The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

Fellow-Partakers in the Tribulation and Kingdom

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From a study of the Old Testament we realize that God’s kingdom was a present reality even before Jesus came to earth. The New Testament does not indicate that it has somehow been interrupted or postponed for a distant future fulfillment. Even Nebuchadnezzar understood that God’s “dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation” (Dan. 4:34). There is no “parenthesis,” no gap of nearly two thousand years where God’s “dominion” has somehow been put on hold.

First, it is equally obvious that the New Testament describes an approaching kingdom: “The kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:14–15; cp. Matt. 4:12–17). This means that there is a fuller expression of that already present glorious kingdom approaching as God takes on human flesh and personally oversees the kingdom that brings with it the once-for-all sacrifice promised so long ago to Adam and Eve. The Seed of the woman, Jesus, has come to crush the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). “And when they had come to a place called Golgotha, which means Place of a Skull,” they “crucified Him” (Matt. 27:33-35). The head of the serpent was definitely “crushed” as the stake of the cross penetrated the “skull” of the serpent. Because of the finished work of Jesus, through the power of His Spirit, Satan was crushed under their (“your”) feet (Rom. 16:20). The inaugurated kingdom becomes the expanding kingdom in time and in history prior to Jesus’ return. The gospel is to go into “all the world” (Matt. 28:18–20), a command not typical under the Old Covenant, although there were exceptions, as in Jonah preaching to the Ninevites. God’s kingdom is not a political kingdom, and it will never be a political kingdom (John 18:36). Rather, the kingdom is “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). This kingdom is not devoid of authority in this age: “For the kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in power” (1 Cor. 4:20).

Second, there are verses that indicate that the kingdom has come and that it should affect the way we live in the world. (1) “For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col. 1:13); (2) “Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe” (Heb. 12:28); (3) “I, John, your brother and fellow-partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos, because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 1:9); (4) “And [Jesus] was saying to them, ‘Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste of death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power’“ (Mark 9:1; cp. Matt. 16:27; Luke 9:27); (5) “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matt. 12:28). “The truth is, Jesus did cast out demons by the Spirit of God.”[1] The conclusion that we should reach is the kingdom of God came upon the church of the first century, and there is no indication that it is being held in abeyance for a future millennium, often described as the “kingdom age.”

Third, the kingdom requires the new birth and sanctification to enter (John 3:3; Matt. 7:21; 18:3) and prevents the unrighteous from entering (Matt. 5:20; 1 Cor. 6:9–10; Eph. 5:5). Yet, in another respect, in its earthly form, it contains even the wicked (Matt. 13:36-43). While the unrighteous live in the midst of God’s kingdom, they do not have access to the King through His Mediator, Jesus Christ. Isn’t this equally true of earthly kingships? While foreigners may reside within the borders of the United States, they do not have all the privileges of citizenship. For example, they cannot vote or run for political office. They do benefit, however, from the justice system under which citizens live.

Fourth, although Jesus states that the origination of His kingdom is heaven and not earth by declaring that His “kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36), He nevertheless states that His kingdom is present. Jesus speaks of “my kingdom” (18:36a). He claims to have His own “servants” (even though they do not fight with sword to defend Him, 18:36b). Jesus clearly asserts: “I am a king” (18:37a). Finally, He confidently challenges Pilate: “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth” (18:37b).

Fifth, through Peter’s Pentecost sermon we learn that Jesus suffered humiliation by enduring the “curse” of hanging “on a tree” (Gal. 3:13). But with His resurrection He began His exaltation in preparation for His ascension to the right hand of the throne of His Father where He governs the universe with authority and power. There He was “crowned with glory and honor” (Heb. 2:9) to begin His rule as He sits “at the right hand of God” (Rom. 8:34; cf. Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22; Rev. 3:21) by wielding “all authority and power” (Matt. 28:18). Through this authority, Jesus promises to assist His people through “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword” (Rom. 8:34–35). In fact, He remains on that throne working for the collapse of all the works of His enemies (1 Cor. 15:23–24; Heb. 1:3, 13; 10:13).

Sixth, Christians have been raised up with Jesus as a testimony to our rule with Him (Eph. 2:6). “We are, in the eyes of God, seated with Christ in heavenly places (which, in essence, is the idea of Revelation 20:4–6), i.e., in regal position.”[2]

Footnotes:
[1]
. Greg L. Bahnsen and Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., House Divided: The Break-Up of Dispensational Theology (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1989), 181.
[2]. Bahnsen and, House Divided, 186.

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