When Jesus was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it (Luke 17:20-22).
How and when will the kingdom of God come? Jesus taught us to pray to God, saying, “You kingdom come.” There are probably millions of professing Christians who indeed pray according to the pattern of “The Lord’s Prayer”, for God’s kingdom to come, but who have virtually no idea as to how and when God’s kingdom will come.
“‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God” (Ezekiel 36:24-28).
It is vitally important to understand the sequence of prophetic events. For example, in the prophetic word quoted above, the Lord said that he would firstly gather the exiles of his people out from among the nations, from all the countries into which they had been scattered. Since 70 AD and the Roman siege of Jerusalem, the city was desolated, the temple destroyed and the Jewish people were scattered throughout the world.
Without understanding the correct sequence of prophetic events, literally millions and millions of professing Christians have been taught that God will gather the Jewish exiles from all the countries into which they had been scattered and bring them back to the Land of Israel. (Some teachers suggest that they will be gathered even as a secular, unbelieving people), and then God will reveal himself to them and put his Spirit in them and that the Messiah will then come to vindicate them and to establish the kingdom of God. This expectation is nothing but a huge delusion leading to a false hope and completely wrong expectations of the coming of the kingdom of God! This delusion arises out for the utter failure to correctly understand the sequence of the prophecy given through Ezekiel and the complete failure to appreciate its glorious fulfilment. One may ask, “How did so many Jews fail to recognise the time of God’s coming to them as their Anointed King and Redeemer?” But one may ask even more incredulously, “How have so many millions of professing Christians been deluded into a false expectation and erroneous understanding of the manner in which the kingdom of God will come?”
Before the prophecies of Ezekiel, Jeremiah had prophesied that the northern tribes of Israel would be taken into exile in Babylon in the time of King Nebuchadnezzar. The southern tribes of Israel had already been scattered on account of their unfaithfulness and this had been witnessed by the northern tribes as a stern warning lest they too become unfaithful to the Lord.
Jeremiah also warned the people about the false prophets and their idle promises which would appeal to the spirit of Zionist nationalism and pride. The many false prophets assured the people that within a few years God would gather the exiles and thoroughly break the oppressive yoke of King Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah warned the people that, as appealing as those prophecies were, they should not listen to them for the exile was scheduled to last for an entire lifetime, i.e. for a full period of seventy years.
Jeremiah was vindicated as a true prophet and indeed the Babylonian exile lasted for seventy years. Towards the end of the seventy year period of exile, Daniel began to pray very earnestly to the Lord, with the very real expectation that the restoration and gathering of the exiles was about to begin even in his lifetime – and which would usher in the kingdom of God being restored to Israel.
However, during Daniel’s earnest prayers, the angel Gabriel was sent to inform Daniel that, although the period of the seventy year exile in Babylon was indeed drawing to an end, there was a further period of seventy-times-seventy years before the coming of the Messiah, the son of King David. However, this further period of four-hundred-and-ninety years would not lead to despair, for King Cyrus would issue his decree for all the exiles to return to the Land and to begin the rebuilding of the temple and the walls of the city of Jerusalem which would give them a very real and sustainable hope and keep them well occupied until the coming of the Messiah, (the anointed one).
The first sequence of amazing prophecy of Ezekiel was indeed fulfilled. The exiles were gather, they returned to the Land, they rebuilt the temple and the city walls and they waited patiently, filled with hope until the coming of Jesus the Messiah. However, the Messiah was then cut off from the Land and many of the people’s hopes were dashed to pieces and the Roman oppression of the Jews still prevailed.
Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.
He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
“What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:13-21).
Since that time, Jesus, the King and Redeemer of Israel, is hidden in the invisible God’s presence. He has ascended to his highest throne in heaven, which is far higher than would be any king’s palace in the earthly city of Jerusalem. He does not reign over Israel and the nations in the forceful manner as the rulers of the nations do. Before he ascended into heaven, after he had been raised from the dead, he often appeared to his disciples over a period of forty days and on one occasion they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6).
What is your expectation of the coming of the kingdom of God? How will the Messiah-King reign over, or rather lead and govern, his people? How will the kingdom of God come? What was the disciples’ expectation of the coming for the kingdom of God when they asked Jesus about its restoration to Israel? Was it according to a correct understanding and implication of the sequence of events prophesied through the prophet Ezekiel?
According to Ezekiel’s prophecy, the Lord said that after he had gathered the exiles from out of all the nations, he would then put his Spirit in them to move the to obey him as King – and Saviour from the former sin and unfaithfulness to God.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws
“Our God reigns!” Our God reigns through his anointed and enthrone King, Jesus! He reigns by putting his Spirit in his people and by writing his Law, of love, upon their hearts.
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7).
Now, but not yet?
For more than twenty years of my life I devoted much of my time to persuading Jewish people to realise that according to the very prophecies, of the Word of God entrusted to them, Jesus is the Messiah, the Cornerstone whom their builders have rejected because of their own stubborn unbelief.
The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad (Psalm 118:22).
As you come to him, the living Stone —rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” And, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for (1 Peter 2:4-8).
What an irony that the Jews, who were entrusted with the very words of God spoken through the prophets, should be the ones who are renowned because their religion, post-temple Judaism, is predicated upon a rejecting of the very Cornerstone! A careful reading of the apostle Peter’s letter actually says that they were actually destined to reject Christ just as Joseph’s jealous brothers rejected him – and just as they rebelled and grumbled against Moses the whole time they were wandering to and fro in the wilderness.
What an irony that a people, who were formerly, not God’s chosen, covenant people, should embrace the Messiah-King and declare to that very stubborn people of Israel, “Your God reigns!” He reigns through his Anointed King Jesus whom you have rejected.
The people stood watching [watching Jesus suffering as he hung upon that cross], and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” There was a written notice above him, which read: “This is the king of the Jews”. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:35-39).
To this day they still sneer at him and mock and scoff. “You want us to believe that he is the Messiah, then why is the world still in such a mess. If he is the Messiah let him bring world peace. If he is the Messiah, let him establish the kingdom of God on earth in an obvious way and then we will believe in him!”, they still protest.
When Jesus was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”
God reigns in our midst. God reigns even in the time of the gentile rulers. God reigns even when the Jews have failed to recognise their King. God reigns by calling us to the obedience that comes through faithfulness if Christ. God reigns by putting his Spirit in us ad by creating us into the New Humanity – where there is no longer Jew, nor Greek, slave not free, male nor female (for we shall become like the angels), neither Scythian, Russian, American, black or white – the old has passed away, we are a new creation – a new humanity.
George Ladd wrote a book, firstly published under the title of “Jesus and the Kingdom” and then later as “The Presence of the Future: The Eschatology of Biblical Realism” which contends for the Kingdom of God as a present reality but with a future culination, i.e.now and not yet.
There are professing Christians who sympathise with the Jews and who protest that the kingdom of God is not yet a present reality, they say, “Just look around you and the sin and rebellion that continues!”
However, God is merciful and he does not immediately destroy the rebellion and for that, we should all give thanks and praise, for he has shown us such great mercy and grace!
There are “Christian Zionists”, (not obediently faithful to the truth of the kingdom of God and to Christ the King), who say that the Jews must first return to the Land, (even in site of their persistent rebellion against the King) – and that only when they eventually cease from their stubborn unbelief and finally say, “Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord”, will Jesus then appear from heaven and reveal himself as King-Messiah and begin to reign on earth from the presently divided city of Jerusalem.
Jesus once descended to this earthly realm and defied the deluding god of this age and was humiliated through his death on the cross, but he is now seated at the Right Hand of His Father in heaven – and he is coming in glorious splendour with the heavenly jerusalem and its inhabitants – not to save the rebellious but to destroy them in their rebellion!
Their eyes will not be opened to salvation just before he comes, but according to the apostle Paul, because they have once again failed to recognise the Messiah and stubbornly refused to bow their knee before him and acknowledge that he alone is King, they will be handed over to the delusion of the god of this age and gladly and willingly accept the false “messiah”. The apostle Paul also taught that the false “messiah”will be “anointed” with the power of Satan masquerading as God. Jesus is coming to save those who have remained faithful to him.
Those who sway in the balance of the kingdom of God being now – or perhaps, not yet, and who are more inclined to the “not yet”, will only concede to the “not yet”because their eyes are on the world, on the Jews, on “Israel”, on the earthly city of Jerusalem, on the Law of Moses, and whatever else is seen with the naked, unspiritual eye. But, evidently, their denial of the kingdom being now, is because it has not yet come as a living reality in their own hearts. They will become skeptics like Judas and once again betray Jesus to the Jews while professing to worship him. But only to their shame and disgrace!
Translated out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light – through the present work of the abiding Holy Spirit – now.
We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:9-14).
Entering the kingdom of God is through the obedience that comes from faithfulness to the King of kings.
The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment (Matthew 8:8-13).
Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short” (Revelation 12:7-12)