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The Kingdom

Frame of Reference

A person will approach a subject from a certain point of view. A Catholic may approach the bible looking for the references to Mary or the saints. A Charismatic may approach the bible looking for how to acquire supernatural gifts. One might think that studying the bible is simply learning facts. However, learning is like constructing a building, much of it depends on the foundation.

The establishment of the nation of Israel was for the ultimate objective of having a nation of priests.

Exo 19:5-6 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:  And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.

Jesus spoke frequently regarding the kingdom;

Luk 4:41-43 And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God. And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that he was Christ.  And when it was day, he departed and went into a desert place: and the people sought him, and came unto him, and stayed him, that he should not depart from them.  And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent.

Kingdom views

Most of reformed Christianity and Catholic Christianity have some view that Israel has been replaced by "the church". This leaves many trying to figure out how the words of Jesus can be applied to us today. Francis Chan once said that when he was younger he read about having even a little faith would allow him to move a mountain. He tried to move a pencil and was unable to. This left him to consider that he did not have enough faith or that Jesus was wrong. Even Charismatics have the difficulty of trying to manifest supernatural acts of healing, speaking other languages, or prophesying. 

Some Christians feel they need to transform society to make it godly and thus establish the kingdom. Oddly this can lead to both political liberalism and conservatism. This amillennial (without a millennial period) future was a little more popular before WWI. It still has support from Dominonists and Reconstructionists.

Some have taken a view that the kingdom is a metaphor for God ruling in our heart. This allows people to resolve biblical passages about the kingdom by using allegory and redefining references to the kingdom in terms of personal experiences. The use of allegorical interpretation is less a tool to arrive at understanding than a opiate to ease discomfort.

A more workable view

Jesus can be seen as offering the kingdom (along with a new covenant (testament)) to the nation of Israel.

Luk 22:20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.

Forty years later when Israel had still not accepted the kingdom offer, Jerusalem was destroyed. However, rather than seeing Israel replaced by the church, we can see a point in the future when Israel will be restored and receive the kingdom.

Rom 11:25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.

The prophesied time called the time of Jacob's trouble will come out of which a remnant of Israel will be saved which will accept the kingdom offer and from which Jesus will rule on earth 1,000 years.

Jer 30:7 Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.

Rev 20:4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

Isa 66:8 Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.

The consideration of a restored Israel changes the way we consider the mostly gentile church of today. Instead of a progressive sequential step in God's working with humanity, we see an interval of time where God extends grace to gentiles in spite of the failure of Israel to receive the promised kingdom 2,000 years ago. However, this period will not last.

Rom 11:11-12 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.  Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?

Applying a frame of reference based on a future physical kingdom for Israel.

When considering the difficulty Charismatics have in their pursuit of spiritual gifts, one can now see that supernatural powers that were experienced by the early church may have been just a foretaste of the future kingdom.

Heb 6:5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,

When considering the declarations of Jesus, one might see that he may be speaking in reference to a future time when the kingdom will be established.

Joh 14:13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

Mat 17:20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

Joh 14:12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

Where does this leave the church?

If the "ye" in "go ye into all the world" is intended for those of Israel in the Kingdom, then trying to make this mandate apply to ourselves could account for a lot of frustration and difficulty some experience in mission work. If sacraments and ordinances are attempted that more appropriately apply to Israel and the kingdom, then we have instituted traditions that misdirect our Christian life.

It is human nature to attempt to define what the requirements are so that we can derive comfort from the assurance we have in our performance. However, there can be a problem if we mistakenly think we are doing what we are supposed to especially if we are unaware that we are neglecting things of greater importance.

Mat 15:9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

Consider a church service that had a communion service, a sermon, and a time of singing. Prior to the service there was a Sunday School time where a presentation was given of a bible story. Between the Sunday School time and the Church service time there was a half hour for coffee and visiting. During this time the adults, starved for fellowship, visit with each other while their children run wild and even roughhouse. The elderly sit at the edge usually neglected. A visitor seeing an elderly woman (a church member for 30 years) sitting alone comes over and engages her in conversation. During the visit she is asked how she is doing financially. She admits that she is having some difficulties. The visitor is able to help a little and leaves.

In the example above, most would see a familiar description of a typical church service. All of the activity is performed in the usual scripted way. What stands out is not only the neglect of the elderly, but the impoverished relationships that cause the adults to cling to each other almost to the neglect of their children. Christians have come to settle for so little that a 30 year member of a church has difficulties that no one is aware of.

We as individuals may not be able to change organizational church systems, but we can operate outside of them to cultivate relationships and seek the deeper things of the Lord.