THE KINGDOM IN MYSTERY

 

By D. M. PANTON, M. A.

 

Perhaps there is no source of error in exposition more frequent - so frequent as possibly to hint some chronic defect in the human mind as it differs from the Divine - than the stubbornness with which men will see one thing only, when God is looking at two. Duality - the out-pull and the in-pull that balances the universe - is of the very texture of things; and yet no great truth rides in a chariot of revelation but some unbalanced charioteer leaps aboard to urge it over a precipice.  It is a vital of exposition that apparently conflicting Scriptures must never be made, like opposing parks of artillery, to fire into and silence one another.  "No prophecy of scripture is of isolated interpretation" (2 Pet. 1: 20), but subserves a perfect whole.

 

This duality dwells richly and subtly in the great Scripture phrase - the Kingdom of Heaven.  Several of our Lord's parables which contain the expression lodge the Kingdom in this age; and it is this aspect of it which (outside the Apostolic epoch) has always appealed most powerfully to the Church of God.  The Court of Appeals in New York State, reversing the decision of a lower court on a will which left 1,000 for "the advancement of Christ's Kingdom on earth," defined, the Kingdom thus: "Christ's Kingdom on earth is the community or whole body of Christ's faithful people collectively; all those who are spiritually united to Christ as the Head of the Church, without regard to differences to creed* and doctrine." It was both shred equity and sound theology; for between the Sower starting out to sow, and the angels descending to reap, the Lord sets "the Kingdom of Heaven," which, in its aspect of leaven or mustard, or a blend of wheat and tares, can by no wildest interpretation be located in the Millennium.  We who believe "have been translated into the Kingdom of the Son of His love" (Col. 1: 13); and all who reject our Lord while the Nobleman is away (Luke 19: 14) He Himself catalogues by their confession - "We will not that this man reign over us."  This is the Kingdom which is never shaken (Heb. 12: 28), for it can never cease.

 

[* The judgement means denominational creed.  It is self evident that the Court of Appeals does not mean to include Mohammedans or atheists.]

 

Thus the Kingdom in this sense is synonymous with the Church, or the hiatus (gap) between the two Advents; what our Lord calls "the mysteries (that is, things hidden from the foundation of the world (Matt. 13: 35), or Church truth) of the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 13: 11), which it is given only to disciples to understand - the mystical kingdom of grace.  It is a kingdom over the heart and life, with no visible royalty and no earthly metropolis;* its citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3: 20, R.V.), and therefore anywhere and everywhere on earth its citizens are pilgrims, and so strangers; it is constantly at war, but only with the world-rulers of this darkness, the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places; its weapons are not carnal, and in consequence it is improperly linked with State establishments and temporal power; it is so to embody the grace of its Saviour-King that its Victoria Cross is unresisting martyrdom; its commerce is in the heavenlies, and therefore it is forbidden to lay up treasure on earth, and takes joyfully the spoiling of its goods; and it is throneless and homeless until the hour when the Holy City overhangs the Millennial earth.  The gates of this Kingdom stand ajar for all mankind; and it has but one royal road into it, one exclusive path - the second birth.

 

[* This is the deadly answer which Mr. Simmonds justly brought against British-Israelism.  After the Kingdom's only King has not only been rejected but murdered, any physical Kingdom set up in His absence, and purporting to be His, is a self-branded imposture.  Such are the "fifth monarchy" of Cromwell's age; Dr. Dowie's Zion City on Lake Huron; the "sovereign state" of the Vatican; and (among non-Christian sects) Utah as the Kingdom of God on earth, with the North American Indians as the lost Ten Tribes.  The visible Kingdom is impossible without the visible King, our Lord Jesus Christ.]

 

Yet it is equally certain that the same Gospels and Epistles, and from the same sacred Lips, in passages more numerous, and clear beyond all dispute, the Kingdom of God is regarded as wholly future, the epoch following immediately on the Second Advent.  For David's throne is the birth-gift of the Christ (Luke 1: 32), and David's throne has never been in the heavens.  Satan saw this; for what he offered our Lord - the kingdoms of the world - was what he saw that Prophecy makes over to Messiah : "I will give Thee the nations for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession" (Psalm 2: 8).  So when Christ revealed that some standing around should not experience death until they had actually seen the Kingdom of God come with power, it was no obscure and persecuted Church that was unveiled, but a Christ literally present and transfigured, on earth, and accompanied by the rapt and the resurrected - Elijah representing the rapt living, and Moses, as representing the resurrected dead.  So also the Kingdom in which our Lord will drink again with His Apostles (Mark 14: 25) is the Millennial, since wine is not made nor drunk in heaven: it is the Kingdom for the coming of which the Church, is to pray, since the Kingdom is not herself, and it is to be prayed down to earth: it is the Kingdom of which Paul says decisively - "flesh and blood" - that is, the living, unchanged - "cannot inherit the Kingdom of God; neither doth corruption" - that is, the dead, un-risen - "inherit incorruption" (1 Cor. 15: 50).  The only occasion on which the simple phrase is used - "the Kingdom" - it is, without doubt or dispute, the Millennial (1 Cor. 15: 24); for it follows resurrection; while yet it makes way for the Eternal Kingdom.  The Kingdom of Heaven, says our Lord, is "in that day" (Matt. 7: 21, 22); and angels, not men, will establish it (Matt. 13: 41).

 

So, therefore, since it is one Kingdom with two aspects - for there is but one King - there are certain vital characteristics which, belong to both, are expressed in Scriptures that belong exclusively to neither.  The Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking - in neither aspect does it consist in banqueting, though in both there is food - but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14: 17). Neither is in word only, but also in power (1 Cor. 4: 20). Into both, publicans and harlots enter sooner than the wealthy or the Pharisee.  Both Kingdoms come not by watching, nor by local discovery, but only by the second birth (John 3: 3); and the Kingdom must be within us ere we can be within it (Luke 17: 21).  John the Baptist heralded both: Christ preached both: Paul died with both on his lips.  Since the principle of the one - the Eternal Kingdom - is Grace, and the principle of the other - the Millennial Kingdom - is Justice, the conduct under each is worlds asunder, exactly as the action of the Saviour in the two epochs. The Kingdom in mystery is the vital prelude to the Kingdom in manifestation, and the kingdom of grace is the training-ground for the kingdom of glory*; but for the Age - the Millennial Age - succeeding this present Age, a seven-tiered pyramid of sanctity is unfolded, with the warning words: - "If ye do these things, ye shall never stumble; for thus shall be richly supplied unto you the entrance" - the wealth of a millennium's priority - "into the eternal kingdom.)  So therefore the great command, even to Apostles, is - "Seek ye FIRST the Kingdom of God" (Matt. 6: 33), for all our regenerate life is to be the pursuit of a glory beyond the grave; and "no man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is FIT (ready prepared, ripe) for the Kingdom of God" (Luke 9: 62), since fitness for the coming Kingdom springs, not from conversion only, but from a face which, having fled to Sodom, never looks back.

 

[* Salvation carries with it the Eternal Kingdom, and so of all believers we read - "They shall reign for ever and ever" (Rev. 22: 5)

 

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