Jul-Aug, Year of Our Lord, 1999
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
2 Corinthians 3:17
The other day, Henry sent an E-mail saying, "Your views concerning Christ's Kingdom are in error." Then he explained that Satan is controlling the world system for this age. When Christ returns, He will set up His Kingdom and true peace will reign. "We are not there yet, Paul."
Like Henry, most of us have been lied to about the status of the Kingdom of Heaven. We have been told that the Kingdom of Heaven is a fantasy of the future, in the "sweet by and by."
Meanwhile, unscrupulous men are enslaving us to the world system. This slavery is a cold, grim reality for almost everyone. Who can take much thought about some future Kingdom when the present burdens of this world press so heavily upon us?
The unscrupulous villains who are shutting men out of the Kingdom are the same ones who rejected the counsel of God in Jesus' day (Luke 7:30).
Woe to you scribes and Pharisees! For two thousand years you've barred the Kingdom of Heaven from the lambs of God. All that has changed is your name. Oh yes, now we call you attorneys and ministers. But your job is the same. You parade around in robes of light, deceiving the people and being deceived (2 Timothy 3:13).
You preachers bar the doors of Heaven by postponing the Kingdom. Meanwhile, you lawyers stack up law upon law to force men to worship and pay homage to your beastly system.
What are we to do? The path before us is strewn with half-truths and deceptions. The Kingdom of Heaven is the crucial starting point in this race for the incorruptible crown. Jesus tells us that the number one priority in our lives is to seek the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 6:33).
The term "Kingdom of Heaven" or "Kingdom of God" is mentioned over 100 times in the New Testament alone. Yet most clergymen today don't even talk about the Kingdom, much less understand it. They dismiss it by saying we are in the "Church age." We must wait for Christ to return and set up His Kingdom.
Uh-Oh! Someone is trying to detour us. Whether they realize it or not, pointing us toward a future kingdom leads us off the narrow path and out for a snooze. As we slumber, we forget about pursuing our number one priority.
If these religious soothsayers don't lull us to sleep, there are other pitfalls. As you walk along the highway, you'll see poor, struggling souls in the ditch. They all have one thing in common. They think the "experts in the law" have the answers to their problems. How wrong they are!
While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.
2 Peter 2:19
This special issue examines the words of Jesus and the acts of His countrymen. They prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Christ's Kingdom is here today.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Don't take the detours. Stay on that strait and narrow path and prove all things. Race for that incorruptible crown. Though the way be lonely and painful, the rewards are great. You are receiving a Kingdom that cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:28). It's not just for the hereafter, but for today, tomorrow and forever.
Paul Revere, Pastor
No! We're not talking about some paradise after the graveyard. The Kingdom of Heaven is not a place or location. It is not some place we run to. We can't drive there. It is something spiritual.
The Kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21). It is God's government ruling your heart and mind.
Inside you is a law that governs your actions. Either you are governed by Satan or you are governed by Christ. Who has laid claim on you here and now? Who owns you? Whom do you fear? Whom do you obey?
If you haven't found the Kingdom of God here and now, you will never find it in the hereafter.
What is the current status of the Kingdom of Heaven? Why isn't anyone talking about it?
Apparently many religions today think that Jesus failed. He lost the race. His mission was aborted because the Jews did not receive Him. They rejected Him so He withdrew His Kingdom. They say He took it away.
But someday, many long days from now, Christ will come back and perform what He failed to do when He walked the earth. But does this make any sense? Is this truly what the Bible teaches?
Let's examine the scriptures to see if this "Kingdom of Heaven" truly exists. Did it really happen? Is there a series of events that took place that proves the Kingdom is actually here?
Throughout the gospels, there are many instances of Jesus speaking in parables to describe the nature and character of His Kingdom. Eventually Jesus quits talking in parables and speaks plainly.
At the Last Supper just prior to His crucifixion, Jesus speaks candidly. He is talking to a particular group of people - the ones who have stood with Him during His temptations. Jesus is about to die. He is handing over His Kingdom to the disciples. His words to the apostles form His Last Will and Testament.
At Luke 22:24, we find His faithful ones arguing about who is going to be the greatest in this new government. Who is going to be the top dog? Who is going to have the most power and influence?
"Hey, I'm better than you are."
"No, I'm the most qualified."
Jesus interrupts their quarreling and says, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship . . . and they that exercise authority . . . are called benefactors." (verse 25)
Jesus is talking about the governments of the world where men with the most power dominate other men. And the oppressed ones think their overlords are benefactors and protectors.
"But ye shall not be so."
Jesus has new plans for His government. Men will not be lording over other men. Those who desire the top seats in His government are to be like those who serve:
But he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth. Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations.
"And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel."
Earlier, Jesus had given the keys of the Kingdom to Peter (Matthew 16:19) and now He is formally handing over the Kingdom itself to the apostles. Now they have both the keys and the "house."
It seems clear when these passages are read that Jesus has delegated His Father's Kingdom to His faithful apostles. But then along come the theologians that want to cut up and dissect the plain word of God.
The theologians argue, "Jesus wasn't making that claim. The Kingdom is still coming - sometime in the future."
Before we look at the passage the "dissectors of God" use to say the Kingdom is some future state, let's see what passages substantiate the handing over of the Kingdom.
Let's go back a little in Luke. At Chapter 22, verse 14, Jesus is sitting down at the Last Supper with the twelve apostles and He is saying unto them, "With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer. For I say unto you, I will not anymore eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come" (verses 14-18).
Here Jesus states that the Kingdom is coming and that certain events will take place when the Kingdom has arrived. Jesus says he will not eat or drink anymore until the Kingdom comes. Now let's search the scriptures to see if Jesus ever does eat or drink again with the apostles.
Go to Acts, Chapter 10, verses 39-41. We are going to be looking at a "flashback." In these verses the apostles are talking about an earlier event, after Jesus rose from the dead, but before He ascended into the clouds. Peter says:
And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.
Here we see Jesus' prediction at the Last Supper being fulfilled. Jesus said that the kingdom will come when He eats and drinks again with His apostles (Luke 22:16,18). Now at Acts Chapter 10, the apostles are bearing witness that they did eat and drink with Jesus.
From these events, it is clear that Jesus conferred the Kingdom upon the apostles and that they bore witness that the Kingdom truly arrived.
Let's look again at what Jesus was actually doing. The first event is Jesus telling the apostles at the Last Supper, "The Kingdom is right around the corner. I'm going to go die, and after I am raised up, the Kingdom will be fulfilled. Today I'm eating this Last Supper with you. When I eat and drink with you again, the Kingdom will be fulfilled" (Luke 22:16,18).
Then Christ explains the character of His government and bestows His Father's Kingdom upon them (Luke 22:29). Finally, the apostles testify that they did indeed eat and drink with Jesus after He rose from the dead. This event fulfills Christ's prediction that when He eats and drinks again it will be when the kingdom of God is fulfilled (Acts 10:39-41).
This is the Good News. The evidence is in. These are not parables. This is clear speech. The Kingdom is here. We have that same Kingdom and it is everlasting. If it happened 2,000 years ago, it has to be here now, too. It has never vanished.
I can totally wipe out your theory on the Kingdom of Heaven." Someone was waving a scripture in my face. "Look, this proves the Kingdom has not arrived yet."
"Hang on. This is something we'll need to examine." Let's go to that controversial passage at Acts, Chapter 1.
Verses 1 through 3 say that Jesus showed himself alive after his passion by many indisputable proofs. He was seen of the apostles for forty days, while speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. During these forty days, Jesus also ate and drank with the apostles as Peter stated in Acts 10:39-41.
But then comes verse 6. This is the verse that is supposed to prove that the Kingdom of Heaven is in the future.
The apostles come together with Jesus and ask, "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom of Israel?"
How is Jesus going to respond? Is He going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?
Verse 7 says, "And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."
Many Bible commentaries use this verse to point to a "future kingdom" and do not acknowledge that it is a current and present reality. But did you hear Christ say anything about the Kingdom of Heaven not being here yet? I don't see where He denies that the Kingdom has arrived. What He does say is that "it is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in his own power."
This is a generic statement. Basically, the Father is going to do whatever He is going to do. Christ is reigning until he has put all enemies under His feet (1 Corinthians 15:25). It is God's business when these things are going to take place.
Then He gives the apostles their job: "You are going to receive power. When the Holy Ghost comes upon you, you shall be witnesses unto Me, not just in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and in Samaria, but unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
Another way to look at these verses is that the apostles are Israel. The nation of Israel is made up of those who have the faith of Abraham. The apostles are the beginning. They are in the Kingdom. It has arrived. And the question they are asking is, "When is the whole nation of Israel going to be complete?"
And Jesus says, "That is not for you to determine. You've got a job to do. You're already in the Kingdom. You get going preaching the Good News. When you reach the ends of the earth, the Kingdom is going to be established. 'Israel' or the 'nation of God' is going to be in place."
It is similar to someone asking us, "You guys from the Embassy of Heaven are getting a pretty bad beating for preaching the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven. When is America going to be restored?"
We tell him, "That is not for us to know. Only the Father knows. But right now we have a job to do. There are people that need to hear the Truth. Go out there and start preaching."
Let's say we have a desert that is all sand. Somehow we figure out a way to take a tree and plant it in the sand. We get one tree planted and it starts growing. Then we put another tree in, then a third tree. Soon we've planted a hundred trees. Then someone comes along and asks, "When is this desert going to be converted into a forest?"
All we can say is, "That is the Father's business, but we've got work to do."
We just keep planting those trees. And in the Father's time, He empowers the whole place to be a forest of trees. Then the job is finished and the desert is now a forest.
Isn't that what is happening at Acts 1:8? The apostles were asking the question, "When are we going to be finished? When is this whole place going to be converted over to God?" But the answer is in the Lord's hands and is not for us to know.
Right now the Kingdom is small, but it is growing. It is like the tiny mustard seed which is the least of all seeds. But when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in its branches (Matthew 13:31, 32). Jesus is saying to His disciples, "You are going to be endowed with power. You have to start somewhere. You are the Kingdom of Heaven. It is your business. Get going men. Fill the whole earth with the Kingdom of Heaven."
The other day Lydia was surprised to see a wolf putting on sheep's clothing . . . Lydia was sitting in an attorney's office, looking for Godly counsel for her upcoming court date. The attorney sat behind his huge desk and grinned, "Yes, I, too, am a Christian," he said. Lydia almost fell off her chair. Here sat a man whose office required him to file lawsuits, swear oaths and seek vengeance. Yet he claims to be a follower of Christ!
Lydia decided to give him a religious test. She pulled out a form for him to sign that declared, "I am a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven and I give my allegiance to Jesus Christ. I renounce all allegiance and fidelity to every foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty whatsoever and to the world itself."
This attorney, who had already sworn loyalty oaths to support the state and federal laws, had no qualms about signing this declaration. He proved himself to be a deceiver, for no man can serve two masters. All he was doing was putting on a sheep's coat to gain Lydia's trust. He was not truly renouncing the world or he would have to quit his job. He was not Godly counsel. He was a liar, a liar from the beginning.
Today men are withholding the Kingdom because they want to rule over you. They don't want you to have the Godly counsel of the Holy Spirit. They want their experts - lawyers, pastors, bureaucrats, to show you the way. These people are shutting up the Kingdom while they devour widows' houses, make a pretense with long prayer, and train up converts that are twice the child of hell as themselves (Matthew 23:13-15).
Jesus tells a parable against these Wicked Husbandmen who try to lock up the Kingdom. A householder plants a vineyard, digs a winepress and builds a tower. Then he rents out the land to husbandmen and goes away to a distant country.
When harvest time is near, he sends his servants to the husbandmen to receive the fruit. But the husbandmen beat one servant, kill another, and stone a third.
Finally, the householder sends his son saying, "They will reverence my son." But when the husbandmen see the son they say among themselves, "This is the heir, come, let us kill him and let us seize on his inheritance."
Then they catch him and throw him out of the vineyard and slay him. When the lord of the vineyard comes, what will he do unto those husbandmen? He will miserably destroy those wicked men and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.
Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people, "Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
"And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet" (Matthew 21:33-46).
This parable shows that the Kingdom was going to be taken away from the chief priests and Pharisees because they rejected God's Son. And that's what happened.
Apostle Peter makes a full parallel to the parable of the Wicked Husbandman. During Peter's generation the Kingdom of God was taken from the Wicked Husbandman. A new, holy nation was born with Christ as King.
Peter declares that those who believe on the Son will not be confused. But to the disobedient who reject Christ as the chief cornerstone, He will be a stumbling stone and a rock of offense:
Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner. And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.
1 Peter 2:6-8
At verse 9, Peter is convincing the people that the Kingdom has come to this generation. "We have a new government. It's in place now," says Peter:
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: Which in times past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
1 Peter 2:9
Christ did not "take back" His Kingdom as some say. When Jesus stood before Pilate, He said His purpose was to be a King and bring His Kingdom:
Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayeth that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone that is of the truth heareth my voice.
Christ finished His work on the cross. That is what Pilate's role was - to make sure Jesus got His ticket to the cross. Pilate thought he was doing his own work, but no, God had plans for Pilate. Pilate sent Christ to the cross where He finished His work and the Kingdom came (Acts 2:23).
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished! and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
What else could He say? His work was finished. He birthed a nation.
And what were the Apostles doing? What is the whole book of Acts about? Here are people, forming a Holy Nation, proclaiming Christ's Kingdom.
Acts 2:36 says: "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both LORD and Christ."
He's our KING. He's our Lord! For all who believe, we live in the Kingdom of Heaven now. Jesus is that Stone that the builders rejected. Now that Stone is the head of the cornerstone. "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:11, 12).
Since we have received a government that is everlasting and cannot be broken, then let us repent and be baptized and enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The apostles entered the Kingdom of Heaven in its infancy. Now let us enter the Kingdom of Heaven upon their shoulders.
By Brooke Celeste Revere
"Would you like these taken out to your car?" the supermarket clerk offered, smiling.
No thanks," I grinned, catching up the two plastic bags of groceries and swinging them into the shopping cart. She tossed me a polite smile and turned to another customer before I could explain that I was on a bicycle and the few items I had purchased would soon be stuffed into my backpack.
My humble bicycle was the only one at the rack. Its dusty frame and smooth tires showed the wear and tear of many memorable journeys.
As I whipped out of town in 9th gear, I braced myself for the steep hill that rose before me. The five miles into town weren't too bad, it was all downhill. But the return trip was more challenging.
Gearing down, I attacked the hill with vigor. This time I would make it to the top without stopping to rest. However, it didn't take long before I slowed to a snail's pace. As peddling became more strenuous, I remembered the day I learned how to ride a bicycle. . . .
Every summer I begged my Dad to teach me how to ride a bike. He would oil up his 3-speed Motobecane bicycle and test my legs on it.
"Nope! You're not tall enough," he'd say.
Then, one day, when I was nine years old, my legs actually touched the peddles. I learned the basics easily, and soon I was chasing my sister's tricycle up and down our gravel driveway.
By the end of the summer, we had the whole lane mapped out like a city. There was Main Street and Daisy Lane, Cook's Mud Pie Cafe, the Gas Station ( a water spigot and a length of hose), the Park and the Flower Shop.
Though with practice I was able to maneuver about with ease, I didn't understand all the functions of the complicated bicycle. One mystery that baffled me was the gearing. I discovered that peddling in first gear was easy, but second and third were annoyingly tough. I concluded that this was some grown-up mystery, one of those things that sets children apart from adults.
Grownups were always doing things like that. They would make things difficult for themselves and say, "you'll understand when you grow up."
How carefree those days had been! Now I laughed as I struggled up the hill. What had once been a "grown-up mystery" was now a necessity. Without my twelve gears, these hills would have been impossible.
As I reached the top of the hill, I gasped for breath and glanced back at the little town behind me. A surge of pain whipped through me before I could hold it back. Those were the people who had supported the attack on my church two and a half years earlier. This was the community that had turned their back while the church buildings burned and the beautiful retreat grounds were clear-cut and bulldozed.
Reluctantly I realized that I still needed to forgive, that this pain in my heart needed to become love. What better opportunity to love my enemies?
I turned my back and peddled away. I didn't want to acknowledge this. Why did God want us to forgive our enemies anyway? Does He really know what He's doing, or is He just trying to make life hard for us?
Suddenly I realized how ridiculous I was being. Of course He knew what He was doing, just as grownups know how to use gears. When first learning, it seems useless, even cumbersome. But with time and experience, you realize how essential it is.
"I forgive them," I whispered as the town of Stayton grew smaller and smaller behind me. "It has been, and will be, an uphill battle, but I forgive them."
Before I knew it, I was rounding the corner and the end of my journey came into sight. The neighbor's dogs came out to chase me, and I had new distractions to think about. My excursion to Stayton had come to an end.
In 16th Century Europe there arose a group of people who acknowledged no authority but God's. They were hunted like outlaws by both Protestants and Catholics. They were forced to meet in caves and forest glens. Many were burned at the stake or drowned. Their persecution lasted for over 200 years until they were nearly annihilated.
These people separated from the governments of the world and imitated Christ in everything. They refused the State's protection saying, "If we accept a prince's sword, we accept his authority. Christ is our only authority."
They were a Church standing alone, without prince, sword, or money to protect them. "We have only one Lord, Christ Jesus, and that is all we need," they said.
This peculiar people first alarmed local officials by baptizing adults and refusing to baptize infants. This gave them the name of Radicals or Anabaptists. At that time, infant baptism was viewed as a mark of citizenship. Baptizing newborns was the system's way to register and track its citizens. Baptism was the equivalent of a birth certificate today.
Anabaptists committed ultimate treason by being baptized as adults. By being baptized again, they were renouncing their former citizenship. Adult baptism symbolized their breaking away from the old system and their joining with God's kingdom.
Ever since Constantine, Church and State have been intertwined. Even the early Protestant movements sought the protection of their princes. But the Anabaptists refused such ties with the State and offered the world a new vision of Christ's Kingdom, separated from the world.
"We must stand apart from the rest of the world. Anyone who joins Christ's kingdom must separate from the world. It takes only one bad thread to ruin the whole fabric. If we allow the fabric of this world to be woven into Christ's Church, then the Church is corrupted," they said.
As these Radicals first began coming out of the corrupt Roman Catholic system, they could not concur on what they believed. Finally, at a secret meeting they agreed on these four articles:
The movie, The Radicals, tells the exhilarating yet painful story of Michael and Margaretha Sattler at the beginning of the Anabaptist movement. This full-length drama was shown in theaters around the world. The sixteenth century world was not ready for their message, and the Anabaptists were not prepared to compromise. Highly recommended color video.
100 minutes - 24.00 postage paid. Order Number V0003.
One of our university-educated ambassadors visited us and expressed joy in leaving his work as the head of a small corporation. He had built up a specialty shop that had become a very profitable enterprise. When he received the call to "come out," he sold his business and now works as a carpenter and evangelist.
He told us that when he was running his shop, his mind was fully occupied with buying and selling and he seldom contemplated the things of God. "My mind was fully employed with concerns of the business - attracting more customers, expanding inventory, looking for new sources for goods, etc."
"Now, as a carpenter, my hands are occupied with the routine tasks of hammering and sawing, leaving my mind open for thoughts from God. The Lord often talks to me throughout the day - revealing His truth to me. The hours of physical labor would be tedious if it were not for the nearness of God within. I find far more satisfaction and peace in a carpenter's duties, than in carrying on my shoulders the weight of running a corporate business."
The great composer, Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) lived much of his life in fear of deafness. He was concerned because he felt the sense of hearing was essential to creating music of lasting value.
When Beethoven discovered that the thing he feared most was coming rapidly upon him, he was almost frantic with anxiety. He consulted doctors and tried every possible remedy. But the deafness increased until at last all hearing was gone.
Beethoven finally found the strength he needed to go on, despite his great loss. To everyone's amazement, he wrote some of his grandest music after he became totally deaf. With all distractions shut out, melodies flooded in on him as fast as his pen could write them down. His deafness became a great asset.
God uses Life's reverses to move us forward in Him. Dear ones, have you experienced a great loss? Are you cast down by heavy thoughts? Call on the Lord and put your trust in Him. He will take care of you.
When a man who is honestly mistaken hears the truth, he will either quit being mistaken or cease to be honest.
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