AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH October 24, 2010
Presbyterian Church, Following the Bible without Qualification,
the Lord Jesus Christ without Compromise by Faith
TRANSIENCE AND ETERNITY
The Destruction of Those Who Destroy and the Worship of
Those Who Are Won Isaiah 44-45, 61, Daniel 7:25, Revelation 11:15
There is a kingdom fit for the First King who First Created Us. It does not pass away. There is a life for those who do not pass away, because their resurrection is impending, and His people now left, are in heaven already (Revelation 6:9ff.). There is an immortality for those who do not fear death, since Christ died FOR them. There is a personal, heavenly vestment for those who have discarded the soiled garments, and put on the new man (Zech. 3, Col. 3:10, Isaiah 61:10), restored to the knowledge of God. There is an eternity for those who come with everlasting joy upon their heads (Isaiah 51:11), from whom the Lord's mercy will not depart, even though the lofty mountains WILL (Isaiah 54:9-10, 49:6).
There is a King who is eternal, immortal, invisible, Maker of matter, Author of man's mind, writer of the laws of nature, underwriter of all the saints in their myriads, who are made not by man but by God (John 3, I Peter 1). In this, His kingdom, there is a place reserved in heaven (I Peter 1:3-8), for each one of His people, for whom is a body, fit temple for eternal life (II Corinthians 5); with whom He travels on the way (Colossians 1:27, Matthew 28:19-20); through whom His light shines (Philippians 1:28, 2:15-16): on whom is His peace ( Ephesians 2:14, Philippians 4:6), whose way He makes straight (Proverbs 3:4-6), whose minds, when stayed on Him, are kept in perfect peace (Isaiah 26:1ff.).
CYRUS AND THE SUFFERING CHRIST
Other kings, for good or for evil have been part of the testing of man. Cyrus, for example, was foretold as a king coming, who would release Israel from the captivity of Babylon, which Isaiah also foretold; and so important to the Lord was this restoration of His people to Israel in that day, that He even foretold the name of the man, a good century before he ever came to power (Isaiah 44:24-45:7).
This king would have gates opened, obstructions sliced, though at that time not knowing the Lord, (Isaiah 45:1-4). He would do much; but the Lord, when He came as Christ, He would do far more. God is able to do everything He pleases, and though far from everything pleases Him, what does is opened up like a sealed tin, unbreachable by a babe, but readily opened where power to do so is sufficient. God is our sufficiency in all things, the Rock for us who believe (II Cor. 3:1-5, Mark 11:22-26).
In His kingdom, there is a quality, a fragrance for it is one for those of a broken and a contrite heart, and hence for those who do not withhold forgiveness from their adversaries who persecute them, or say, 'It is impossible!' to the prescriptions of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:17-20), but rather long to mount the Everest of the beauty of holiness, adding with zeal the qualities which Peter recommends so heartily, in II Peter 1:5-11. ONE THING HAVE I DESIRED! they say (Psalm 27), and that I will seek after: it is the knowledge of the Lord, to know Him in His beauty and to enquire of Him, as of a Father, as a child of the Almighty, whose Kingdom it is. Cyrus was to deliver Israel, but it would be in and with a discipline (as in Ezra and Nehemiah) which returned to actual and active trust in Him (Ezra 8:21ff.). Even the goods coming back for the temple worship, had no insurance from the king's troops, for Ezra was "ashamed to request of the King an escort of soldiers ... because we had spoken to the King saying, The hand of the Lord our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him.' "
So Cyrus was made strong and conquered and was with those who routed the Babylonians, and as predicted, let free the Jews to return and suffered them to take their temple treasures with them, even though he had not personally known God (Isaiah 45:4). Known to God, his ways were already picked out before he was born. He was a king, greatly helped in order to help Israel, and he ruled; but Christ was the King who created Israel and all this race of ours, and He was hindered since His first path was not to govern, but to be gutted, not to be great, but to be mocked, not to expel from life the dissidents, but to invite into life, the contrite, whoever they should be. Never imagine however that the weakness of God bows to the strength of man, for God in such self-imposed weakness to gain redemption for man, is stronger than man, and His apparent foolishness in caring more for man than for His own comfort, is wiser than man (I Corinthians 1:20-25), whose slick slaughters astound the mind, and whose briefs for belligerence are like those of spoilt, wandering and very small children.
How low then did King Christ have to come ? He came as low as it was necessary to come, to find us all, who come back to Him; and the lowest of all, was His elevation not to the hierarchy or lordliness, which was His intrinsically, but to the height of the cross, where the abasement might be seen by all, the plight felt by all, and this depiction in radical judgment on Christ, bring the sight of sin to the eyes of all who would look.
CYRUS AND THE RULING CHRIST
Even however while Christ was suffering, He was ruling in the things invisible, just as He did in things medical, when He healed all of their diseases and this not only once (Matthew 4:24, 12:15, Luke 6:19, Luke 4:40). By His Spirit, in the fulness of love, even on the gallows, He pardons the thief whose heart is moved to touch the pardon, and even in His pilgrimage for man, He raises the dead, like Lazarus, the perfect object lesson when the action was seen, before His own arising when the action was not seen, though the empty tomb was, and His resurrected body was (John 20:17, Luke 24:38-44).
He ruled, He overruled sickness in multitudes of people, His strength according to THEIR need, He overruled argument, His logic superior to theirs (Matthew 22:15-33, Luke 20:27-40). He overruled resentment with life (John 11:17-27), cunning with knowledge, rebuke and plan (John 13:18-27, 6:70-71, I Corinthians 2:7-8, Hebrews 2-4), murder with resurrection, scoffing with truth (Luke 20:27ff.).
Even in His weakness, unlike that of any appointed sovereign, He yet broke the bonds which imprisoned the souls of men (John 8:31-36, Isaiah 61:1-3), and proclaimed liberty to those captivated and chained by the devil, and healed the sores of the psyche (Matthew 17:14-21, Luke 8:26ff.). The British Empire had marvellous aspects at times, a Protestant religion in place; but for long it had slaves and even traded in them like many others, and cruel laws, though these low levels were slowly raised to far better things, not least by the work of Christians; yet it lapsed more and more into this world, and it failed. But the Kingdom of Heaven cannot fail, for its quality is guaranteed by the re-generation of sinners into the mould of saints (we have had thousands in Australia over the centuries, simple Christians who are neither frauds nor fakes - Ephesians 1, Romans 8:1-11), so that they are TEACHABLE as well as reachable, with heart to love, and the love of God for their spirits. Thus may they be filled with the presence of HIS Spirit, as the air in a garden with a lilac hedge is filled with perfume in Spring (Romans 8:9).
This, His Kingdom, is not transient but eternal. It is an intrinsic kingdom, with an almighty King, a kingdom of willingness in the presence of the Good Shepherd, whose attitude is this, that He DID lay down His life for His sheep, and does NOT rule imperiously over them, as do so many today, working out by what cunning scheme they may unite opposites and give an equivocal rule, as may have occurred in this, our land. Certainly the result is there. But His is a pure kingdom, and in it, Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God! (Matthew 5). That is what you want, to know God, and in the limit, the culmination of His kingdom, they will know Him as they are known, for love is like that (I John 3:1-3, I Corinthians 13:9-12).
But what of Cyrus ? he had his good points. There are far deeper contrasts available. Yet first, realise that as to rule, he DID rule, but Christ's rule will far excel his, for as you see in Isaiah 11, He will smite the wicked with the rod of His mouth, and great will be the peace while He does rule (Psalm 72), before this earth is dismissed as one crumples up a piece of paper, in order to write something different (Revelation 20:13-21:1, 20:6). But the Lord does not change and His ways are everlasting (Malachi. 3:6, Habakkuk .3:6). His Kingdom is not transient, but eternal, not ephemeral but for ever (cf. Revelation 22:5, John 6:50ff., 11:26, 4:14). Immortality is to be put on by each of His people, as likewise incorruption, and He who rules is incorruptible (Hebrews 7:25), the light of this world and the Lord of glory.
THE COMING CONTINUITY OF THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST
As to this millenial kingdom, it is important to realise that a correct translation of Revelation 20:4 is as found in the American Standard Version: "And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshipped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years." In the Greek text, there are two categories of inhabitants of this kingdom. The first holds those beheaded because of their faithful testimony to Jesus Christ, and to the Bible, the word of God. The second has those who did NOT receive the marks on hand and forehead which MEANT capitulation to the beast, his worship and his ways (Revelation 13). Thus they escaped spiritual death by the sale of the soul and of the Lord.
There is no NO SALE notice concerning Christ; but if you do sell out, then how are you a child of the kingdom ? You may like Peter, for a moment, stumble, but then you will, if His, arise and be counted in His kingdom, and disdain the tempting fraud of the emptiness of the beast, that earthy kingdom with its earthy force and useless contrivances. These neither act nor answer, like the gods of the Baal worshippers, in the day of Elijah. Thus, this is a millenial division into two categories, for the mark of the beast has been around a long time (Daniel 7), though not always openly, and refusal to surrender to Christ has already for millenia been the way out to the darkness of the devil. All His people will thus come TO Him (Rev. 19:8, I Thess.. 4), then WITH Him (I Thessalonians 3:13); and great will be the joy of it.
His kingdom however is not one of force, and accordingly there will be an uprising even in these gloriously peaceable conditions (Rev. 20:7-10), for it is the heart and not the stomach which is crucial in mankind. Thus will end at last, the millenial kingdom, and the world and its works and ways: and thank goodness for that! One will not lament, although its beauty of flower and ocean, sky and glade, mountain and lake has been superlative; for this world has become tainted, and in the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1), there will be no evil thing. Thus the payment of ransom in redemption is then already past (Hebrews 9:12-10:14), the test being over, and the eternal realisation complete for all found. Then there is then no more scope or post for evil. That excitation past, there is peace, and in it, joy, and with that awareness, the knowledge of God face to face; and with this there is the office of being the children of God (I John 3:1-3).
THE CONNING CONFUSION OF THE KINGDOMS OF THIS WORLD
This kingdom is NOT as in Communism (News 98), empirically shown a failure (SMR p. 925). It is no longer used even in China, where profit and independence wait daily on the kings of communism, who rule without morals, but with ideas; who manage without basis, pushing ideas without support, concepts without verification, while making individuality a virtual crime and the State a quasi-god. Here lie This possesses painful breaches of all goodness, faithfulness, humility and reality. With a failed theory, materialism, they merely rule through ideas, which are not material at all, and this with a ferocity which pulses, like the snorting of a bull, before periods of quietness. Yet in Christ's kingdom, you do not kill, but are willing to die that truth and love continue; for greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends; and in His kingdom, this is its pinnacle.
The kingdom is NOT as in Romanism, where priests abound, and foolish crimes arise, following unscriptural prohibitions (meat fads and marriage-free zones for priests, as foretold I Timothy 4); for Christ HIMSELF is the Temple and the High Priest and the offering, who requires only one offering, His own, and that with blood, and not without it! (John 2, Hebrews 8-10, John 10). THIS priest is holy, harmless and higher than the heavens (Hebrews 7:25), and it is to HIM we come because of His efficiency, proficiency and power, His majesty and inward glory, which needs no outward show, being truth.
Moreover, His kingdom is NOT as in despotic imperialism illustrated in Louis XIV, who said, " the state : It is I." When the King or for that matter, the ruling party IS the State then neither morals nor principles nor powers nor proprieties need matter, and what is the will of the people or their representatives may do anything to any, since constitutions can change and governments likewise, and fraud and deception can loom and roam. This can continue till a nation could be destroyed while the people wait and wonder, so great is the present thrust in the atomic power. Moreover, as is widely recognised for Iran, deception and intimidation may come during election, and false prophets can storm into the place of power, while atomic weaponry may be developed, and another nation can be threatened with an end, and told to go back to the many nations from which it has come, though the land was bought, and Israel lived in it for many centuries.
Corrupt the people and even democracy, even without blatant guile and graft and corruption, can become a sink for evil; and while far better than mere servitude, it can be misruled to come close to this by opacity and rapacity, false pretences and slow developments, not visible soon. Truth remains indispensable. In the Kingdom of Heaven, however, there is no deception, for its Ruler knows the hearts of man; for there is nothing hidden from Him with whom we have to do (Hebrews 4). Truth lasts; He IS the truth; His kingdom lasts. It does not fail. Lies fail. His life is pure, eternal, His immortality intrinsic, and who gives of it to those who receive Him as He is (Titus 1:1-3, 3:5-7, John 1:12-14), not another, who put their faith in the Lord's Christ (Luke 2:26, Ephesians 1:5-11, Colossians 1:15-20), sacrificed once and sufficient for any (Hebrews 9:12ff., I John 2:1ff.).
Indeed, this being so, His rejection is to die in one's sins (John 8:24), conserving them, a baneful treasure, aloof from the ransom for many (Matthew 20:28, Romans 8:32), despite its propinquity, availability and the ardour of its presentation (John 3:1`5ff.).
It is He who speaks richly and deeply to the individual (as with Peter - Acts 15, Matthew 26, as with Mary, John 20:16ff.), and yet to the State; and with what yearning (Isaiah 48:16ff., Jer. 31:17ff., 48, Luke 19:42ff.). It is He who IS the head, who was in effect axed slowly, whose love is to life, who declares,
"AS I LIVE, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked,
but rather that the wicked turn from his evil way and live.
Turn back, turn back from your evil ways!
for why will you die, O house of Israel!"
At last in the purity in culmination in His kingdom, beautiful by nature, the splendour and majesty of His glory will be complete with no more evil to compete, having overcome evil with good. The conning tower of the submarine of subversion will no more be there at all (Rev. 20:8-27).
Ah for such a kingdom as that! As for myself and mine, we are already in it, for being saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2) is something impervious to imperial onslaught, satanic attack or political impurity and continues like Christ to, through and beyond the cross, into life abundant; for it is not a philosophic kingdom but that of the Creator-Redeemer, and for those in it there is equipment sufficient (II Corinthians 5), to enable continuity in it for ever, where the con man is gone, and the corruption-corrosion conduct of the Second Law of Thermodynamics is no more, and no more will decay, with a strange intoxication, be talked of as a mode of creation!
There truth rules in love; and it is a kingdom to enter now, before the day dawns, when reality will shine as the sun, and deception will decay like a corpse. Praise God for the corpus of Christ, which has replaced His corpse through His resurrection, where life overcame death, as God swore that it would (Hosea 13:14) and Christ showed that it did, for His word was always fulfilled (that is why it seemed necessary to kill Him to stop Him), and none could ever show to the contrary, whether it be in life or death or power or healing of speaking. Praise God for the kingdom of Christ, for what is a kingdom! but this one with THIS King: it is a thing of everlasting joy and beauty.