The Kingdom of God and the Church Series 2001
Good News About
By Ed Corley
THERE IS MUCH VARIATION in how different ministers of the Gospel perceive the Kingdom of God. Many leave the topic alone, or else speak of it in terms so vague one cannot discern what is their understanding regarding it. The earliest concept imparted to me was that it is now in abeyance, and besides, it doesn’t belong to Gentile believers anyway, but is reserved for the Jews. So why bother? For the present it is withheld even from them, so the Kingdom is not now anywhere on earth, but only in heaven. Its light and power are not to be known and will only come again after the Church has been raptured.
All of this was confusing to me. The draw of my spirit from early years was toward God’s Kingdom. I couldn’t buy into the doctrine of the Jehovah’s Witnesses—who claim to have a handle on the Kingdom of God—because of their slight regard for the Lord Jesus. I already knew Him too intimately. I wanted to know the Kingdom He proclaimed, live in it, have its light and strength at work in me—and I wanted to proclaim it. But, I didn’t know how to do any of this.
You see, no on ever bothered to explain to me anything about the Kingdom, even though I’d graduated from a Christian college and had my degree from a prestigious theological seminary. I heard some of the best preachers in the land, but hardly anyone ever mentioned God’s Kingdom.
But when the Holy Spirit came upon me, about eight years after I had given myself to be a preacher, I began to know—with a knowing apparently released in me by God’s Spirit—that His Kingdom is not in abeyance but is powerful and present now. It was not long after this that the brother I told about in the last article expressed to me that while salvation is by the grace of God revealed in Jesus, we must qualify for His Kingdom. This was my first bit of instruction regarding the Kingdom. That was over forty years ago. My understanding is still imperfect. But we do have the Word, so much powerful Scripture regarding the Kingdom, that is ready to break forth in our spirits. As we soak our souls in it, it’s energy and light will find fresh and powerful release in us.
We will proceed with this matter as long as the Spirit of God leads us. We’re not going to follow a scheme of study other than to allow light and understanding to break forth upon us as it will.
There is an urgency about our knowing the Kingdom, however, that won’t allow us to be sluggish in our pursuit. The time may soon be upon us when the only government that can offer us any protection, provision or justice will be the Government of God’s Kingdom. The only light and the only rightness left in the land may soon be that which emanates from the Throne of this Kingdom’s King. It’s incumbent upon us to become thorough in our knowledge of the Lord Jesus and His rule so nothing can destroy our confidence, or dissuade us from utter trust, or drag us from being an overcomer in His Kingdom.
WITH REGARD TO THIS KINGDOM, there are two things I want to convey first. These are convictions that have been laying hold on me lately. I’ve seen them for years, but this late hour is calling us to give scrupulous attention to them. I think there are things in the Word of each conviction I haven’t seen clearly, but that will come to light as we hold ourselves in the Word.
First, after the Lord Jesus was raised from the dead and before He ascended back to the Father, He spent those last precious forty days on earth showing Himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs... and speaking of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God—Ac 1:3.
The Kingdom of His Father must have been important to Him. All He spoke about in His final days was included under the heading of that subject. You might think He would have instructed the Apostles on building a successful Church, or maybe on leading a fruitful life as a believer. And this would come if His Word was heeded. But, the urgency of His heart was the Kingdom of God. Having been through His contest with Satan in death and having come forth with a victory no man had ever known, He was able to speak things no one had ever spoken. From the beginning He had spoken of the Kingdom, but now, what an authority and knowledge must have rested upon Him! He had just wrestled the right to reign from the enemy to whom our Parents had submitted in the Garden.
My immediate grief was that there is so little record of what Jesus said in those last powerful days. Matthew records His words in three verses—Mt 28:18-20. We call this The Great Commission and its rests heavy on us today. Mark gave His record in four verses—Mk 16:15-18. Many theologians reject this Scripture, however, as spurious, that it, not genuinely inspired. They say it was added by some scribe later than Mark. I do not subscribe to this but hold Mark’s entire record as genuine and important. Luke tells more in a narrative that demands attention which we can only give later—Lk 24:13-49. John tells little other than the record of two unusual conversations with Peter which we find in Jn 21:15-21. Soak a while in these passages and ask the Lord to give you some of the feeling of being there and hearing what those disciples heard.
Not long before His death, Jesus had said, I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now (Jn 16:12). He meant they could not sustain mentally what He would have spoken. Perhaps that’s the reason there is so little record of what He spoke. They could not comprehend what He was saying because the Spirit had not yet come upon them. But after He ascended back to the Father and the Holy Spirit came to abide, there came on His followers the possibility of comprehension of truth, particularly about the Kingdom. Personally, I know it was after the Holy Spirit came upon me that my soul began its quest to know all I could about the Lord Jesus in His present state and to know the realities of the Kingdom He preached. Something within me began to say, "Pursue this understanding. Hear what the Lord will say. Give yourself to knowing this King and His Kingdom."
THE SECOND THING I want to take note of was that Paul proclaimed the Kingdom of God throughout his ministry, even after he turned from preaching to the Jews and went primarily to the Gentiles. See this closing statement from the Book of Acts. And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, preaching the Kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him—Ac 28:30,31.
After the Lord Jesus, the person through whom the greater amount of New Testament revelation came was a man who only knew the resurrected Christ. The writer of Acts summarizes his latter ministry in two points. He preached the Kingdom of God and he taught those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ.
Something unusual about the above final verse of Acts is that there is no "Amen" following it as there is after the closing verse of nearly every other New Testament Book. What makes the closing of Acts even more significant is that the grammatical structure of its concluding statement in the Greek will not even allow for a period to indicate that the sentence was ended. This is, at least, a testimony that there was nothing ending at that point in time. Whatever was going on then had more of the same to follow.
There are six distinct words in the Greek New Testament translated "to preach." The one used in Ac 28:31 to tell of Paul preaching is kerússo which means "to proclaim as a herald, to announce openly and publicly" like a crier announcing the presence of a king coming into a town in his domain. Significantly, this is the same word used in Mt 4:17 to tell that Jesus began to preach that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. They both were announcing its presence, with them, then and there. It was in the earth with the Lord Jesus. He could say, "It is present, here and now." It was still in the earth when Paul was near the end of his ministry. To Gentile believers he could say, "The Kingdom is present, here and now." Jesus going back to heaven and the Jews rejection of the Kingdom did not cause its removal from the earth, else we would have no record of Paul announcing its presence to the Gentiles.
IT IS MY FURTHER CONVICTION that much of what the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples after His resurrection, and much that He would have told them before but they could not bear, Paul received. He revealed it in his Epistles. He defended his right to preach what he preached with this: But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ—Gal 1:11,12.
There is the high, high truth of Ephesians in which he laid out the understanding no one had ever had before about what actually took place in the Resurrection of Christ. This insight began in Romans with the understanding of our identification with Him in His death, burial and resurrection. Ephesians picks up on this to reveal we were with Him in His ascension and enthronement at the right hand of the Father. This is the place of highest authority in all the realm of the Kingdom. What Paul saw and revealed was that we were with Christ all the way. The grace that caused Him to identify with us in our sin has drawn us into our identification with Him in His Kingly Rule.
Paul did not use the word Kingdom very often in his Epistles, but the more time we spend with them, the more we comprehend that they lay out "Kingdom Truth" all the way.
Another thing the Lord spoke to my heart after His Spirit came upon me and I quested for His Kingdom was that I was to spend time with Paul’s Epistles. He impressed me I was to come to the place of thinking like Paul thought. I’m still in the process, but, oh, what a wonder is opening!
The Lord Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom and pointed us ever toward it. This is recorded in the Gospels. But it is from the understanding Paul left for us in his Epistles that we work our way in the Kingdom. The Gospels point the direction we are to take. The Epistles lead us in the path.
Perhaps the greatest statement of Kingdom Truth ever lies in what Paul said in Eph 1:3-15. This is that statement of power and light to which I’ve made more reference in writing than to any other portion of Scripture. We can’t get far in Kingdom living without absorbing it into the fiber of our lives. The light and understanding it gives will become our spiritual "life blood."
AS WE LOOK CAREFULLY at scripture, we must conclude there is coming a time when the rule of the Kingdom will spread over every nation with some out of every ethnic group, language group, culture group, and—indeed-—every family group represented in its government. Rev 5:9 points to this, and it is awesome. There will come a time when the announcement of its dominion will go forth everywhere, with a clarity and conviction that reaches out to embrace every person with the demand that a decision be made regarding its jurisdiction in every life personally.
While speaking of the closing of this age, the Lord Jesus said, And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come (Mt 24:14). We should take a brief, but careful, look at this verse. The word Gospel is from the Greek euaggélion. It just basically means "glad tidings" or ‘joyful news." Again, the word preached is from kerússo, just like with Jesus and with Paul. Many in the closing days will proclaim the presence of the Kingdom. The word world is from oikouméne, "the inhabited earth." The whole human race is to hear this proclamation. It will come as a witness, that is, a "solemn declaration" that the rule of God’s Government is come for every person in every nation. Then the end shall come. End is from télos, "the full realization, the consummation, the ultimate destiny."
The last-days proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom is ready to carry with it the greatest thrust of evangelism the world has ever known. We can also expect there will be signs to confirm the Kingdom is present. As the early disciples went forth after the departure of Jesus, they preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the Word with signs following (Mk 16:20). There is no record in any Scripture to indicate this was a phenomenon that should cease.
This aspect of signs following the confirming of the word we will address in a later article. There is too much mention in Scripture of this matter for us to ignore it, and there is no record ever that the signs were to cease that attend the proclamation of the Kingdom.
Oh, what a reach the Kingdom will have as it embraces all creation! It becomes apparent it will take in from the highest heaven to the lowest hell and demand the obeisance of every creature. The eternity of heaven and the eternity of hell will both remain. On earth, the administration will come, as ordained in the beginning, under the authority of God’s Government in the heavens. The authority of the darkness, broken in the Redemption, will be replaced in the utmost reach of this globe, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea (Is 11:9).
Another early Prophet saw and proclaimed this same thing. For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea (Hab 2:14).
YEARS AGO, not long after I received the infilling of the Holy Spirit, I attended a convention in Memphis, Tennessee. Ministers of all kinds from all over the nation had gathered. One prominent among them talked much of the Kingdom. I wasn’t too impressed. He was rather aloof and I never felt I could come near him to speak with him. While there, I overheard a small conversation about him. What I heard left its impression upon me. One person said to the other, "We must tell him that they who preach the Kingdom must live of the Kingdom."
I didn’t take that only with reference to that man. I took it for myself. It was actually one of those early instructions I received, often informally, along the way. As I look back, some of the greatest instruction and impartations to my life have come incidentally, from persons walking in the light of God’s Kingdom and shedding light on others in their path. A Kingdom Person is always ministering. Their life is a sermon. Their slightest conversation will leave its impact on the hearer. Sometimes, simply their presence will do this.
NOW, LET ME CONCLUDE with something the Lord spoke quietly to me one day as I was waiting to preach in the chapel of a mission in Buffalo, New York. I had arrived early. No one else was around. I sat on the back row and simply opened my Bible and started reading where it fell open. It was Mt 13.
I read along as Jesus told what the Kingdom is like unto. We’ll look carefully at this in some later articles. I came that day to verse 44. I read it and then spoke quietly to the Lord. He spoke back to me something that has remained with me to this day. It, too, was one of those casual conversations along the way that left its impact on me. Let’s read the verse, then I’ll tell you of my conversation with the Lord. Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like unto treasure hid in afield; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field—Mt 13:44.
I stopped reading and said simply, "Lord, I want to buy that field."
He spoke back, "It will cost everything you have."
This month's Prayer Starters will help us in Discovering the Rule of God's Kingdom Personally. Let the light and life of God’s Kingdom begin breaking forth in you.
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