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Originally published in "The Lord's Coming Herald & Wesleyan Bible Prophecy Advocate," Winter Edition 2004

Jesus Doctrine Of The Kingdom

    "In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever" (Daniel 2:44). "And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed" (Daniel 7:14). "For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" I Corinthians 15:25-26).

    Now, are the above messianic kingdom prophecies of Daniel 2:44 and 7:13-14 referring to what happened at the first, or at the so-called "second" advent of Jesus Christ? Did Jesus establish the promised messianic kingdom at his first advent, or is it something that he sets up when he returns?

    The question is legitimate. The issues that flow from the answer we give to it are vital, and are determinative to our conception of the whole Christian system.

    The truth-claim issue of what the messianic kingdom really is can be conclusively settled, we believe, by a careful consideration of what Jesus Himself taught about the subject of His kingdom.

    First, we observe that Jesus began his public ministry by proclaiming that the time was fulfilled, and the kingdom of heaven was at hand (Mark 1:15). Then we notice that the chief activity in which he engaged throughout that ministry was to preach the gospel of the kingdom (Matthew 4:23; 9:35). Jesus illustrated the nature of the kingdom at various times, and in different ways. The kingdom of heaven is like unto this, or like unto that, are words that we hear so often fall from the lips of the Saviour. In fact, the entirety of Jesus' message revolved around the kingdom concept. Without understanding the kingdom, friends, we cannot comprehend the religion that Jesus came to bring to the world at all.

    Jesus' doctrine of the messianic kingdom we find to be true holiness of heart and life. The kingdom consisted in being forgiven of all of one's sins, and of being purified in heart. Such inward impartation of righteousness was a standard that vastly exceeded the externalities that the Scribes and Pharisees, with their false conceptions of the messianic kingdom, mistook for holiness.

    Jesus' doctrine of the kingdom was a personal righteousness of character based on redemption, and that doctrine conflicted and antagonized the antinomianism of the religious leadership of his day. Always going about to establish their own righteousness, they failed to submit themselves to the righteousness of God, or the righteousness that comes by faith in the Messiah (Romans 10:3). Jesus made it perfectly clear, however, that only those who experienced the redemption that He, as the Messiah, had come to provide could enter the kingdom (Matthew 5:3ff.; 18:1-4; John 3:3-5).

Not one single time in the entire New Testament did Jesus ever indicate that His kingdom consisted of any nationalistic, political, or military aggrandizing or ascendancy of the Jews. To the contrary, He made it perfectly clear that His kingdom was "not of this world" (John 18:36).

    Christ's kingdom, further, is not the church; it is the redemption by which men are gathered into that relationship, of which the church is called. The kingdom is redemption, its plan, its power, and all of its effect. The kingdom is for the redeemed, and only the redeemed are in the kingdom. It is the sphere of God's rule, where sin has been abrogated, and where God's will is done, on earth as it is in heaven. The kingdom is the Holy Ghost in a pure and perfect heart. It is preeminently Christ crowned within. It is the influence of the true Christian as the salt of the earth, and as the light of the world.

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