[written and published June ’15, edited Aug. ’17] Summary: This article is the discussion of an important biblical principle first established in God’s revelation in the book of Daniel – that God’s counsels are that He will eventually rule from the heavens over the earth and over all the kingdoms of men. Also we discuss the differences between the Father’s kingdom in the heavens and the Son of Man’s kingdom on the earth during the future millennium. This article contains material which is never discussed today in contemporary Christian circles, for the reason that we have lost our grasp on the importance of our relationship with God as our Father through Jesus Christ, and the privileges of that relationship. The true Christian can say with confidence that he is part of the Father’s kingdom and under the rule of God as his Father, and that this kingdom will be manifested in the heavens soon after the true church is removed by God from the earth. It is Jesus, the Son of Man, who will have a world-wide kingdom ruling over the earth, and all those who are inhabitants of the earth during the future millennium. He will be King of kings, Lord of lords on the earth. But the church are not inhabitants of the earth, and Jesus is not our King.
The kingdom of God is a broad reaching and generic term. It is used in scripture to portray a number of different and distinct ideas. It could mean the theocratic kingdom of Israel in the Old Testament, or similar but slightly different from this, it could refer to a future Messianic kingdom in Israel during the coming millennium. The title of Jesus as the Son of Man is distinct from His title of Messiah of Israel. Messiah refers to the son of David, King of Israel, and has as its distinct types both David and Solomon. The Son of Man title however, refers back to Adam – the Son of Man is the second Adam. The first man then is the distinct type of the second Adam – Jesus, the Son of Man (Rom. 5:14). Scripture tells us that the Son of Man will have a kingdom. It will encompass all creation. It will have a much wider scope of authority than the Messianic kingdom. In the Son of Man’s kingdom, Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. The type of this range was seen in Adam, the first man, being given dominion over all the work of God’s hands (Ps. 8).
All the above takes only from scripture what corresponds to earthly things – authentic outwardly manifested kingdoms that were or will be on the earth. The ‘kingdom of God’ term may easily apply to all three. But we also see the term used in referring to other things in scripture. For example, when Jesus delivered someone by casting out a demon, He said to them that the kingdom of God had come upon them (Matt. 12:28, Luke 11:20). Here we have the fact that God was present and He was working on behalf of that person, so that the rule and government of God was displayed. In a general way this also is the kingdom of God. The same statement could be applied to every individual that was miraculously healed of leprosy, blindness, etc. the poor that were fed, or the dead that were raised through Jesus’ ministry – the kingdom of God had come upon them through some type of manifestation of God’s power and government.
Allow me to show you another way in which the term is generically used. If our understanding of the ‘kingdom of God’ is only an earthly Messianic kingdom in Israel (this being the common mistake made), then we can see we’ve already missed other legitimate scriptural meanings of the phrase. If we think this way, we have greatly narrowed our focus and have essentially placed blinders on – all we see and can conceive of is a Jewish kingdom from Jewish prophecies. This essentially denies the place of the body of Christ as the mystery of God hidden from prophecy, or, at the very least, misappropriates any proper understanding or application of this mystery in the counsels of God. It is the same gross mistake made by Elva McClain in his book, “The Greatness of the Kingdom” – the requisite of his system is that everything Jesus and the disciples taught was exactly in line with what the Old Testament prophets declared.
Of course we understand that O. T. prophecy speaks of a Messianic kingdom for Israel. But it speaks of this as a kingdom of outward manifestation, one of power and glory, where evil and iniquity will be crushed on the earth, where a King will rule and reign in Zion through judgments of righteousness bringing in peace. It will be a time different on the earth from the present dispensation characterized by the profession of faith (true faith itself being part of the mysteries for it always involves that which is not seen) – a Messianic kingdom during the future millennium will be a time in which “every eye will see” (Rev. 1:7). Therefore a Messianic kingdom is all outward in manifestation, and physical, political, earthly, and one in which the whole world will see – not a kingdom in mystery or faith, which is by definition, “the evidence of things not seen.”
The mysteries of the kingdom of heaven (“the kingdom of heaven” is the label attached uniquely in Matthew’s gospel for the name of the Christian dispensation, which has the form of Christendom in the world), the mystery of God that is the church, the body of Christ, the mystery that God would allow this body to be hidden in the world, and the understanding that the profession of faith as well as the absence of the King on earth, are all parts of the mysteries not revealed previously in the Old Testament. We have to wait for the New Testament and the rejection of Jesus by Israel in order to see the kingdom of heaven as it first grows and develops on the earth – quite the conundrum. None of this is told in Old Testament prophecy, but can only be seen with the eye of faith by New Testament believers – Christians. True faith itself is part of the mystery – the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. The corresponding walk of faith by the Christian is mysterious as well. It is in the understanding of these mysteries as well as understanding the mysterious form the kingdom of God takes on at this present time which lead one to a sound understanding and explanation of two statements made by our Lord concerning the kingdom:
1.) John 18:36 – “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.”
2.) Luke 17:20-21 – “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”
Here we have another different use and application of the term ‘the kingdom of God.’ These statements simply make no sense when one tries to apply them to a Messianic kingdom in Israel and in the world – that type of kingdom which is clearly foretold in the prophecies of the Old Testament. A Messianic kingdom has the character of being of the world and in the world, and will completely change the world when it is outwardly manifested in observation to the world. There is no Old Testament prophecy that says otherwise – a Messianic kingdom in Israel would be readily observable by the world. Again, every eye will see it. And it will be a physical kingdom of this world.
For Jesus to say that His kingdom is not of this world would mean that He is not speaking of a Messianic kingdom as revealed in prophecy. But He certainly is referring to a present kingdom by saying, “My kingdom is…” Yet this is something especially different from a Messianic kingdom on the earth. Jesus is not of this world. His disciples are not of this world like Him (John 17:9-17). If His kingdom is not of this world, then it is not presently manifested outwardly on the earth. Therefore His servants would not be engaged in physical combat on His behalf as their King. Yet we find that this physical fighting and conflict with the world is associated with a Messianic kingdom in prophecy (Isa. 59:15-19; 63:1-6, Mal. 4:1-3).
It is painful to hear the strained explanations of those who attempt to reconcile the Lord’s statements above with Old Testament prophecy. McClain’s premise is proved wrong by these statements of our Lord. When Jesus was rejected by Israel, He teaches that one must be born again to see or even enter the kingdom of God. We enter by faith in the death and shed blood of Jesus Christ (John 3). But is this entering a kingdom that is of outward observation? Being born again is by the water and the Spirit, by the word of God and the sovereign operation of the Holy Spirit. Jesus teaches that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. If being born again was of the flesh it would be readily observable, as any physical birth is (John 3:6-8). Again He says, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” The world cannot see such a work by the Spirit of God. This is not entrance into a Messianic kingdom of prophecy or outward observation. Again after believing, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. Is this outwardly observable? Paul never thought it was (Rom. 8:10-11).
Heaven is not observable to the world, and in a great sense the kingdom of heaven is not observable to the world. Here we come to another mistake which McClain leads many others who follow him into making. In his efforts to deal with Matthew’s term “the kingdom of heaven” he takes us back to Daniel’s book and auspiciously attempts to prove the meaning of the term as simply the idea of an earthly kingdom with a heavenly flavor and character. This may be true as to the eventual effect in the millennium on the earth, but it denies the truth and reality of the phrase, as well as the source of the true power and dominion that exists. The kingdom of heaven is actually a kingdom in heaven. It cannot be otherwise. However, McClain follows a serpentine route of reasoning to prove that no such kingdom exists in heaven, nor is one referred to by the phrase. Yet this denies the simple use and understanding of words and language. The kingdom of heaven is actually a kingdom that exists in heaven – one having rule and power and influence.
The lesson taught in the book of Daniel is that the heavens should reign over the kingdoms of men (Dan. 4). Where is it that we find the kingdoms of men? It is on the earth. But Nebuchadnezzar was taught a specific lesson by a severe experience inflicted by God in his own life, that there existed a superior power to which the kingdoms of men on the earth should answer to – the heavens should be the source of, and characterize, God’s authority and power over the earth.
The kingdom of heaven is the kingdom of God, but is a more specific term or label that shows a greater detail and understanding of what the kingdom of God will ultimately look like. The kingdom of heaven is a less generic and more detailed expression of the developing form and character the kingdom of God is presently taking on. The term, the kingdom of heaven, expresses the thought and eventual reality of heavenly government over the earth – that is, government with heaven as its source.
This kingdom will gain control of the heavens first, and then it will make a short work upon the earth (the tribulation) in order to establish its rule and authority here. This present age is for the purpose of the first objective, and how God’s wisdom and patience presently develops it along the way. There is a heavenly body presently being gathered by the Holy Spirit sent down to the earth. The Spirit’s work is to baptize every individual believer into membership of the body of Christ (I Cor. 12:12-13). This body is brought into union with its glorified Head in heaven, sitting at the right hand of the majesty on high (Eph. 1:20-23). God’s purpose in His counsels for the church is to remove her from the earth when the gathering is complete. This body is destined to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus throughout the ages to come (Eph. 2:6-7).
This is the lesson the Most High impresses upon the Gentile rulers during this present age – during all ‘the times of the Gentiles.’ God makes the point to teach the lesson to the first Gentile king of this age, Nebuchadnezzar, the head of gold and the beast in the form of a lion. God makes Nebuchadnezzar crawl on the ground like a beast for seven years – this symbolically represents the Gentile world powers acting in their own will like animals for the complete (7) span of ‘the times of the Gentiles.’ Only at the end of this time, when all Gentile world power is destroyed, will they learn, as Nebuchadnezzar did, this lesson – that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses…after you come to know that the heavens rule (Dan. 4:25-26). When Nebuchadnezzar had learned the lesson and completed the seven years, he made these remarks:
Daniel 4:34-37 (NKJV)
“And 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 honored Him who lives forever:
For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
And His kingdom is from generation to generation.
35 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?”
36 At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my honor and splendor returned to me. My counselors and nobles resorted to me, I was restored to my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to me. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.”
Notice some of the things Nebuchadnezzar says that imply the existence of a kingdom located in heaven: “…I lifted my eyes to heaven…I blessed the Most High…He does according to His will in the army in heaven…no one can restrain His hand…the King of heaven…
The Jewish dispensation ended with the rejection by the Jews of their Messiah. Any possibility of a Messianic kingdom at that time was taken from them. The Baptist, Jesus, and His disciples preach that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The common mistake that bible commentators make is assuming this referred to the promised Messianic kingdom in Israel. But in doing this, one is soon forced into making all kinds of excuses why this never happen. However, this term refers to something entirely different. The kingdom of heaven was “at hand” because it was a kingdom that involved the unseen power and influence of heaven as well as certain “mysteries” as to its form and development. One mystery was that Israel would be set aside in order for the body of Christendom to form in the earth. This involved a transition period with one dispensation ending (the Jewish dispensation) and another taking its place (the Christian dispensation). Is this not what was soon to happen, in a matter of a few years of the beginning of Christ’s ministry? Was not the formation and growth of Christendom “at hand?”
Another mystery would be the Son of Man going away, back to heaven (Matt. 25:14, Luke 19:12, Acts 1:9-11). This event was “at hand” as well, for it would also take place within a few years. The kingdom of heaven could not be a reality until the Son of Man planted the wheat and went away, back to heaven. The present age is only the time of the development of this kingdom. It is seen presently as a spoiled crop in the field – meaning, Christendom in the world. The devil’s work may have entered in, and man’s poor work as well – wood, hay, and stubble. But the pure, sovereign work of God remains in the crop – nothing can stop the reality of God’s own work He alone does. The Holy Spirit forms and gathers the church, the wheat that the Son of Man planted.
When I say development of this kingdom what I mean is how it presently exists, its present form during this age, as revealed, consequent to the Son of Man going away. The kingdom in mystery is the greater part of its present form, and this will not change throughout the age (Matt. 13:11). This certainly isn’t the kingdom of heaven’s final and ultimate form. Mystery is only its present form – Christianity and Christendom existing in the world. It will not be long before God will bring about another sovereign work at the end of the age – things will dramatically change, both in the heavens and on the earth.
What is the present form? Christendom in the world. What does that look like? It is a spoiled crop of good and bad – wheat sovereignly planted by the Son of Man on God’s behalf, and tares planted by the devil (please read Matt. 13:24-43). The servants were sleeping when the enemy did this, which shows failure in human responsibility to take care of the crop. Christendom exists as a mixture of God’s work, Satan’s work, and man’s work until the end of the age. It exists as a “spoiled” crop in the world. The wheat are individuals – the sons of the kingdom. The tares are individuals as well – the sons of the wicked one. It may not be politically correct to say, but Christendom is a mixture of good and bad individuals. But this is what God says it is, and it is God’s testimony of it that is important to believe. Christendom’s corporate responsibility is in ruin.
What is of value in this crop? The only thing of value is the work that God does (Eph. 2:8-10). Most believers should know this – God plants the wheat, God preserves the wheat unharmed in the field, and towards the end of the age He removes the wheat from the world. The wheat is God’s sovereign work. This is God’s workmanship.
Another truth you must learn is that these parables are not about the nation of Israel. They are about the existence of Christendom in this age while Israel has been set aside by God. The field is the world. Israel, as a nation, is always part of the world. The parable of the wheat and tares does not deal directly with the field, only stating the location of the crop as being in the world. The field is the world, and the world is made up of the unbelieving Jews and Gentiles. The crop however, contains all that professes Jesus Christ, whether they have true faith or not, and therefore all that has responsibility before God for naming the name of Christ. But the nation of Israel does not have this profession. The crop in the field is not Israel.
There is a responsibility to be recognized. Just as Israel, as a nation, had a corporate responsibility representing the name of Jehovah (Ez. 36:17-21), so does Christendom have a corporate responsibility, all together, for the profession of the names of Jesus Christ and the Father. Israel failed in her responsibility (Matt. 21:33-44) and God set her aside. During this present dispensation God does not recognize Israel as His people, and He does not deal with them. But Christendom has failed her responsibility as well. Corporately, Christendom is in ruin. There are differences and divisions throughout; there isn’t one faith and one body, and certainly not a unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. This is God’s testimony, found in His word, concerning her. I have detailed all the scriptures that plainly state this testimony in my third book, The Corruption and Death of Christendom.
God will accomplish another sovereign work at the end of the age – He gathers the wheat into His barn, taking it out of the field (Matt. 13:30). The wheat is the church, the body of Christ. In the interpretation of the parable of the wheat and tares, the wheat are labeled the sons of the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 13:38). Elsewhere, in the practical teachings of the kingdom of heaven, they are called ‘sons of your Father in heaven.’ (Matt. 5:45). The field is the earth and world (Matt. 13:38). The barn is the Father’s house in the heavens where the Son of Man went away to, in order to prepare a place for us (John 14:1-3). He did not go away to any place in this world. The gathering of the wheat into the barn is the rapture of the church (I Thess. 4:13-18). This gathering takes place by resurrection or change – the glorifying of the believer/church (John 11:25-26). This experience is described in the epistles of Paul as the corruption of death putting on the incorruption of life (resurrection), the mortality of the first Adam putting on the immortality of the second Adam (change – I Cor. 15:40-54, II Cor. 5:1-5). It is by resurrection or change that God’s counsels concerning the believer are accomplished – we were predestined to be conformed into the image of His Son (Rom. 8:28-30). It is the rapture that initiates the fulfillment of our calling (Heb. 3:1, Eph. 1:18, 4:1) – to be in the presence of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ as holy and blameless sons in His love (Eph. 1:3-6). All these scripture passages are appropriately connected in this progression of thought, giving the strongest of impression to the believer as to what our true hope really is in Jesus Christ.
It is a wonderful thought that Jesus will Himself introduce us into the Father’s house. What an entrance that will be when He leads us in, the fruit of the travail of His own soul – those in Christ, in Him – and glorified according to His image and worth – and all His heavenly company there! This is our blessed hope and we wait for that day!
After the wheat is gathered out of the field and into the barn, and after the tares of Christendom are judged and burned as left in the world (Matt. 13:30), then the interpretation tells us the sons will shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father (Matt. 13:43). We clearly see there is such a thing as the Father’s kingdom. It is a kingdom that is distinct from the Son of Man’s kingdom on the earth (Matt. 13:41).
The Son of Man’s kingdom is in reality a kingdom of man. It is the last one of this kind in a line of world kingdoms of men that God has established on the earth. Only this kingdom will have the prefect Man, the glorified Son of Man, as its King of kings, and Lord of lords. He will make good, as the second Adam, all that was ruined by the first. He will remove and destroy all evil, and exert His dominion over all the earth. By God’s law He will make judgments in righteousness, bringing in peace and blessing. The curse on creation brought in by the sin of the first man will be lifted by Him. He will rule over Israel as their Messiah, and over every Gentile nation that remains. He will honor and represent on the earth the Most High God of heaven.
As the Melchizedek priest, Jesus represents the Most High God, the possessor of the heavens and earth. As a Man, and as a royal priest, He will be the conduit for the blessing and exalting of Israel after the defeat of all their enemies (Gen. 14:18-20). Restored in their land, the Jews will bless the Most High God through Him, even paying tithes so to speak. Israel will be the earthly glory of Jesus Christ during the millennium. The Gentile nations that survive the tribulation will either serve Israel or be destroyed (Isa. 60:10-14). He represents the great authority and power of another, although Jesus and the Father are one. He is distinct from the Father and the Spirit, and always is God the Son, member of the Godhead in absolute unity, but now is the expression of the fullness of the Godhead dwelling bodily in a Man. And this is how He was raised from the dead and exalted in the heavens to the right hand of God – as a Man now glorified. When He returns on behalf of Israel and becomes or functions as their Melchizedek priest, it is still as the glorified Son of Man. The kingdom on earth will be the mediatorial reign of this Man, mediating between the Most High God and Israel, and for that matter, the Gentile nations through Israel. It is mediation. He represents the Most High God, now possessor of the heavens and earth, and He represents Israel for blessing from the Most High.
But this does not speak of the church, its position and privilege, nor does it speak of heavenly things (John 3:12) or His heavenly glory (Eph. 1:10). And there is this thing called ‘the kingdom of our Father’ in which the righteous will shine as the sun (Matt. 13:43). But we cannot get at the reality and character of the Father’s kingdom without first understanding how and why Jesus did come into this world with the purpose of revealing the Father and the Father’s name. When this is spiritually understood we see this revelation as entirely Christian. It is not a Jewish thing, but rather a Christian thing. Not any more than Jesus was received by the Jews, is the Father received by them (John 5:36-40; 6:35-36; 8:19; 8:42-47; 8:54-55; 10:25-26; 15:20-25; 17:25-26). But the position and privilege of the disciples, concerning this revelation, was completely different from the unbelieving nation around them (Matt. 11:25-27, John 4:21-24; 5:19-26; 6:37-40; 6:44-48; 6:65; 10:27-29; 12:44-50; 14:6-11; 14:18-23; 16:25-28; 17:1-26). The revelation of the Father is an entirely Christian thing. The kingdom of our Father is entirely a Christian kingdom.
This will be the kingdom that exerts its rule and dominion from the heavens (Dan. 4:26). It is the kingdom in which the sons of God will reside (Gal. 3:26-28). They are known as the sons of the Father (Matt. 5:45). These are Christians, true Christians I might add – only the wheat taken out of the world, the sovereign work of God in its planting, and its preserving during this present age, and its rapture and entrance into the Father’s house. They shine as the sun shines in the heavens, in the Father’s kingdom (Matt. 13:43). All Christians are in this kingdom along with Jesus the Son of God. We are His brethren together in it (Heb. 2:10), and His God and Father is the King. We are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. Upon being raised from the dead Jesus declares this relationship which all believers share with Him:
John 20:17 (NKJV)
“Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’”
By the Holy Spirit Paul declares this same relationship in Ephesians one (1), only in greater detail – every spiritual blessing given to us in heavenly places because we are accepted as sons in and through the one Beloved Son:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.”
We have a heavenly calling. We have a heavenly citizenship. We will sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus through the ages to come (Eph. 2:6-7). God makes known by the church His manifold wisdom to the previous powers that reside in heavenly places – the church will be taken to the heavens to replace these heavenly powers (Eph. 3:10-11). The heavens will be the eternal residence of the glorified church. It is not the earth, not on the earth, or having residence or citizenship here, but always to rule over the earth from the heavens above. We are the tabernacle of His God and Father, and we are made priests and kings unto Him (Rev. 1:6). We will abide forever in the heavenly city of His God, the New Jerusalem (Rev. 3:12).
The kingdom of our Father is the kingdom in which all the sons of the Father reside. We are sons with Jesus, the Son of God, in His Father’s kingdom – altogether and enjoying that specific relationship of Father and son. We should be looking forward to intimate fellowship and communion with the Father and the Son, in the Father’s very presence as those privileged to be nearest to Him. We will forever enjoy the joys and rest of God, as being in His glory and dwelling with Him. Having been conformed into the image of God’s own Son we will be more than able to perfectly fulfill all responsibilities we are given as sons in our Father’s house.
Christians or the church are not subjects of the future Messianic kingdom on earth during the coming millennium. We have been made sons, and Jesus has ascended to His Father and our Father, His God and our God. When He was raised from the dead and appeared to Mary, He refused to be worshipped by her (John 20:17). Why? Because on the earth His character would be as King and Messiah for Israel. This is the character in which He will reign over the Jews and the Gentile world, and be worshipped on the earth as such. But this has no direct application to the believer/church. Scripture never speaks of Jesus as King over the believer/church. We are not reigned over by Jesus as in either title He holds towards the earth and world – Messiah or the Son of Man. Rather, we have been brought into the same relationship that Jesus has with God and the Father. We are sons with Him. We are joint-heirs of the Father with Him. We are His brethren. And this is the import of His statement and behavior after His resurrection.
Will we ever share Christ’s divine attributes? Certainly not! That is heresy and stupidity. But as a Man, Jesus is the first-born from the dead, the first-born among many brethren. It is what He did as a Man that should grab our attention. He suffered on the cross, bearing the wrath of God which was our judgment. He was made sin and also bore all our sins away as the scape-goat. He went down under death for us, so that we could say that we died with Christ. He was raised from the dead so that we could say that we are raised with Him and now have His resurrected life. In spirit and soul we have already been given the divine nature – this is being made morally like God, holy and blameless, the righteousness of God in Christ. By resurrection from the dead, He was declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness (Rom. 1:4). It is God’s eternal purpose to conform all Christians into the image of His resurrected Son (Rom. 8:29). This will be through the glorifying of our bodies – by resurrection or change (life swallowing up mortality). Without this we cannot be brought into the Father’s house. We have to be made completely perfect like His Son. And this perfection comes through resurrection or change (I Cor. 15:51-53).
All our connections with Jesus are with Him where He presently is – in the heavens and at the right hand of God. All our connections with Jesus are with Him as He presently is – as the Man raised from the dead and glorified, now exalted above all existing powers and names, crowned with glory and honor (Eph. 1:19-23, Heb. 2:9-11). We have no connection with a Messiah in the flesh as the Jews do. Therefore Paul tells us:
2 Corinthians 5:14-21 (NKJV)
“For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”
16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
As Christians we know Christ no longer according to the flesh. He has died and has been raised from the dead. He has been glorified. Therefore, because we are in Christ, we are new creations. It is not another creation of the flesh. It has no connection with anything of man. Old things have passed away or died – they no longer exist. All things are new – a new existence. Nothing of man’s doing – all things are of God. This is the believer. This is the true Christian. We are the new creation of God, of which Jesus was the first and the beginning.
We have borne the image of the earthly man Adam. We, Christians, will bear the image of the heavenly Man – Jesus Christ. Try to see and comprehend where Paul takes us in this passage:
1 Corinthians 15:40-49 (NKJV)
“There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory.
42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45 And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.”
Who are those that are heavenly, like unto the heavenly Man? They are believers. We will be given a celestial body, a spiritual body, a heavenly body. In another place Paul describes this as:
II Cor. 5:1-5
“…a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens…our habitation which is from heaven…to be further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.”
What would be the purpose for being given a heavenly body? Would it be to live on the earth or would it be to dwell in the heavens? Celestial bodies are for the heavens. Their glory is different and superior to that which is earthly. Their purpose is to shine out over the earth, bringing light and blessing to it. What should be the proper meaning of the phrase, “…a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens?” If we will bear the image of the heavenly Man, being conformed into His image, it is so we may go to where He has gone – into the heavens (John 8:19-24; 12:23-26; 13:36; 14:1-7). We will shine as the sun, the one Son, in the kingdom of our Father in the heavens.
There is a passage in Revelation that I believe speaks of the Father’s kingdom when it takes control of the heavens.
“And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, 8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. 9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
10 Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. 12 Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.”
Here we see the power and influence of the Father’s kingdom established in the heavens. It is some time after the rapture of the church, when we are in the heavens and in the Father’s house. War breaks out in heaven for the purpose of clearing the heavens of Satan and his angels. When he is cast down, those who celebrate with the loud voice in heaven are the church, the body of Christ. It is the heavens that rejoice and the church are those that dwell in them now. It is obvious that these events are yet future, for the rejoicing in heaven has not yet taken place. Therefore Satan has yet to be cast out and down, and, as the passage implies, a place in the heavens he still has. Yes, Jesus said He beheld Satan fall from heaven, but He had the ability to see prophetically this future event (Luke 10:18). The wheat has yet to be taken out of the field of the world and into the heavens. The Holy Spirit has not finished gathering the church on the earth, the patience and longsuffering of God meaning salvation for some. There is a biblical sequence to all these events.
It is in the words of those rejoicing in heaven that we find the understanding of the Father’s kingdom – it is all the “sons” of God in heaven, and the kingdom of heaven established as controlling the heavens, with only a short time remaining until it will exert its control over the earth. In the words of rejoicing we see the implied importance of the need for the heavens over the earth to be cleared of evil. “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.” It is because Satan is cast down to the earth that the kingdom of God has come to the heavens – the kingdom of heaven now in power and strength in the heavens. Until this event the kingdom of our Father did not have this final establishment. No longer being in the heavens, Satan cannot accuse the church. Cast down to the earth, his time is very short (Rev. 12:12) – the last 3 1/2 years of the tribulation. While there is no longer any power of evil in the heavens, this short time on the earth will bring about the greatest display of evil every known to man (Dan. 12:1). Being on the earth Satan must now turn his attention to that which is earthly – this is Israel, and the time is known as Jacob’s trouble.
This article is a fuller development of the meaning of the label, “the kingdom of heaven,” a phrase unique to the gospel of Matthew. In his gospel it is preached as “at hand” because it doesn’t exist until Jesus goes back to heaven, and the Holy Spirit was sent down on the day of Pentecost. Today, it exists in the world as the corporate structure of Christendom – all that professes faith in Jesus Christ. If I think about it, another possible reason for the Holy Spirit’s use of this specific term could be the simple fact that the true church, which has a heavenly calling and citizenship, when finally completed by the gathering in by the Spirit, will be taken to the heavens by the power of God – thus the “kingdom of heaven.”
II Timothy 4:18 (NKJV)
“And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!”