A King in Jerusalem
Few cities have such a chequered past as Jerusalem, or such a colourful one. There have been so many changes there.
Fortifications have been built, enlarged, demolished and rebuilt. Temples have come and gone, followed by churches and mosques, bringing enormous complications and religious sensitivities. Palaces have been built, enlarged, then utterly destroyed. And during all these changes ordinary people have continued to live there, building and rebuilding, as their housing needs required.
Now that ancient city is a thriving modern metropolis, occupied by both Jews and Palestinian Arabs, and there is keen rivalry to make it the capital city of either the Israeli or Palestinian State - if one is established - or of both! People on both sides are anxious to establish their prior claims to the city, making even the history of Jewish and Arab occupation a matter of contention. But, for Bible readers, there is a quite different reason why they want to know about the early days of Jerusalem, archaeology or politics apart.
The Bible record is second to none when it comes to historical detail, because the people who wrote it were inspired by God. This was not done to give the Jewish nation sound credentials for their 21st century claims; it was a record of God's dealings with a land that He has chosen to make the centre of His purpose. God could have chosen anywhere; but the Bible says that he chose Israel - because His purpose centred upon a man called Abraham
(see Deuteronomy 7:6-8).
"Give us a King"
God had chosen a people, given them a land, with a law and rulers to govern and direct them, and had chosen a place where he wanted to be worshipped by them. That place was Jerusalem - for hundreds of years occupied by the Jebusites, who lived there surrounded by the new settlers.
God was biding his time, waiting for the time when he would appoint a King, and begin the next phase of His gracious purpose. He was going to establish the Kingdom of God on earth - exercising Divine rulership through a man he would appoint to rule on his behalf.
The people of Israel couldn't wait. They wanted a king, but for all the wrong reasons, and God let them choose one, so that they could see that kings were only a good idea if you got the right one. ... King Saul - was certainly not good for the nation; ...
Forty years later God chose them a king who suited His purpose and, in King David, they saw what life could be like when a godly man took control and ruled for God. He was effective, sensible, powerful, fair, interested in his people, talented, an excellent warrior, a prudent man, and a born leader.
Things really went well for the nation and this was the moment when God made it known that Jerusalem was the place He wanted as the spiritual centre of the nation. So David captured it from the Jebusites, built a palace there, further fortified the site, and began preparations for a Temple to be built there.
God's Covenant Promises
Just as God had made promises to Abraham, as that faithful man proceeded through life, so now he gave David some vital promises, this time concerning Jerusalem, the dynasty of kings who would rule from there, and the great end he had in mind, which would find its perfect fulfilment at a time when a perfect man would rule in Jerusalem over a world-wide Kingdom that would last forever.
Those promises - later described as a Covenant that God made with King David - are easy to read and understand. They are not like human legislation, which is so full of "ifs and buts" that you can never quite understand what it is trying to achieve. You can study them by reading 2 Samuel 7, verses 1-17,
the key points being that:
Israel would dwell securely in God's land (7:10);
David's descendants would succeed to his throne in Jerusalem (v 12, 16);
One special descendant would build God a Temple there (v 13);
His kingdom would last forever (v 13);
He would be God's Son (v 14).
Just a glance at that is sufficient to show that although David's immediate successor - King Solomon - was able to do some of these things, including building God a magnificent Temple, he was far from being the perfect man God had in his sights, who would establish an everlasting Kingdom. Indeed, a careful look at the account shows that God had in mind that whilst none of this would start until after David's death, David would himself be there, with his future descendant (see 2 Samuel 7:12, [7:16]).
That shows that the final phase of God's purpose will only happen when faithful David has been raised from the unconscious sleep of death. This was something that New Testament writers clearly understood and taught (see Acts 2:25-31). Meanwhile the throne would be vacant.
We are still waiting for David to be raised from the dead, and he died some three thousand years ago. There was a lot that was due to happen in Jerusalem over the next few hundred years, not all of it good.
All told, there were 21 kings who succeeded David, in a dynasty that lasted nearly 400 years (from 970 BC to 586 BC). Some of them were good and able men; some extremely talented; some good soldiers and administrators; some were very spiritual men. Others were quite the opposite: selfish, foolish, godless, wasteful and evil.
At times Jerusalem, and the people of Judah, flourished and lived in harmony with God. At other times the nation was at war - often with the rest of Israel, immediately to the north; was overrun with idolatry; was subservient to one or other of the international powers then dominating the Middle East; or was generally in disarray.
God provided spiritual guidance by sending prophets, or by bringing pressure to bear upon His nation, in one way or another. The writer of the Sacred History described all this endeavour by God and Israel's lack of response, then adds:
"... until the wrath of Yahweh arose against his people, till there was no remedy"
(2 Chronicles 36:15,16).
It all came to an end in the days of a man called Zedekiah, who was king during a difficult period of international tension and pressure. He was himself an appointee of his Babylonian overlord, for Israel had become a subservient nation. Even so he staggered along as king for eleven years in all, during which time God supported him with one prophet - Jeremiah - in Jerusalem and other prophetic guidance from elsewhere.
But Zedekiah could not bring himself to put his trust entirely in God; he was a man much inclined to change his mind and to be influenced by his courtiers and nobles. At last the inevitable occurred. There was a rebellion against Babylon and that nation decided to make an example of Israel, to make sure all their other subject people learned their lesson. The Babylonians came and destroyed Jerusalem and deported all the people of Judah.
From exile in Babylon, the prophet Ezekiel sent this message to King Zedekiah - it declared the end of the kingdom of God on earth, but held out a promise of hope for the future, when a different King was available:
"Now to you, O profane, wicked prince of Israel, whose day has come, whose iniquity shall end, thus says the Lord Yahweh: 'Remove the turban, and take off the crown; nothing shall remain the same. Exalt the lowly, and abase the exalted. Overthrown, overthrown, I will make it overthrown! It shall be no longer, until he comes whose right it is, and I will give it to him' " (Ezekiel 21:25-27).
Whose Right is It?
One Day, Ezekiel promised, the Kingdom of God on earth would be restored. The fatal flaw had been the nature of the 23 kings who had reigned - including Saul and David. None of them had been capable of resisting the attractions and opportunities of office; they were all found wanting. But when a King appeared who demonstrated a different capability, and who was seen to be wholly the master of every situation, he would be the One to reintroduce God's Kingdom.
Long before Zedekiah, King David had spelled out the responsibility of Kingship in Jerusalem when he said this of his successor:
"Of all my sons (for Yahweh has given me many sons) he has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of Yahweh over Israel" (1 Chronicles 28:5).
So saying, David had shown that he realised that this throne was unique. It was not a humanly-arranged dynasty, when one family could get dominion over all others, and then share power and influence with friends and relations. The Kingdom was God's, and He was - and is - the One who would appoint the King. No wonder there was such excitement in Israel when - nearly two thousand years after David - an angel appeared to a simple village girl and said of the Son she was to bear that:
"He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end"
Here, at last, was the One who was to fulfil the covenant God had made with David. Here was the One, God was appointing to establish an everlasting Kingdom. For God's own Son - just as David had been promised - was about to be born of the virgin Mary. He was the One who would demonstrate, by the quality of his life, that he was qualified first to rule himself and then to rule over others, for God.
The Kingdom - When?
It is a tribute to the Lord Jesus that his contemporaries believed that he was indeed the One who would rule as King. And how they wanted a King! The nation had returned from exile in Babylon to start again as a nation, but they had always been in subservience to one Empire or another.
At the time Jesus lived on earth it was the Romans who were the ruling power and some of the Jews were desperate to throw them out and establish a Jewish nation. That desire would be their undoing, as things turned out. But you can see how anxious many people were to know when the Kingdom would be established from the question the disciples put to the risen Lord Jesus.
He had been with them, on and off, for nearly six weeks after his resurrection and, the record says, he had been instructing them about the Kingdom of God. This was, as we have seen, a major topic in Jesus' teaching plan. It concerned the importance of right living, for would-be citizens of that kingdom, as well as providing information about the things that were due to happen before Jesus returns as King. Their concern about timing - whether in their lifetime or not - expressed itself in this exchange, which is the last recorded conversation between Jesus and his closest followers. It gives us an insight into the message that was at the heart of what the apostles believed and later taught:
When they had come together, they asked him, saying, 'Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?' And he said to them, 'It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in his own authority' (Acts 1:6-7).
There was no doubt in their minds that Jesus was coming again to rule as King. Their question was "When?", and the answer Jesus gave was not a rebuke - that they were on the wrong track, or that they had quite misunderstood his message. It was that everything would happen according to God's timetable.
Meanwhile, they had to get on with their part of the arrangement, and share the good news of God's Coming Kingdom with all who wanted to know. The Kingdom would come, Jesus said, when the time was right.
The Kingdom of GOD by Dennis Palmer
God is The King
God Reigns Now!
There is a very real sense in which we are all under the rule of God already. The Lord God is King in the heavens and over all the earth. He created everything and His mighty power controls the Universe and sustains all life on earth. See what the book of Job says:
"Surely God will never do wickedly, nor will the Almighty pervert justice. Who gave him charge over the earth? Or who appointed him over the whole world?" (Job 34:12,13).
The Psalmist also sang the praises of this great King, in these words:
"Yahweh Most High is awesome; he is a great King over all the earth. He will subdue the peoples under us, and the nations under our feet. He will choose our inheritance for us, the excellence of Jacob whom he loves ... Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with understanding. God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne" (Psalm 47:2-8).
Notice that whilst the Psalmist was a Jew, and clearly believed that God was in total control of his personal and national destiny - and was looking forward to Israel's exalted position among the nations - he also believed that God has control of the destiny of all nations. ... Things do not just happen by accident; God has a grand plan.
God Rules over All
The Book of Daniel contains the crystal-clear statement that: "the Most High God rules in the kingdom of men, and appoints over it whomever he chooses" (5:21). What is most striking about this is the fact that Nebuchadnezzar, who was then King of Babylon (Ancient Iraq), and who was one of the earth's greatest kings at the time, came to that very conclusion himself. You can read of the events that led up to that in Daniel chapter four, but just consider the conclusion itself, as spoken by a Gentile ruler:
"At the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honoured him who lives forever: For his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; he does according to his will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth no one can restrain his hand or say to him, "What have you done?" (Daniel 4:34,35).
Other Kingly Tributes
Some time later the mighty Persian King Darius also had to come to the same conclusion. He was so overwhelmed that he issued an edict accordingly:
"To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you. I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom men must tremble and fear before the God of Daniel. For he is the living God, and steadfast forever; his kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall endure to the end. He delivers and rescues, and he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth" (Daniel 6:25-27).
These are striking testimonies because they are from heathen monarchs, some of whom had been considered to be like gods themselves. But they were recognizing that there only one true God - the God who rules over all.
The Return to earth of the Lord Jesus Christ
The long-awaited Christ will subdue all nations upon his return and will use his millennium [1000 years, Rev 20.4-6]
reign to bring the world into righteous subjection to him and God. He will finally remove sin and death from the earth that the glory of God shall fill the earth as the waters cover the seas. The Kingdom of God is due to subdue and entirely replace the kingdoms of men. ... The prospect of this Coming Kingdom gives us real hope for the future. There may be difficult days ahead, but God has a wonderful solution for all who want to be part of it.
God's Kingdom - In the Past
Beginnings in Egypt
Although the phrase "the kingdom of God" is not found in the Old Testament, that is where it begins. For, in Old Testament times, it was God's Kingdom that existed for a time in the land of Israel, and Jerusalem was its capital.
The story starts in Egypt with the descendants of Jacob. Jacob's family had gone down into Egypt as the result of famine in Canaan. Cared for by Joseph, who had been sold into Egypt, but who had been promoted to be the second ruler in the land, they increased and prospered.
The Egyptians became afraid that they had a nation growing within a nation. So they made them into slaves and set the immigrants to build new cities. It was hard labour for many years and, in their distress, they cried out for deliverance. When the time was right, God sent Moses to lead them out of bondage in Egypt and bring them back into the land of Canaan.
Because of their lack of faith in God this journey took 40 years; yet in all this time God cared for them. Reflecting on this, Moses sang a triumph song in which he called God their king - the name "Jeshurun" was Moses' way of referring to Israel (it means "upright", "happy" or "prosperous").
"Moses commanded a law for us, a heritage of the congregation of Jacob. And He was King in Jeshurun, when the leaders of the people were gathered, all the tribes of Israel together"
God was the King of this great nation. Under Joshua, He led them to the land of Canaan and settled them there. Through God's laws they learned how to behave towards Him and to each other. After Joshua's days, He gave them Judges - such as Gideon, Samson and Samuel - who ruled them over the years.
But, like many people today who do not know when they are well off, they began to grow restless. They wanted a King - one they could see; one that would go before them to fight their enemies.
Although God wonderfully provided for them, as various national needs arose, they wanted to be like all other nations. At the time Samuel the prophet was their judge and, although he was very sad at this request, Samuel took the problem to God.
Yahweh said to Samuel, "Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them" (1 Samuel 8:7).
They were indeed subjects of God their King. No one was as powerful as He. He could fight all their battles and defeat all their enemies, but they rejected the mighty God in favour of a tall man. So God gave them a King - Saul - and after him David and Solomon, and a line of kings who were descended from David.
Yet at all times, whoever was occupying David's throne in Jerusalem, God remained in control of Israel's destiny. Their kings were human, so they came and went over time, but the kingdom belonged to God. Look at what the Bible says about Solomon:
"Solomon sat on the throne of Yahweh as king instead of David his father, and prospered; and all Israel obeyed him"
(1 Chronicles 29:23).
The throne of the kings of Israel was really the throne of Yahweh. God was their king: the human kings reigned for Him.
The kingdom of Israel was in reality, the Kingdom of God.
For the faithful God was keeping His promises made long before to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
God's Purpose with Israel
When God chose Israel, He expected something in return. No man can see God; so, when He reveals Himself to men and women, He does it through agents, such as angels and prophets. God is perfect and He wants men and women to be as much like Him as possible - for their good and for His glory. His intention in working in and through the Israelites was that they would be the means of teaching other nations about Him, and the way he wanted all nations to conduct themselves. Thus, just before they entered the Land of Promise, God told Israel, through Moses:
"I have taught you statutes and judgments ... be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.' For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as Yahweh our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon him?" (Deuteronomy 4:5-7).
With good kings such as David reigning over them, the nation of Israel could have been a long-lasting testimony to the goodness of God and the gracious nature of His law. But, all too quickly, they drifted away from the paths of truth into idolatry. They did not worship the true God nor did they keep His righteous laws. They did not convert the nations; instead they copied the ways of other nations and worshipped their gods - of wood and stone. Their lives became corrupt and, because of that, God punished them. He wanted His kingdom to last but not in the way that Israel chose to live. He did not want - and would not tolerate - a kingdom that was corrupt and unrighteous, that represented Him.
The Kingdom Divided
Things happened quickly. Immediately after King Solomon's death, God divided the nation into two parts with kings over both. The ten northern tribes became known as "the Kingdom of Israel" and its throne was in Samaria. Its kings were not anointed by God or His prophets, but were all usurpers. Without exception, it was very idolatrous and, after about 200 years, God delivered them to the Assyrians who destroyed the nation, taking many of them captive into Nineveh.
The Kingdom of Israel then ceased to exist.
In the south, the throne of Yahweh over Israel continued for nearly another 150 years. All the kings were of David's line. Some were wicked, copying the idolatry of the north. Others - such as Hezekiah and Josiah - did their best to turn this Kingdom back to God and prophets warned them of coming judgment, unless they repented. The good kings had some success but the evil kings that followed turned them again to idolatry.
In the 11th year of the last king, a man called Zedekiah, God's final judgement overtook the Kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon - modern Iraq - besieged Jerusalem for many years before eventually capturing the city, burning the temple and destroying Jerusalem. The prophet Ezekiel made this important announcement to the king.
"Remove the turban, and take off the crown; nothing shall remain the same. Exalt the lowly, and abase the exalted. Overthrown, overthrown, I will make it overthrown! It shall be no longer, until he comes whose right it is, and I will give it to him" (Ezekiel 21:25-27).
Thus God caused the Kingdom of God in Israel to end. But He has preserved the throne until the man of His choice is able to sit upon it.
It was over 600 years before that king - "whose right it is" - was born. Yet when he came to Israel, Jesus of Nazareth was rejected as King by the Jews and crucified. In a public announcement just before his death, Jesus announced that the time to sit upon his throne had not yet come. He said to Pilate who interviewed him before delivering him to be crucified:
"My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence" (John 18:36).
He was not going to be king there and then. God had preparatory work for him to do - work that is of direct benefit to all those who want to inhabit God's kingdom. So God took him to heaven, until the time is right for him to return and take the throne of Yahweh over Israel and set up once again the kingdom of God.
The Coming King
Jesus is very special; there is nobody like him. He is both Son of God and Son of man; for he was born of the virgin Mary by the holy spirit power of God. It was foretold before his birth that he would sit upon King David's ancient throne, in Jerusalem. But he never did; instead his life ended by crucifixion, when he was only 33 years old.
To understand what was happening, we must appreciate that the Lord Jesus had two main things to do in God's purpose. It was foretold of the child to be born both that:
"He will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21) and that
"He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end"
Jesus was to be both Saviour and King; but his role as Saviour came first. It was required that he was to offer up his life in obedience to God's will before he could take the crown.
This is how John the Baptist described Jesus when he came to him to be baptised:
"Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29).
Jesus was ... tempted and tried in all points as we are (see Hebrews 2:18 and 4:15).
The crucial difference, however, is that Jesus never once sinned. That made it possible for him to take away the sin of the world, as John had predicted. Isaiah prophesied of this remarkable accomplishment in these words:
"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and Yahweh has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6).
And the apostle Peter says of the Lord Jesus:
"Who himself bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness - by whose stripes you were healed" (1 Peter 2:24)
... Because of this, those of us who are willing to follow his example, and be buried in water by baptism, can die "in Christ" in the sure hope of a resurrection from the dead at Christ's return.
This is how the apostle Paul explained what Jesus accomplished in his death:
"He it is whom God put forward as a Mercy-seat ... with a view to demonstrating, at the present time, His righteousness, that He may be shown to be righteous Himself, and the giver of righteousness to those who believe in Jesus"
(Romans 3:25,26 R.F. Weymouth Translation).
So Jesus ended his life on earth when he died, as a sacrifice for sins - dying for each of us so that we can become right with God, if we believe what Jesus taught and are baptised, as he was. But after his death, God raised His Son, and after his resurrection he ascended to heaven - where he is still - now waiting the time when he will return to earth to continue his work.
Biding His Time
Jesus was with the disciples for 40 days - nearly six weeks - before he went to his Father. It was during this time that the disciples thought that he would take the throne of Yahweh over Israel. They even asked him about his intentions:
"Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6).
But Jesus made it clear that there would be a gap before that happened, for he said:
"It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in his own authority. But you shall ... be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:7,8).
Jesus did not deny that the kingdom would come. The disciples were just wrong in their timing. First Jesus was going to his Father to prepare the kingdom. He was to sit at God's right hand until the time was right to return. The angels thus confirmed to the disciples that he would come again (see Acts 1:9-11).
We do not know the date of that return. But it has been revealed to us that there is a definite time in God's all-seeing plan. As the Apostle Paul said to the people of Athens:
"He (God) has appointed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising him from the dead" (Acts 17:31).
God has already appointed that day. I like to think that if God had a calendar, a certain date would have a ring around it. That is the day when Jesus will return - God knows it, but we have to wait patiently for it. As the Lord Jesus said: "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming" (Matthew 25:13).
Saviour then King
So Jesus came the first time to be a Saviour and not a King. To the question asked by the Roman governor Pilate "Art thou a King?" Jesus answered:
"You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was bom, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth" (John 18:37).
But, as he had already explained to the governor:
"My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now my kingdom is not from here" (18:36).
What Jesus was saying was that his kingdom did not belong to the order of | things at that present time. Those were still the days of "the kingdom of men" (Daniel 4:17). The kingdom over which Jesus will reign was not from earth but from heaven. When it is set up ... it will crush the kingdom of men and replace it entirely with the Kingdom of God.
What About Us?
When the disciples asked Jesus what they would receive because they had left all and followed him, he promised them a special part in this kingdom. This is what he said:
"I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as my Father bestowed one upon me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Luke 22:29,30).
Here is a wonderful bit of news for us. Jesus said something similar for those of us who have chosen to follow him. Consider these promises made to believers in all ages:
"He who overcomes, and keeps my works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations - He shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the potter's vessels shall be broken to pieces - as I also have received from my Father"
"To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with me on my throne, as I also overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne" (3:21).
To be ruler in God's kingdom with the Lord Jesus Christ will be a very important and responsible job. We should not think of it in terms of present day rulers who are mortal and who make their own laws. To share rule with the Lord Jesus will be to teach the laws of God and exercise the power of God in immortal bodies.
The sole aim of this kingdom is to bring this world to know God and His law. For, in the end, God will take direct charge of His earth - free from all the sin, death and defilement that now pervades it. The crucial thing for us is to know what God requires of us, so that we can be there with the Lord Jesus, to share in the next phase of God's gracious purpose.
Made Immortal with the King
Nobody Knows When
Although there are positive indications that the return of Jesus is near, nobody knows exactly when Jesus will come ... It is going to take everyone by surprise, which is why Jesus said we must be on the alert, watching and praying.
As we do not know precisely when it will take place, we have no guarantee of being alive when Jesus comes. Even so, there is a sure way of being in Christ’s Kingdom and also of enjoying eternal life there. For there are some about whom Scripture says that they will live and reign with the Lord Jesus:
"They sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth’ " (Revelation 5:9,10).
How To Qualify
The Bible tells us how we can be among that number of the redeemed. There are two requirements that God specifies if we would enter God’s Kingdom:
We must obey God, repent of our sinful ways, and, as an act of faith, be baptised into the saving name of
the Lord Jesus for the remission of our sins.
While we live we have to continue in well-doing, developing in our lives the life of Christ.
Both of these qualifications are essential. The first because we have to accept God’s judgement about the sinfulness of our nature ... from Adam. In symbol, we put that nature to death when we are "buried with Christ" in the waters of baptism. The second because, in God’s kingdom, we will be teaching the mortal inhabitants about the principles of righteousness. We cannot do this unless we practice living righteously in this life.
The King’s Manifesto
Many politicians, wanting to get support, spell out in advance what they will do if they are appointed to office. They paint a picture of the sort of life they will arrange, though it has to be said they usually find it hard to live up to those promises once they find themselves dealing with all the complexities of modern life. Promises are one thing; delivering them is another! But if you read the King’s Manifesto, contained in Matthew chapters 5-7, or the shorter version in Luke chapter 6, you will note that what Jesus promises is linked to what we should be doing and experiencing now.
Here’s an extract from Luke’s account:
"Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets" (Luke 6:20-23).
From Poverty to True Riches
Some readers may think that they are living that sort of life already – because they are poor, or hungry. But Jesus was not talking about natural hunger or poverty, nor about natural laughter. He was speaking in spiritual terms about those who are poor in terms of pride and self-sufficiency; who are hungry and thirsty for the Word of God; who moan when they see evil abounding in the world. These will be the future citizens of the Kingdom of God.
The development of such a character can only come by applying the Word of God in our lives now. We will not be able to stand before the judgement seat of Christ and change our minds then. Jesus needs a very special kind of people to help him to rule the world, because of the work that he then has to do. He is to subdue the world and make it responsive to the will and purpose of God – no easy task!
The apostle Paul put it like this:
"He must reign till he has put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death … Now when all things are made subject to him, then the Son himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under him, that God may be all in all" (1 Corinthians 15:25-28).
From these verses it is clear that the Lord Jesus will be King on earth ... [when] everything is restored, as it was in Eden before the fall of Adam and Eve. He will then hand this perfect Kingdom back to God. He is finally to conquer death itself, that is – to rid the world of it.
Now sin came into the world because of man. Sin lives on in man and sin brings death. It follows that death cannot be removed until sin is removed first. ... Therefore, no one who is an unforgiven sinner can teach men and women to become righteous. That is why the Lord Jesus requires righteous people in his kingdom, to help him in the work. The word righteousness means "absolute purity of life".
We cannot earn righteousness. It cannot be attained by our own efforts; God alone can confer it upon us. To meet with God’s approval our sins have to be covered by righteousness, just as the coats of skin that God made for them covered the nakedness of Adam and Eve. Only God can give us this righteousness and it comes by faith in Him and through the work of the Lamb of God – the Lord Jesus. God covers our sins with the righteousness of the Lord Jesus at our baptism. At that time we stand before Him guiltless, as He then forgives all our past sins.
This is not the end of the matter however, because we have to strive to continue to live in that state, as the apostle Paul explained, God – "will render to each one according to his deeds: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honour, and immortality; but to those who are selfseeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness - indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish…" (Romans 2:6-9).
There can be no doubt now about what we all have to do to be in God’s kingdom. God asks that we believe in the Lord Jesus and are baptised into his name. He also requires that we live lives acceptable to him, as taught in the Bible. There will be a multitude of people in the day when Jesus comes, from all ages – time present and time past; from all languages, nations, tribes and people, who will be present as God’s immortal ones, to live and reign with His Son,
the Lord Jesus Christ.
The apostle John ... concluded his portrait of the Coming Age with a beatitude of his own:
"Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years" (Revelation 20:6).
What a blessing it will be indeed, to be part of that immortal community who will be raised at the Coming of Jesus, or to be among those still alive, who will be changed into the glorious state of everlasting life.