lord Jesus included casting out demons and healing the sick. However, "the day of vengeance of our God," which has to do with moral deliverance, with release from Satan’s power, had not come. Even the demons knew this and protested the coming of Jesus "before the time."

According to our understanding, "the day of vengeance of our God" has commenced. God is ready to exercise His anger against those spirits that have bound us and to remove them from us. The removal of unclean spirits is a major part of the work of redemption.

And provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. (Isaiah 61:3)

As we stated previously, the redemption of God’s people (Zion) will take part in two phases. First, a "Gideon’s army" will be released. Then God will use this small group to deliver the balance of Israel, of the Church, the Body of Christ.

And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins." (Romans 11:26,27)

The above passage means Christ will come with His firstfruits to the physical land and people of Israel and remove their sins from them. Can you see that God’s plan is not primarily to forgive sins but to remove the very compulsions and presence of sin?

When Christ returns to deliver the physical land and people of Israel, He will be accompanied by a remnant who already have been redeemed. Before Christ redeems (delivers—brings the Presence of God, access to eternal life, and Paradise) physical Israel, He first will be "married" to a Gentile bride. This follows the type of Joseph marrying Asenath, a Gentile, before he brought deliverance to his own family.

Also, we have the type of David ruling over a part of Israel for seven and one-half years before the remainder of the tribes were brought under his crown.

There is a firstfruits of the Church, of the Body of Christ. We see this in the nineteenth chapter of Revelation where the Bride appears prior to the thousand-year Kingdom Age, and then again after the thousand-year age in the form of the new Jerusalem.

These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. (Revelation 14:4)

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) (Revelation 19:7,8)

We understand, therefore, that Christ, the exalted Head, will come to Zion, to the Church, and remove the works of Satan from her until she is composed of "oaks of righteousness." This does not mean oaks of imputed righteousness, but oaks of righteous behavior who have been made so by the power of Divine deliverance that destroys the works of Satan.

So here we have the Body, the Bride, without spot or wrinkle.

What comes next? What is next is the redemption of the nations of the earth. God so loves the world that He is not willing that the people perish but have eternal life. The Church, which is the Kingdom of God, the government of God, will be the source of eternal life for the nations. The saints will be as trees of life that will give forgiveness of sins and eternal life to all who will receive, just as our Lord Jesus now gives forgiveness of sins and eternal life to all who will receive.

"The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘come.’"

We have gone past the guard. We have been to the tool crib. Now the job commences. Notice the following:

They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. Isaiah 61:4)

Who are "they"? "They" are the oaks of righteousness. Here we find Israel, the Body of Christ, is rebuilding the earth.

How were the cities ruined?

The cities were ruined because Christ and the firstfruits of His Body descended from the air as an army and destroyed all the works of Antichrist.

Notice:

The LORD will march out like a mighty man, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies. (Isaiah 42:13)

When the Lord and His army go through the earth they will destroy the works of evil.

A day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come. Before them fire devours, behind them a flame blazes. Before them the land is like the garden of Eden, behind them, a desert waste—nothing escapes them. (Joel 2:2,3)

We have stated that Christ, Head and Body, will redeem mankind. This means they will bring the Presence of God, provide access to eternal life, and create Paradise. Before they can do this they first must remove all the works of the enemy in the earth. All the forces of Antichrist will be destroyed. Every demon will be forced into the spiritual darkness. Satan himself will be bound by one angel and hurled into the Bottomless Pit.

I think most of us have read in the Bible about these acts of war. Perhaps we have imagined that they will take place at some point in the future in some remarkable, miraculous manner. And that they will be instantaneous.

Well, I do not believe this is the case. It is easy to read the Bible and imagine a certain kind of fulfillment. But when the vision comes to pass it is quite difference from what we imagined.

This certainly happened to the Jews, didn’t it? They pictured a king mightier than Caesar coming and overthrowing the Roman Empire. Instead a lowly rabbi was humiliated and then crucified.

We read about the ten virgins and their responses to the coming of the Bridegroom. Of course, we picture Christ appearing in Heaven and admitting those who are saved.

It could very well be true that the parable of the ten virgins is being fulfilled today, as Christ draws near to us and invites us to become part of His Body.

I would not be surprised if the Head already is asking us to be joined to Him such that we respond to His will. Certainly the Spirit is speaking to us about turning away from our self-will and obeying God in every detail. We must become the slaves of Christ to the point we perform His every command without a thought of reward, or the attitude that we are doing God some kind of favor.

We of today are altogether too arrogant and presumptuous. We do not adore God as we should. We often are not willing to be His slave.

Also, in the twelfth chapter of the Book of Revelation, we read of Michael and his angels driving Satan from Heaven, because the brothers whom he has been accusing have overcome him.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. (Revelation 12:10,11)

I think this war has begun. It is certain the Spirit is seeing how many of us are willing to love not our lives to the point of death.

Heaven is where the problem is. Once we gain the victory over Satan, the heavens will be liberated.

Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short." (Revelation 12:12)

As I said previously, the work of redemption is not that of forgiving us. The purpose of forgiveness is to make it possible for us to commence the work of redemption. And the work of redemption cannot proceed to any great extent until Satan is removed from his vantage point in the heavens.

We, the members of Christ’s Body, are destined to serve mankind as priests.

And you will be called priests of the LORD, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast. (Isaiah 61:6)

Notice below the final product of the work of redemption.

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. (Isaiah 61:11)

So we see that the traditional view of the Gospel as being a means of forgiving us so we can go to Heaven when we die is only partially true at best.

Now, is it still true that the person who believes in Christ and is baptized shall be saved? Absolutely! He or she will be spared in the Day of God’s wrath and brought into the program of redemption.

Is it still true that we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit? Absolutely! The Holy Spirit gives us the wisdom and power so we can gain victory over sin; so we can build up ourselves and the other members of the Body of Christ; and so we can show forth the moral light of God’s righteousness and praise.

Is it still true that we are to seek the ministries and gifts of the Spirit? Absolutely! These are the tools from the tool crib by means of which we are to redeem ourselves and others.

What, then, is different? The difference is that now we understand why we have been given the authority of the blood and the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit. We realize the task we are facing and why the Scriptures make the statements they do.

For example:

Have you thought much about the following passage from Isaiah?

For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish; it will be utterly ruined. (Isaiah 60:12)

Does the above mean anything to you? No? Why not? It is part of the Bible, isn’t it?

"But I thought that verse had something to do with the Jews."

No, it is speaking of the Church being served by the people of the world. Do you remember this passage?

Aliens will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. (Isaiah 61:5)

"But does the New Testament teach anything like that?"

Of course.

The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. (Revelation 21:6)

Who are the nations?

The nations are the saved people on the earth.

Into precisely what shall the glory and honor of the nations be brought?

Into the new Jerusalem, the Wife of the Lamb, the Christian Church, the Body of Christ, God’s Israel.

It really is a simple, straightforward vision, isn’t it? Much superior to our old vision of being forgiven so we can go into the spirit realm to do nothing for eternity.

Let me give you another instance of the true vision enabling the Scriptures to make sense; and not only to make sense, but to have immediate, practical meaning for us.

Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:13)

Have you ever heard the above passage emphasized? We should be emphasizing it, because this is one of the passages that emphasize the goal of redemption.

It is noteworthy also that few believers attain such perfection in the present life. This tells me the work of redemption proceeds after we die, but only for those who faithfully have taken advantage of what God has given them in the present world.

The reason the above passage is not often emphasized is that the former vision of forgiveness and eternal residence in Heaven does not demand that we attain the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Why should we obey Christ faithfully every moment, seeking the gifts and ministries of the Spirit, being careful to obey every prompting of the Spirit, if we are going to go to Heaven by grace in any case? What good will it do us in Heaven (where there is no sin, we suppose) to attain the whole measure of the fullness of Christ?

Such maturity would be nice; but the spiritual pressures in the present life are so terrific that a matter has to be more than "nice" before we will make the enormous effort to gain victory over the world, over the lusts and passions of our flesh and soul, and over our self-will. We have to understand the rewards for denying ourselves and following Christ are exceedingly wonderful, while the penalties for living according to our adamic nature (if we have been called to be a saint) are exceedingly severe.

How many people will deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Jesus, when it really is not necessary? It is taught today that if we believe in Christ we will go to Heaven when we die, where all of us will live in carefree splendor forever.

As long as we "accept Christ" we will escape Hell and go to Heaven. So coming to the stature of the fullness of Christ is a good idea, but not essential to our future happiness.

Can you see why the former vision is not suited to the spiritual development of the members of the Body of Christ?

The truth is, if you do not learn to obey the Head, if Christ does not become your life in actuality, you will not be raised when the Lord comes. You will not appear with Him. You still are part of the problem of rebellion, not part of the solution.

In addition, you may have your God-given gifts taken from you and given to another, and you may be thrown into the outer darkness. These facts ought to convince us to turn aside from the world and look to Christ at all times.

This is the true vision. From it we learn that growing to maturity in Christ is not just something nice that you hear in church (if in fact you do hear it). It is the very nature of the Christian redemption.

In water baptism we take our place with Christ on the cross, and then are raised to walk in the newness of Kingdom life.

The baptism in the Holy Spirit brings us into the Body of Christ in an initial sense, and enables us to pursue the program of redemption.

Now the actual work of redemption begins. We are being conformed to the moral image of Christ and brought into untroubled rest in the Father’s Person and will. Only then are we competent to serve as sources of redemption for other people.

In the meantime, while we are coming to maturity in Christ, we are to serve the Lord to the best of our ability. It is this faithfulness in the small things that qualifies us for the greater aspects of the Kingdom of God.

So it is onward and upward for all of us. Nothing can stop us from gaining God’s best except our own unbelief and disobedience. We have been saved from wrath. We have been filled with the Spirit. Now we are to press into Christ until we are a functioning member of His Body.

If we are faithful in perfecting our relationship with the Head, and He becomes our very life, we will be raised from the dead and appear with Him at His return to earth.

When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)