THE KINGDOM FUTURE

 

By ROBERT GOVETT, M. A.

 

[This writing can be found in chapter four of the author's book of the same name.]

 

Scripture is like a dissected map of England, neatly packed in a box. It is for us to put together its scattered notices, till we discover as much as possible of the grand unity of the truth, as given us by God. It is thus with the doctrine of the kingdom.  It is an exercise for our spirits before God, to lay side by side as taught by the Spirit of God, the distinct hints and notices given us in the New Testament and in the Old.

 

I propose treating in this chapter three distinct points.

 

1. THE KINGDOM IS FUTURE.

 

2. WHEN WILL IT BE?

 

3. SOME DIFFICULTIES SOLVED THEREBY.

 

1. THE KINGDOM IS FUTURE.

 

When Scripture speaks of the Kingdom, it ordinarily means the kingdom in manifestation; and we have already noticed the exceptional texts which tell of the Kingdom in mystery.

 

1. Daniel's seventh chapter gives us a clear proof of the kingdom's futurity.

 

He describes four empires, which still deteriorate in quality.  The fourth is worse than all, and as the crisis affects it in especial, more details are given concerning it than concerning the others.

 

Its last king, 'the Little Horn' - blasphemes God, and persecutes to death his saints, unhindered, until the Son of Man in person appears; destroying this God-defying, self-defying one.  This, the most intense wickedness that has ever appeared among men, calls down visible vengeance, and destruction by Christ's own arm.

 

Then the Saviour hands over to his saints the right and title of temporal power.  "The Ancient of Days came, and judgement was given to the saints of the Most High, (of the heavenlies) and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom:" verse 22.  But at present, and as long as the Gospel continues, the saints are forbidden to judge, and not allowed to reign.  They rest on mercy; they are not permitted to touch the sword of justice. They cannot do so now without becoming unlike their heavenly Father, and the Son of God.  The empire of the world is given now to Gentiles, even at times to "the basest of men."  But the Church of Christ is neither Jew or Gentile; and those who will obey Christ must walk in the mercy taught by the Sermon on the Mount.

 

Christ's coming is the signal for the saint's reigning; but Jesus cannot come in Gospel days.  Hence the manifest kingdom of God is yet future.

 

The kingdoms of the Gentiles are to be ended, as the vision of the Great Image assures us, by a sudden, vehement stroke of the descending Stone, which is Christ.  Not secret long-continued agency from within, but a momentary blow from without and from above, destroys the present arrangements of the Gentile empires.  After the stroke (not before it) the kingdom of Christ over the nations and Israel is visibly established.

 

2. Let us take our second witness Matthew 6: 10. "Thy kingdom come!"

 

Jesus, in the opening of the Sermon on the Mount, sets before us the kingdom as the time of blessedness.  "Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."  All the Beatitudes rest upon this period, as the time when their promised blessings are to be accomplished, in part, or in whole.  That is the time when those who have been persecuted* for righteousness' sake, whether those of the Law, or before it, shall receive their reward; especially the prophets; who, as the bearers of God's messages endured so much from the ungodly.

 

[*Perfect participle. See Greek]

 

In the close of the fifth chapter Jesus owns the difficulty of His commands; but adds - 'If you do only what the worldly can do, why should you have reward?' verse 46.  In the opening of the sixth chapter our Lord directs us, not to desire and seek the applause of men now, but reward from our Father who is in heaven; a reward to be given in the "kingdom of our Father:" 13: 43.  And then our Teacher directs us to pray for the coming of this kingdom; a kingdom which is to embrace at once the earth and the heaven.*

 

[*Greek, 'heavens'.]

 

Here we may observe, that few as the words are, divine wisdom has put them together, that while they perfectly fall in with the true views of the kingdom they are felt to incommode, and stand in the way of those which are erroneous.  Our anti-millenarian brethren pray 'for the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom,' or 'for the advancement of it.'  Why? Because, according to their ideas, the kingdom is something present; and they refuse to look for it in the future, as any thing different from what it is now.  In their view 'tis come; all it needs is enlargement.  But Jesus speaks of it as yet future. "Thy kingdom come!"  He speaks of it too as the coming, not of His own kingdom, but of His Father's.  For though the kingdom of the Son of Man takes place at the same time, yet the kingdom of the Father refers to the heavenly aspect of it; the part possessed by those risen from the dead: 13: 43.

 

3. Let us take as our next witness THE SUPPER OF THE LORD.

 

"And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom:" Matthew 26: 26-29.

 

In these words the Saviour sets apart the bread and wine to be used by His disciples in memory of His death.  The wine is to be to them significant of "blood;" so long as this dispensation [age or time prescribed for its existence] lasts.  'Tis the blood of the new covenant, shed for those who find they cannot be saved by the old. And this rite is to be celebrated by believers of the Church of Christ "till He come."  Then the Lord's Supper ceases: for it was only in commemoration of one absent.  But when He returns it loses that significancy, as the next words show. "I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it with you new in my Father's kingdom."  Hence therefore Jesus takes the Nazarite vow: and becomes 'Jesus the Nazarite.'  But His vow is not for ever: it is to cease in the great day of the deliverance of His twofold people; the rescue of Israel from the Gentiles, and of the saints of the church from the tomb.  From this it is evident, that the kingdom of the Father is future.  It can only come when Jesus comes; and at the resurrection of the apostles, and of the righteous generally from the dead.  As long as Jesus' vow of Nazariteship holds good, the manifested kingdom cannot come.  Wine is not to be drunk in heaven; but there is a feast to be spread on Mount Zion, when Israel shall be restored by God to his land, and they are to see the restored Son of Man, owing Him as their God for whom they have waited: Isaiah 24 & 25.  The kingdom of God in its manifestation cannot arrive, while the church celebrates the Lord's Supper, and is His witness of the prolongation of the day of grace.  Nor can the new covenant be made with the House of Israel and with the house of Judah, till Israel repents of their refusal of that blood of the covenant once offered them.  But when Israel repents Jesus is to return, and the times of refreshing and the restoration of all things are to arrive: Acts 3.  That is the day of the manifested kingdom of God.

 

We have thus in a part foretold the second point.

 

2. WHEN IS THIS KINGDOM TO COME?

 

We may regard from three points of view, in reference to 1.  Israel. 2. The Church. 3. Jesus.

 

1. In reference to Israel, the kingdom cannot come until they repent.

 

"And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.  And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; when they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand.  So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand:" Luke 21: 28-31.

 

When Israel - now the dead fig-tree of winter - shall begin again to show signs of life, then will the kingdom of God be known to be near; just as it is known that the summer of nature is near, when the literal fig-tree and other trees begin to sprout.

 

But wrath and destruction - the terrible thunderstorm of the great day of God - must first cut off sinners out of the earth.  "And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be over-charged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.  For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth:" Luke 21: 34, 35.

 

Then will come the deliverance of Israel.

 

"And they went, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover.  And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him.  And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.  And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come:" Luke 22: 13-18.

 

The Saviour, celebrating His last Passover with the twelve, as a Jew among Jews, tells them of the eagerness with which He had looked forward to that rite, for it was one of crisis; a milestone on the way to the kingdom.  It was the last He would celebrate, till the Passover should be swallowed up in the manifested kingdom of God.  For what was the Passover?  It was an ordinance celebrating God's deliverance of Israel from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.  Then God, in the pillar of cloud and fire, manifested Himself as their king, and by His order a royal tent was pitched in their midst; whence He delivered His oracles, guided His host, and protected His servants. But this deliverance, great as it was, sealed by the destruction of their foes in the Red Sea, and the opening of the heavens to give them food, with the waters of the rock granted for their thirst, was but practical and temporary.  Often did they offend against Him in the wilderness, and were cut off: often did they sin in the land, and Jehovah gave them up again to the hand of those that hated them.

 

Israel in our Lord's day was thus enslaved to the Roman arms, and greatly oppressed.  Jesus then lets us know, that the Passover has not only a backward look to a past deliverance, but a look ONWARD to a FUTURE and a complete redemption of Israel from all his foes.  For in all previous deliverances of Israel, the Evil One has been left at liberty; and his servants being still found in the midst of the tribes, iniquity has broken out anew.  But in the day to come, the rebels shall be purged out, and Satan their leader committed to the bottomless pit.  In that day, Israel shall no more go astray from their God; for by the tenor of the new covenant to be made with them, God undertakes to fulfil its condition.  "I will," and "they shall." Not, as before. "Thou shalt," and "thou shalt not."

 

Then Jesus shall celebrate the Passover anew, and it will have arrived at its height of significance; for then the kingdom of God shall have come.  As then the Lord since that day has never kept the Passover, it is certain, that the kingdom of God has never yet come.

 

The same truth appears from our Lord's words when giving the Passover-cup.  "Take this, and divide it among yourselves, for I say unto you, I will no more drink of the fruit of the vine, till the kingdom of God shall come."  Here again is the same taking of the Nazarite vow, and the same conclusion is assigned to the period of the vow.  Hence, as Jesus never since that day has drank of the fruit of the vine, it is certain that the kingdom of God, that is, its manifestation, has never come.  When it does come, it must appear with the Saviour's personal presence, and [the appearance of] the apostles associated with Him; which can only be in RESURRECTION, and ON EARTH.  They do not make or drink wine in heaven.

 

2. Let us look at the matter with reference to the church.   The disciples are now called, or invited by God, to enter His future kingdom and its glory: 1 Thessalonians 2: 12.  They are to seek that first: Matthew 6: 33.

 

But the kingdom is only to be enjoyed after our present trial is ended, and after Jesus is come to award to each his due recompense.  This we see clearly in the parable of the Pounds.  All the while that the nobleman is away, the servants, with the pounds committed to them, are under trial; they are to do business till their Lord arrives.  They are not to reign till He reigns; they are not to reign till He has adjudged them worthy of disgrace or reward; nor till He has settled their degrees of honour, as lords of ten cities, or of five.

 

So again, when the Saviour says -

 

"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven [Greek, 'of the heavens.']; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works:" Matthew 7: 21, 22 -

 

He shows us, that the kingdom is to come, not in "this day," but in another - "in that day."  Nor can any enter into that kingdom, save as permitted by Jesus Himself.  For it is evident, that in those words the Lord Jesus takes the place of a judge, deciding, without appeal, on the case of each, as warranted to enter into, or as excluded from, the kingdom in manifestation.

 

This is confirmed for us still further by 1 Corinthianms 6: 7-11.

 

"Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law with one another.  Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?  Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that to your brethren.  Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?  Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you: but ye were washed, but ye were sanctified, but ye were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." (Greek.)

 

From the words of rebuke addressed to those in communion at Corinth it appears, that there is an ordeal to be passed by each, ere that kingdom can be entered.  Enquiry will be made, and by one competent to it, concerning the deeds of each.  For the kingdom of God is the kingdom of saints, and the un-saintly are to have no reward in the millennial kingdom of the Christ.

 

So Paul, speaking of the persecutions endured by the Thessalonian Christians, says, It is "a manifest token of the righteous judgement of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God for which ye even suffer:" 2 Thessalonians 1: 5.  Their witness to another king, one Jesus, and to an empire that was to be set aside the Roman, rendered them suspected by the Roman government, and drew persecution upon them.  But "God the righteous Judge" cannot allow this to go on for ever.  Suffering now, therefore, for testimony to the future kingdom of God is an indication that the sufferers will be 'counted worthy' of a place in it when it comes.  If they enter it who believe in and work for it, much more they who also suffer for it!  And observe, the entry into it is not till after the "BEING COUNTED WORTHY" of it; and that by our Lord in person.

 

Lastly, view the subject from the coming of Jesus.

 

1. The kingdom cannot come till the personal return of the Lord; as is shown by the Sheep and Goats.  "When the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory, and before him shall be gathered all the nations", (or, "all the Gentiles.")  As soon as He appears as judge He passes sentence on these living men, according to their conduct towards Israel.  But the kingdom does not end with this sentence of the Son of Man; it begins.  "Then shall the king say to them on his right hand, 'Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.'" This, then, is not the giving up the kingdom by the Christ at the time of the end, (1 Cor. 15: 24) in order that God may be all in all; it is the kingdom just assumed by the Son of Man at His appearing.

 

On another occasion, Jesus taught His disciples, that it was next to impossible ['hard', Mark 10: 23,24; Luke 18:24] that a rich man should have part in His millennial kingdom.  Great surprise was expressed; but He retained the sentiment.  Peter then desired to know, since their conduct had been the opposite to that of the rich young man, what reward should be theirs?  Jesus replied - "verily I say to unto you, that ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel:" Matt. 19: 16-28.

 

The kingdom then is not come, till Jesus, as the Son of Man is visibly seated upon His throne; and the twelve tribes restored to their land, are ruled over by the twelve apostles; a thing which can only take place in resurrection.

 

Let us observe then, how, with this key we can unlock many difficulties, which are shut up against the ordinary interpretation.

 

3. DIFFICULTIES SOLVED.

 

1. Take the eleventh chapter of Matthew, verses 11-13.

 

"Verily I say into you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist; notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.  And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.  For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John."

 

How now does the ordinary exposition deal with these words of our Lord?  If we assume that the kingdom of heaven means the Gospel or the Kingdom in Mystery, it is landed amidst plenty of difficulties, not to say impossibilities, of interpretation.

 

On this theory, the least in the kingdom of heaven is the lowest disciple under the Gospel.* How then is such a one greater than John?  Here many bewilder themselves, in the vain attempt to find a fair and true outlet.  It is not true, that the least believer of Gospel times is greater than John the Baptist; either in inspiration; for John was a prophet; or in preaching, for multitudes never preach at all!  Nor can it be said they are greater in success of ministry; for John wrought on the hearts of multitudes to their salvation.  Nor in clearness of views; for the ideas of many Christians, and of course those of the least of Christians are muddy enough.  Nor is it superiority of privileges; for greatness is external and visible, and the privileges of Christians are internal and spiritual.

 

[* Some would strangely make it signify Jesus the King of kings, lord of the kingdom.] 

 

All this perplexity arises from the attempt to acknowledge as the kingdom of God, only the Gospel, or the kingdom in mystery.  But everything falls into its true place, and is full of real and forcible meaning, when we perceive, that the kingdom of heaven has here its usual sense of the millennial kingdom of glory.

 

'John (says Jesus) was as great as any born of women,' but there is another and higher birth, which the least of those who partake of the kingdom in glory must experience.  There is a birth from the tomb, ordinarily necessary in order to enter the kingdom of glory.  And the least of those who enter the kingdom in resurrection will be visibly and manifestly greater than John; greater personally, in knowledge, and power; greater in rule and influence over others; for they will be equal unto the angels, and be the children ['sons'] of God, because they are children ['sons'] of the blessed resurrection (Luke 20: 36.).

 

The Saviour then observes, that a new dispensation came in with John's proclamation; the preaching of the kingdom of glory began, and God invited all Israel to enter it.  But not all were wrought upon to seek this kingdom in proportion to its intrinsic worth.  Only a few comparatively were earnest in its pursuit; but they were men of energy, bursting through all impediments in order to ENTER IN.  Such was Paul: Philippians 3.  The figure employed is that of a city full of riches, which are to be attained only by the soldiers outside it storming the walls.  "Seek ye first the kingdom of God."

 

2. Take, as a second example, the difficult passage, Matthew 16: 13-28.

 

In this our Lord, after long patience, and sending out His disciples to warn and arouse Israel, inquiries of the twelve what are the opinions entertained concerning Himself.  He finds that He is regarded as a man simply; though equal to some of the chief of the prophets.  But this belief suffices not to make any a disciple.  Peter then is appealed to by the Saviour, to know what are the views which are held by himself and the rest?  Peter thereupon confesses the Saviour as "the Christ, the Son of the living God."  Our Lord owns this as a God-given faith, and proceeds to draw out the consequence of the latter title given Him by Peter.  On Jesus, proved in resurrection to be the Son of God, was the Church destined to be built.  And as the gates of Hades should not prevail against Jesus Himself to detain Him in custody, He, the Rock, proved invincible by His victory over death, would deliver His people: for He has "the keys of death and of Hades (Rev. 1: 18).  Then the Saviour promises first to the witnessing apostle a privilege which He afterwards grants to the rest of the twelve; and even to each church of two or three assembled in His name: John 20; Matthew 18.  "Unto thee will I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shalt be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt lose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."  Thus the two verses are closely connected. Verse 18 speaks of the first resurrection, or the rising of those who believe in Jesus as the Risen One.  But after the resurrection or act of rising comes the kingdom of heaven, or the millennial kingdom.  Of this kingdom Jesus gives to Peter the keys.  For offences which the Saviour and His Spirit would point out, Peter could shut out of the church, and therefore would shut out of the millennial kingdom of glory.  Whatever Peter thus did as apostle on earth should be ratified by Christ in heaven.  Thus anyone put out of communion by the apostle on the grounds marked out by Christ, should have no part in the thousand years, if he died under such censure. But if he repented, and were restored again to his place, such forgiveness below should be followed by forgiveness on highIn this way Paul for incest turned the key against one of the offending Corinthians; and putting him out of Christ's kingdom in mystery [excommunicated from the church] at once put him into Satan's kingdom, and Satan's power.  If he died there, he had been shut out of the millennial kingdom.  But this righteous visitation was followed by the disciple's repentance, and Paul, "in the person of Christ," (2 Cor. 2: 10) with the consent of the church loosed his chain, and restored him to his place in the kingdom in mystery, with a hope renewed of entering the kingdom of glory.

 

Jesus is not then, as it is commonly said, speaking of Peter's opening the door of faith to the Jews, to the Samaritans, and to the Gentiles.  For that was neither binding or loosing; much less did he first begin by binding.  But in the case of the incestuous, it was first binding, then loosing.  Moreover, Jesus had spoken in the previous verse of the building of the church.  And after Paul has laid down the offences for which any are to be put out from church-fellowship, (1 Corinthians 5,) in the next chapter he adds, that the same offences will also exclude from "THE KINGDOM OF GOD:" 1 Corinthians 6.

 

Jesus then proceeds to lay down his Jewish title of "the Christ;" for Israel knows Him not.  He is turning to another body, owned by Him while Israel lie in unbelief.  For Israel was about to slay the Son of Man; and if they would believe in and follow Jesus, he too must be prepared to suffer the loss of all things; yea, of life itself.  For this, so contrary to Jewish hopes, Peter is unprepared; and rebuking our Lord, is severely rebuked in turn.  Though the disciple might be justly called upon to give up life itself for the Lord, yet it could be no ultimate loss: for in the kingdom of the thousand years the martyr for Christ would find restored in glory his lost life.  Whereas, what should any be profited, who should in this evil day retain his life, if he lost it during that day of joy?  "For the Son of Man shall come in the glory of the Father with His angels; and then shall He reward each ACCORDING TO HIS WORK."  Again, the period of reward is stated to be that of our Lord's return: the reward is to be individual, and according to works.  The time of such reward is the millennial kingdom, or that of the thousand years.  Accordingly, Jesus promises to some of the disciples then present a glimpse of the Son of Man's kingdom; which in some six days afterward, He exhibited to them on the Mount of Transfiguration.  This shows us, then, that we are not mistaken in regarding the kingdom of heaven as referring to the millennial glory.  The scene on the Mount was not a preaching of the Gospel to the dead in trespasses and sins; but an assembly of some of the great of old with Jesus, and their being seen in bodies of glory, while the voice of the Father from on high gave witness to His Son's supreme place.

 

3. As our third passage of difficulty, let us take Matthew 20: 20-28.

 

"Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.  And he said unto her, What wilt thou?  She saith unto him, grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.  But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask.  Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptised with the baptism that I am baptised with?  They say unto him, We are able.  And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptised with the baptism that I am baptised with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.

 

And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.  But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.  But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister: And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many".

 

The answer of our Lord to the petition of the mother of James and John for a right hand and a left hand seat in His kingdom is understood to signify - that there was in reality no such thing as they asked for.  "Ye know not what ye are asking for."  'Was not this a rebuke of their carnal expectations of a visible kingdom on earth?'

 

So we might have thought, had the words stood alone.  But they do not; and the context with other passages shows, that there is such posts as the 'Sons of Thunder' desired; and such a kingdom as they looked for.  What had the Saviour in a previous chapter said?  "In the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel:" 19: 28.  Here is the very thing they expected promised.  The two apostles, therefore, were only asking the first places among the promised thrones.  And Jesus confirms this saying of His even at the Last Supper: Luke 22: 28-30.

 

But the context also bears witness, that the Saviour's words are no rebuke of 'carnal apprehensions of His kingdom.'  He declares, (verse 23,) that these posts for which they applied were already bespoken; and that in appointing His apostles and others to such elevations in His realm, He would only follow His Father's good pleasure and arrangement.

 

What was the Saviour's meaning then in those words - "Ye know not what ye ask?"  They are most clearly expounded for us by the words which follow.  "Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of?" As though the Lord had said - 'O James and John, you are expecting, that as soon as I arrive at Jerusalem I shall take the kingdom; and that then you will step upon your thrones. But know, that ere the crown glitters on my brow, the cross must intervene.  Ere I take my throne I must go up on high, and a dreary interval of patient suffering must be endured by my disciples.  This is part of my Father's plan - that they WHO WISH TO REIGN MUST FIRST JOINTLY SUFFER WITH ME.  And the degrees of glory in my millennial reign WILL BE METED OUT IN PROPORTION TO SUFFERINGS ENDURED FOR MY SAKEIn asking, therefore, for the principal thrones YOU ARE ASKING ALSO FOR PRE-EMINENCE OF SUFFERING.  This you do not see; and so you know not what you are asking for.  If you saw this, in your present mind, you would not dream of asking for such heights of glory.'  But they declare their readiness to endure, and the Saviour assures them they should.  But still the posts they coveted were not to be won, as among men, by urgency of petition, and by being first in the field.  The Father would assign them in accordance with His righteous principle; and Jesus would bestow agreeably with the Father's decision.

 

The request of the two created great indignation among the remaining ten of the disciples.  But the Saviour takes occasion thence to teach us all a lesson of deepest moment.  The twelve were to be enthroned, as He had promised; but their ambition was to take an opposite form to that exhibited by the ambitious and the great of the world.  The great of the world issue commands, and are waited upon by those beneath them.  The ambitious strive to thrust others aside, as standing in their way; and covet titles of beneficence without doing the work of kindness.  But among the disciples of Jesus so it is not to be.  If any were ambitious, they were to learn, that glory and lofty posts in the kingdom to come, may be attained only through HUMILITY and LOWLY SERVICE to others.  "Whosoever wishes to be great among you let him be your servant."  In this Jesus was to be their example.  He had taken the place of service to others instead of authority over them.  He was about to offer up His life, in order to ransom others. Wherefore the Father will exalt Him above every name in the Age to come.  They, then, who wish to be great in the coming kingdom may attain to it, if they will seek for glory by the two channels which the Saviour here indicates, 1. SUFFERING: and 2. SERVICE.

 

4. Some find a difficulty in those words so oft repeated -"the kingdom of heaven is at hand:" Matthew 3: 2; 4: 17; 10: 7. 'Does it not follow from this, that we must understand that the Gospel or the church is the promised kingdom? since that is what followed soon after, while the manifested kingdom of which you speak has not come for ages.  Is it not clear, then, that fact has proved what is the meaning of 'the kingdom of heaven?''

To this I reply - 'No!'  The expression, more exactly translated, is - 'The kingdom of heaven hath drawn near.'  Had Israel but repented and believed, they would at once have entered the kingdom.  It drew near them for their acceptance; but it was presented conditionally only.  On their refusal it was withdrawn from them.  Since the wicked husbandmen would not render to the proprietor of the fruit of his vineyard, and would instead of that slay his son, "Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof."  The superior or heavenly portion of the kingdom is utterly lost to the nation of Israel.  Even when the tribes are forgiven, even when the kingdom of heaven draws near again and they accept it, they receive a place only in the lower or earthly department.  And of the unbelievers of the Saviour's time, and of others since Jesus said, "The children of the kingdom (the Jews to whom millennial promises were first made) shall be cast into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth:" Matthew 8: 12.

 

The difficulty of this passage may then be illustrated by previous examples taken from their nation.

 

God brought the tribes close to the land of promise, and said to them 'The land is before you; enter in.'  But they drew back in fear and unbelief. 'the giants'; how could they overcome them? The cities fenced up to heaven! How could they storm them?  'Twas destruction to attempt it!'  And so the Lord dealt with them according to their unbelief, and the possession of the land was put off forty years. Might Israel, because they were still moving up and down the burning sands so long, say 'It is clear that this is the only land which the Lord ever designed for us.  Did He not say - 'the land is before you?'  'This is the only land before us; there is no other.'

The kingdom then did draw near; but, through the unbelief and rebellion of Israel, its manifestation has been put off 1800 years  It will, however, come at length.  So, when Moses arose to deliver Israel the first time, their deliverance drew near.  But when they thrust him away, it drew back again.  For another forty years their departure out of the land of oppression was deferred.

 

I may add, that in Luke 10: 9,11, the expression is better given, "The kingdom of God is come nigh to you."

 

5. Take as a fifth example, Acts 14: 22.  Paul and Barnabas visited several of the cities of Asia,"Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must, through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God."

 

Now here is a sense of the 'kingdom of God' which puzzles many.  Is it necessary to [eternal] salvation to go through much persecution?  Of course not: else how could any be saved upon a death-bed?  Faith alone is necessary to [eternal] salvation.  In this case then by "the kingdom of God" something beyond a bare being saved is meant.  It cannot signify, that it is needful to go through much tribulation in order to enter the church of Christ.  For these were already disciples, embodied in churches.  It signifies therefore here, as in other places which we have seen - the millennial kingdom of Christ.  'If we with Him suffer, we with Him shall reign!" We are to wait till the Saviour comes; not seeking the world's glory, riches, or pleasures.  We are to wait; for we cannot cast Satan and his angels out of the heaven or the earth; and as long as he is left here, there will be trouble for the saints of God.

 

Much turns on our acceptance of this testimony.  This glory is not for those who disbelieve it.  For what says the Saviour?  "Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein:" Mark 10: 15; Luke 18: 17And how many refuse the testimony?  Reason against it as un-philosophical, ridicule it as foolish, despise those who assert it?

 

But the kingdom of God shall come at length in its brightness.  It shall come with the Saviour, with His voice of might, His trump of power.  Did Sheba say of Solomon's glory, when after long travel it broke upon her astonished gaze, "Behold the half was not told me?" So shall it be then.  Astronomers' interest in the sun, moon, and stars is far greater than that of ordinary persons; for they gaze at them oftener; they see them closer, better, more vividly, more distinctly than others.  To most eyes the sun is but a small body.  To the astronomer it is so vast, that our globe is almost nought in comparison.  Let us be astronomers of faith! engaged, not with the present kingdoms of a world under judgement, and speedily passing away; but with God's coming kingdom of glory, of reward, and resurrection!

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