Insight #11 June 13, 2015
Second Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Kingdom of God"
For the week of June 13, 2015
In this study of God's kingdom, focused on Luke's history, let's consider the character and timing of this kingdom.
The character of God's kingdom is understood by learning the character of the King. His kingship is eternal. "The LORD is King for ever and ever." (Psa. 10:16). When Isaiah saw this King, it led to a repentance and confession that prepared him for service. "Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts." (Isa. 6:5).
His kingdom was extended when He created the new earth and gave its dominion to Adam and Eve. However, Satan intruded. This is seen by Satan's words to Jesus in the wilderness of temptation about "the kingdoms of the world" (Luke 4:5, 6).
"When Satan declared to Christ, The kingdom and glory of the world are delivered unto me, and to whomsoever I will I give it, he stated what was true only in part, and he declared it to serve his own purpose of deception. Satan's dominion was that wrested from Adam, but Adam was the vicegerent of the Creator. His was not an independent rule. The earth is God's, and He has committed all things to His Son. Adam was to reign subject to Christ. When Adam betrayed his sovereignty into Satan's hands, Christ still remained the rightful King. Thus the Lord had said to King Nebuchadnezzar, 'The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will.' Daniel 4:17. Satan can exercise his usurped authority only as God permits." (Ellen White, Desire of Ages, page 129)
It was this eternal Kingship that the Messiah was prophesied to reclaim on this earth (Isa. 9:6, 7). It may appear to be connected only to this earth's history, and what Isaiah called "the throne of His father David." But Jesus, in quoting Psa. 110:1, showed His eternal nature and position. He was actually "my Lord" to David (Luke 20:41-44). Luke recorded the "throne of David" position that Gabriel repeated to Mary before Jesus' birth (Luke 1:32, 33).
In announcing the kingdom at His first coming (Luke 4:43; see also Matt. 3:2; Mark 1:15), John the Baptist, Jesus, and his disciples acted in fulfillment of a portion of the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament, especially the time prophecies of Daniel 9 and the type of the sanctuary courtyard. But misunderstanding the essential core of the kingdom's character, that of "meek and lowly of heart" (which the story of David's throne illustrates), the disciples expected more a Day of Atonement fulfillment, and thus suffered their greatest spiritual defeat from Gethsemane to Calvary. At the very time Jesus was achieving victory over sin, the devil, and death, succeeding at reclaiming this world from Adam's failure, the disciples were fearful and suffering the emotions of being vanquished.
This was in spite of, and in direct unbelief regarding, the consistent revelation of the nature of the King and kingdom Jesus had been teaching them, by precept and example:
1. a childlike trust in His Father (Luke 11:2; 22:42).
2. a passion to spread the righteousness of that kingdom (His faith and love; Luke 8:25; 11:42).
3. a deep commitment to put His Father first (In the very context of sacrificing Himself for the human race, He did not put man where God should be, thereby inverting the two great commandments, which was Adam's failure.)
4. a humility that showed that greatness in this kingdom was unselfishness, that to love "thy neighbour as thyself" was actually a giving of self (Luke 9:46-48; 10:27; 22:24-26; compare John 15:12; 1 Tim. 2:6).
The wrong expectation of the disciples helps us to understand the timing and mission of the Second Advent Movement in the context of the same character of the kingdom. The timing of the kingdom needs to be seen in the light of the prophetic pictures given, and the difference between those pointing to His first coming, and those involved with His second coming. "As the message of Christ's first advent announced the kingdom of His grace, so the message of His second advent announces the kingdom of His glory." (Ellen White, Desire of Ages, page 234).
Many in the time of Jesus' first coming expected the events of what is now understood to take place at the second coming. "He added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear." (Luke 19:11). What Jesus accomplished (finished) at His first coming were (1) defeating Satan personally by being obedient unto the death of the cross, (2) making His appeal to Israel during its final "week" of probation (Dan. 9:27), (3) setting up team of witnesses to carry the message of "this gospel of the kingdom" worldwide (Matt. 24:14), to prepare for the "falling away" (2 Thes. 2:3), and thereby to give a legal and historical background for the final appeal of this "everlasting gospel" (Rev.14:6).
In seeking to understand the time prophecies that point to the beginning of God's uncontested everlasting kingdom on earth, after the transition from the earthly kingdoms (Dan. 8:14 connected to Dan. 7:25, in the setting of 7:14, 18, 22, 26, 27), the early Adventists connected the Second Coming to the fulfilled time. This led to their "great disappointment." It was a beginning understanding of the sanctuary, especially the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement, that brought meaning to that failure. "The subject of the sanctuary was the key which unlocked the mystery of the disappointment of 1844." (Ellen White, The Great Controversy, page 423)
It is the work of the High Priest within the Most Holy Place, and the necessity of the people to follow that by faith, that began to unfold our mission and duty. This is the preparation for Jesus' second coming. It is the judgment scene that occurs before the coming, the receiving of the kingdom, which is pictured as the wedding events in heaven before the Son of man comes to get His bride. (See Luke 12:35, 36; 19:11, 12; also Ellen White, The Great Controversy, page 428.)
Central to this work in the type was taking the blood from the courtyard to the Most Holy Place. This typified an understanding of Calvary in the pre-advent judgment when a presentation (by precept and example) of the law and the gospel would lighten the earth with the glory of God. This was the work pictured of the angel in Revelation 18, and fulfilled, in its beginning, in the message of "the law of God and the gospel of righteousness" in the late 1880's (Ellen G. White, 1888 Materials, page 166). This remains the mission and duty of God's people, a work that will prepare for Christ's coming by calling all on earth to a final decision for or against the principles of the kingdom as manifested in the crucified King. It has been a delay in this mission that has prolonged the preparation.
The sovereignty of God has bowed to the readiness of the bride (Rev. 19:7,8), and the Bridegroom has suffered His own disappointment that is described as "beyond description" (Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, 12/15/1904, par. 8). But the promise and the prophecy is that the bride will repent, even if by the self-abhorrence of the type that struck the disciples after Calvary (Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 8, page 250; see also 1888 Materials, pp. 26, 27). The events between the 1880's and these observations just after the turn of the century are vital to understand the kingdom status in our day. The following historical statements are helpful.
"Satan has been having things his own way; but the Lord has raised up men and given them a solemn message to bear to His people, to wake up the mighty men to prepare for battle, for the day of God's preparation. This message Satan sought to make of none effect, and when every voice and every pen should have been intensely at work to stay the workings and powers of Satan there was a drawing apart; there were differences of opinion. This was not at all the way of the Lord." (Ellen G. White, 1888 Materials, p. 210)
"The natural heart is not to bring its own tainted, corrupting principles into the work of God. There must be no concealing of the principles of our faith. The third angel's message is to be sounded by God's people. It is to swell to the loud cry. The Lord has a time appointed when he will bind off the work; but when is that time? When the truth to be proclaimed for these last days shall go forth as a witness to all nations, then shall the end come. If the power of Satan can come into the very temple of God, and manipulate things as he pleases, the time of preparation will be prolonged. Here is the secret of the movements made to oppose the men whom God sent with a message of blessing for his people. These men were hated. The men and God's message were despised, as verily as Christ himself was hated and despised at his first advent." (Ellen G. White, 1888 Materials, page 1525)
"The time has come for a thorough reformation to take place. When this reformation begins, the spirit of prayer will actuate every believer and will banish from the church the spirit of discord and strife. Those who have not been living in Christian fellowship will draw close to one another. One member working in right lines will lead other members to unite with him in making intercession for the revelation of the Holy Spirit. There will be no confusion, because all will be in harmony with the mind of the Spirit. The barriers separating believer from believer will be broken down, and God's servants will speak the same things. The Lord will co-operate with His servants. All will pray understandingly the prayer that Christ taught His servants: 'Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.' Matthew 6:10." (Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 8, page 251).
May that kingdom come soon!
- Fred Bischoff