THE KINGDOM A REWARD
By D. M. PANTON, B. A.
is one overwhelming proof that no believer will enter the
First of all, the Second Psalm at once lays bare that the Kingdom is a gift to Christ, not an inheritance. When the nations are surging in revolt, and the peoples are seeking to stamp out the Lord and His Christ, Jehovah says: "Ask of me" - the Kingdom is therefore a commanded aim and ambition of the Son of God - "and I will GIVE thee the nations for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession" (Psalm 2: 8). Nothing could be more explicit. So far from the rule over earth, immediately following the Apostasy, being a perquisite of the Son of God as such, it is solely a gift from God, and a gift dependant (to begin with) on prayer. "Ask of me, and I will give." Christ is the nobleman who has gone "into a far country, to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return, having received the kingdom" (Luke 19: 12): so even to Apostles Jesus says: "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God" - seek it so as to possess it - "and his righteousness" - the godlikeness that ensures it. "Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations."
But Scripture now unfolds that this gift is the fruit of a great deal more than a mere desire and prayer. "Not unto angels," says the Apostle, "did he subject the world to come" - the inhabited earth - "whereof we speak" (Hebrews 2: 5); "but of the Son he saith, Thy throne" - the Throne of the inhabited earth to come - "O God, is for ever and ever: thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity; THEREFORE God, thy God" - it is as a Man He is addressed, and so God is His God - "hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows" (Hebrews 1: 8). Christ loved righteousness and hated iniquity, and lived that love and hate: therefore - on that ground alone - God has anointed Him with supreme joy. So our Lord says to us : "Not everyone that saith to me, Lord, Lord" - the natural definition of a Christian* - "shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father" (Matt. 7: 21) - who lives Christ's love and hate.
[* "Because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved" (Romans 10: 9).]
the Lord's coronation is a consequence of more than life-long obedience.
A fresh statement makes His achievement of the Kingdom on the ground of
martyrdom as plain as words can make it. "We behold him
who hath been made a little lower than the angels" - that is made
human - "even Jesus, because of the suffering
of death, crowned" (Hebrews 2: 9).
Had our Lord thrown up everything in
of Smyrna," Greek, "Messenger of the church in
The truth is sunk deeper into our minds by another passage which measures the reward as an exact reversal of the loss; and both, in our Lord's case, are of course absolutely unique. "Who, being in the form of God, emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross: WHEREFORE also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name" (Philippians 2: 6). His exaltation fits exactly His humiliation. He descended from the Godhead from life to death; He descended from normal death to a criminal's death; therefore He is "highly exalted" - His exaltation is 'super-superlative' - the word is emphatic and unique: in His resurrection, exalted; in His ascension, 'highly exalted'; in His return to God, exalted "above all the heavens"; and in His session on the Throne, "exalted above all exaltation". So the principle is made equally applicable to us. "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you" (Matthew 7: 2): "every one that hath left houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive a HUNDREDFOLD" (Matthew 19: 29): "Because thou wast found faithful in a very little, have thou authority over TEN CITIES" (Luke 19: 17).
A further proof presents itself. Various passages associate the Saviour with human companions who achieve glory on identical grounds; that is, not as sons of God, but as men who, like Himself, renounced everything for the Age to Come. So Jehovah said through Isaiah (53: 12) : "I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong"; a statement remarkably confirmed by our Lord's own words, - "the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and men of violence take it by force" (Matthew 11: 12). These associates of our Lord are again named in Hebrews (1: 9): "Thou hast loved righteousness and hated lawlessness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows" What constitutes this 'fellowship' is made clear by another Scripture. "For we are become" - after conversion - "fellows* of Christ, IF we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end" (Hebrews 3: 14). Our own language is similar. The highest men of science become Fellows of the Royal College of Physicians: so of believers it is written, - "Heirs [indeed] of God", as born again and sharing His eternal life; [but] "JOINT-HEIRS with Christ, IF so be that we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified with him" (Romans 8: 17). For "IF we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him" (2 Timothy 2: 12). Thus the [Millennial] Kingdom throughout is made conditional on Christ-like character and conduct.
[* The word can be translated - sharers, partners, companions.]
Our Lord Himself sets the final seal on this truth. "He that overcometh, I will give to him to sit down with me in my throne" - manifestly the Millennial Throne - "EVEN AS" - that is, on identical grounds, for identical reasons - "I also" - I correspondingly with my brethren - "overcame, and sat down with my Father on his throne" (Revelation 3: 21). Here entrance into the coming Reign of both Christ Himself and all who will share His Throne is based four-square, not on grace or gift, but on so running the race as to win the prize. The Lord Himself here makes our experience identical with His own. Just as the Eternal Glory of Christ, the glory which He had with the Father before the world was, rests solely on the fact that He is the Son of God, while His Millennial Glory, the glory He receives on returning to this earth, rests solely on His achievements and sufferings as the Son of Man: exactly so, our Eternal Glory - when all whose names are in the Lamb's Book of Life "shall reign for ever and ever" (Revelation 22: 5), totally irrespective of works done either before or after faith - rests solely on the fact that we are the sons of God; while our Millennial Glory - if we achieve it, as Christ did - rests solely on our obedience and suffering as SERVANTS of the Most High, when we "shall be priests of God and of Christ, and reign with him a thousand years" (Revelation 20: 6).
Finally, the motive that moved our Lord is to be ours also, and both are wonderfully compacted into one verse. "Let us also lay aside every weight, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus" - our model runner - "who FOR THE JOY THAT WAS SET BEFORE HIM endured the cross, despising shame" (Hebrews 12: 1). Here dawns on us the immense importance to us all of this truth being clearly stated. To assume that to be a gift which as a matter of fact is a reward is almost certainly to lose it; because the conditions on which the prize is given are ignored, and therefore, with almost equal certainty, some condition or conditions will be unfulfilled, and so cancel the reward. If our Saviour could go through all His unparalleled agony because of the joy set before Him, how much more can we muster our present, however disconcerting, for a future of such boundless joy. "Wherefore, brethren, give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye DO these things" - that is, add the seven graces to saving faith (verse 5) - "Ye shall never stumble: for thus shall be richly supplied unto you the entrance" because an entrance a thousand years earlier - "into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1: 10).
Be strong: for the days are darkening,
Night cometh on;
Impenetrable gloom fast gathering,
Light almost gone.
Be strong: though the darkness o'erwhelm thee,
Through it press on;
On to the end of the wearisome journey,
Where Jesus has gone.
Be strong: the earth's filled with violence,
With hatred and Sin;
Pray that in all things ye may be found worthy
The Kingdom to win.
Be strong: keep thine eyes fixed on Jesus,
He'll bear thee along;
The battle is raging - the Lord God is with us,
Our Hope and our Song!
- Hettie K. Payne.