So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking Him, “Lord, has the time come for You to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be My witnesses, telling people about Me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”Acts 1:6-8
- What is the Kingdom that God is referring to?
- If it is not the kingdom of Israel what is it?
- What is His ultimate purpose – if it is not the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel? – if God never intended the Kingdom of Israel to be the focus at all?
- Have you picked up the little hints I have given you along the way?
God never talks about the Kingdom of Israel in the context of the coming Kingdom or in the context of the Kingdom Messiah would usher in. He always talks about the Kingdom of God. The natural question then is: is the Kingdom of Israel the same as the Kingdom of God or are they different? When the Israelites asked for a king, God made it very clear that their request was a rejection of Him as their “King”. There were kings ruling over nations in the time of Abraham. But God never intended for Israel to have a royal family. They themselves were to be a ROYAL priesthood and holy nation. The focus was on the holiness of God and the fact that God was the One who would lead Israel. He never intended that Israel would have kings like the nations around them. Note what is recorded in Amos 9:8 “Behold, the eyes of the LORD GOD are on the sinful kingdom, And I will destroy it from the face of the earth; Nevertheless, I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob,” declares the LORD. Take careful note, the LORD will destroy the sinful kingdom from the face of the earth but He will not totally destroy the house of Israel (Jacob). The Kingdom of Israel came to an end. There is no indication in Scripture that the Kingdom of Israel will be restored. It is the rule of God that will be restored. But there IS indication that Israel itself will be restored to Him, not in its entirety but a remnant.
As I told you in a previous Gem, the pattern of the judges indicates the fault was with the people and the judges came to rescue them from themselves. The pattern of the Books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles indicates that when Israel rejected the Theocratic rule of God, they submitted themselves to the excesses and sinful practices of the kings. The Bible record highlights the high points when a righteous king arrived on the scene and did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. That is a continuing refrain of the Book of Kings. Note the comment in Amos concerning God’s eyes being on the sinful kingdom. In God’s eyes the Kingdom of Israel (less so Judah) were almost like it was in the time of Noah, when the thoughts of man were only evil all the time. But under the kings it was more likely for the king to lead the people astray than for the people to lead the king astray. The continuing theme of the Bible is human rejection of God as Master, LORD and King, and human beings substituting people or systems in place of God.
When God created Adam and Eve he gave them dominion over the earth but He himself was their God and their Lord. The perfection of Eden was based on the fact that God was visibly present with His people and walking with them. Adam knew it in the early days and Enoch knew it as well. God’s plan was always for intimacy in the relationship between Him and HIs people. Do you remember some of the quotes or comments I gave you a few Gems ago?
- To express it simply, the Kingdom is where the King is.
- The Kingdom was near because the King was near. And yet, though near, the Kingdom was not a place or location to enter.
- Just as an earthly kingdom is the territory where the King reigns, so too is the Kingdom of God.
But in the case of the Kingdom of God, the territory is you. God is not that interested in the extent of the borders of Israel and the size of its territory. He is more interested in whether He has all of your territory, your heart, your mind, your being. From Old Testament times to New Testament times, the Kingdom of God has moved from being external to being more internal. The Spirit of God was given to individuals so that you would have Him within you. Not only did God predict that Israel would ask for a king and He made His value judgment on that request, but also God predicted the Kingdom would move from external to internal. The Kingdom of God is within you. He is more interested in ruling your heart than a certain piece of property on earth. The whole earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it. He doesn’t have to protect the borders of His Kingdom. But rather, He gives to you the keys of the kingdom and asks you to protect your part of His Kingdom – YOU.
Are you beginning to understand God’s focus in all of this? It is most certainly not the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel. Rather, it is the restoration of the rule of God in the lives of His creation. It is the restoration of life as it was meant to be in the Garden of Eden. The Kingdom of God is not only where the King is but more importantly when His subjects or His creation submit or bow to His authority. That is the theme of the whole of the book of Ephesians – the will of God is that everything come into submission to Christ as the Head. Read it for yourself. It is right there in Eph 1:9-10 and the rest of the book is written around that theme. See, God has always been the Head of His creation. The massive problem is that His subjects won’t stay subject. Firstly, God had to work on the restoration of relationship after the world fell into rebellion against its Creator. That was the problem for the Israelites and it is the problem now. God sent Christ the Messiah, the first time to deal with the rebellion (sin) issue. When Messiah returns all will bow the knee to Him. He is coming back to rule over His creation. Not subjection out of rebellion but giving Him our honour and subjecting ourselves to His rule and His desires, is what lies at the centre of His will. As I have already told you, God’s Kingdom is present when the King is ruling. If His subjects don’t willingly submit to His rule, then there is no Kingdom. Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t cut their hands off, or cut their tongues out or boil them in oil as the ancient kings did, when He rules over rebellious people? Submission is something that can only be given willingly. A husband cannot force submission from a wife, God won’t force submission from His subjects. The wife has to be willing to give her submission to her husband, just as we have to willingly give our submission to our heavenly husband. He wants our willing submission and service. “Therefore I appeal to you brothers and sisters because of God’s mercy to you, to present your bodies to Him as a living sacrifice which is the only reasonable thing to do in the light of all He has done for you.”
When Christ comes again to rule over His creation, the rule of God will be fully functional. But to the degree to which you are able to submit yourself to His rule in your life, is the degree to which the Kingdom has a NOW component. God is focused on the restoration of His Kingdom over all of creation which happens when He is reigning as King again. The magnificence of the Coming Kingdom lies in part in the fact that His rule is comprehensive over all of creation. When that happens there will be peace, unity, love and all other good things like it because all who are in the kingdom will be willing subjects. That can’t happen at the moment because not all are willing to submit. When not all are willing to submit, you have rebellion. You can help establish the Kingdom over you personally but you can’t be responsible for all other humans on the face of the earth. That is what separates the Kingdom NOW from the Kingdom COMING in all of its fullness. The degree of submission. The ultimate question is: can you submit to His rule in your life and allow His Spirit to control you, instead of you trying to control yourself? The issue is whether you can walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh.
There is much more to say about all this but I will restrain myself from adding more to this topic. I think I have said enough already. In the next Gems we will look particularly at Acts 1:8 related to the territory of the Kingdom on earth and our part in it. The classic missions verse.
The Kingdom of God is within you.Jesus Christ
The reluctance to become childlike may be the very thing that keeps us from the Kingdom of God.Ian Vail
The important question is: Is He reigning in you? Don’t you know that God is within you unless you fail the test?2 Corinthians 13:5
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. (1 Corinthians 4:20)Paul of Tarsus
God is not interested in the extent of the borders of Israel and the size of its territory. He is more interested in whether He has all of your territory, your heart, your mind, and your being.Ian Vail
God is more interested in ruling your heart than a certain piece of property on earth.Ian Vail
The whole earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it. He doesn’t have to protect the borders of His Kingdom.Ian Vail